I headed back to Cappadocia, playing a Willie Nelson tape (loud) that begins with “On The Road Again.” Actually I start every morning drive this way—-it makes me feel so GOOD. I stopped at Sultanhani to look at a wonderful old Seljuk caravanserei, built in 1229. It is a huge building with a courtyard surrounded by special purpose big rooms (eating, cooking, toilet, bedrooms, etc.) with a mosque in the middle and with a huge covered area at the back for the animals. The doorways on Seljuk buildings are spectacular; usually the rest of the buildings are fairly plain.
I headed for the Ihlara Gorge, which is in the middle of beautiful scenery including Hasan Dagi, a snow covered mountain. I bought bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese for a sandwich and then drove around. I toured the village of Yapark Hisar and I wondered why there were no people visible. A bit farther on I found out why—on the banks of a lovely river they were celebrating a wedding. I was invited along and very warmly received. I took some photos of the bride and groom (she was 16 and the groom was 26, which I found out through sign language). There was a one-man band making music (loudly amplified) and young girls were dancing. Although the groom was present, no other men were there although a few young men watched from behind the musician. Then there was a presentation of gifts—gold pieces or necklaces first—the musician with the microphone called out the names and the amounts—then later cash money; I gave 1,000,000 lira (about $2.50), which pleased them very much. They announced “Carol—American” after getting the information from me. Mind you, nobody spoke a word of English, and I don’t speak more than two words of Turkish (only the words for ‘beer’ and ‘one’) but we did just fine with signs.
Next all of the ladies draped a headscarf over the bride’s head. There must have been a hundred, and everybody applauded and then the maid of honor (?) removed them. The bride was wearing a modern purple ankle length skirt with matching vest; also a long sleeved white blouse. On her head she wore a fancy lace scarf-bonnet covered by a red chiffon fingertip length veil with lots of sparkly sequins and beads. The groom wore loose dark trousers, a light yellow long sleeved dress shirt, a navy vest and a tie. All of the matrons wore the flowered print full pantaloons (shalwar) with various blouses, jackets, and vests, all long-sleeved, and all wore headscarves. The younger girls, however, wore more western clothing although the skirts were ankle length and the sweatery tops were long-sleeved. They also wore headscarves. I was wearing black jeans and a black short-sleeved tee shirt, but nobody seemed to mind.
Then the dancing started. First the bride and groom danced together each wearing a red ribbon around their wrist with about ten inches of ribbon hanging loose. They only danced for about a minute and then the bride danced with other young women. Pretty soon they had a Turkish circle dance going, and several women insisted that I participate so I did. They seemed to get a big kick out of that. But I noticed that I was the only woman over about 25 years old that danced.
All this time the little river was gurgling, and the sun was shinning through very green-leafed trees under which we were sitting. The sky was blue, blue and the little kiddies were eating ice cream cones. Of course one little girl licked the ice cream so that it fell off into the dirt and of course she was inconsolable. They very much liked my taking photos of them—I shall send some copies to a woman who gave me a business card of a local pension.
Young boys passed out treats—plastic glasses of Coca-Cola (what else?) and plastic wrapped cookies, along with the ice cream cones for the kids.
In the evening in the restaurant of the pension where I was staying, a Belgian group of five couples plus a few locals were Turkish dancing to some live music (drummer and oud player—amplified). The proprietor insisted I dance with him (I really don’t think men and women dance together in Turkey, but what the heck). I wasn’t really able to copy the proper hip movement, but I did what I could—actually I think I was better than the Belgians, anyway.
Next morning at breakfast the proprietor and I were discussing the big political brouhaha here. One of the newly elected Parliament women insists on wearing a headscarf while sitting in Parliament. Her party, the Virtue Party, is a fundamentalist party seeking to turn Turkey away from being a secular state to a religious state. Many other parties oppose this and so do the men on the street that I have talked to about it (n is 4). Actually in the early days of the Turkish Republic (1925) Ataturk passed a law outlawing the fez (hat) because he felt so strongly that Turkey had to modernize and westernize and the fez was a conservative symbol.
After breakfast I drove to the Ihlara Gorge to “walk it”. It is a spectacularly beautiful gorge with a river (same one as yesterday) running through it, and of course 1000 foot rock cliffs on both sides. Then there are some hundred churches carved into the cliffs by monks in the 7th to 13th centuries. Some of the frescos are still visible although badly damaged. I visited the Beneath the Tree Church, the Hyacinth Church, the Granary Church and the Columned Church. I only met one other person during my scramble—which it was—for me very challenging to get over/around/under some of the huge rocks that had fallen from the cliffs. It was a much wilder, more natural version of Goreme, which I had visited with Jeanne. I also encountered some stinging nettles that blistered my arms. I think the gorge was probably caused by an earthquake rather than the river—it looked “pulled apart”.
Next I went to the village of Guzelyurt and I stayed in a wonderful 19th century Greek Monastery building overlooking Hasan Dagi. We ate our meals in the monks’ huge dining room. It was really special, as was the price—$35 (American), which included a wonderful large stone room with a view, with Turkish carpets on the floor, dinner and breakfast. Again, the weather was perfect. I took tea at a table in the main square—there were only older men sitting at the other tables, but they were friendly to me—and then I walked around the village admiring the fine old stone houses and stone sculptures here and there. I visited the underground village and a church built in 385 AD, dedicated to St. Gregory of Nazianzus, which became a mosque in the 1300s. The scenery with Hasan Dagi in the background was smashing!
Next was Urgup, where I stayed for a couple of days to do some more looking in Cappadocia. The Ihlara Gorge is on the western end of Cappadocia. A nice man, Ahmet, let me use his computer and gave me red wine, cookies and a tee shirt! He wanted me to look at his carpets the next day—he’s no dummy!
Well the next day, guess what? I bought two carpets from Ahmet. This necessitated going downtown and buying a small cheap bag with wheels in which I packed all the stuff that I really need for the next days of my trip, and I put all the souvenirs in my big bag.
I drove to Ortahisar, then to Uchisar. Both have a large kale (tufa mountain) in the middle of the towns dating to Byzantine times in which people lived. I went on to more monasteries with wonderful scenery. I toured the Urgup Twasan winery.
One evening Ahmet (hotel clerk/carpet gallery manager/tour leader) took a British client woman, Katrina, and me to dinner—restaurant was (naturally) in a rock carved cave and food and program were mediocre tourist fare—cheap wine, belly dancer who made male guests look foolish, hard, stupid bits of lamb, and local “dancers” who were quite poor. Then all the tourists ‘conga’d’ outside to dance around a big bonfire. I did enjoy Ahmet’s and Katrina’s company, though, so it really was a fun evening. Ahmet said that the musicians were gypsies.
On to Nigde (pronounced Nee’-deh) to see more Seljuk architecture. Among them the Sungur Bey Camii (1335), the Aladdin Camii (1223)—(‘Camii’ is ‘mosque’), a fortress, a clock tower, the Ak Medrese (1409), a wonderful Hittite stelae from 700 BC, a Seljuk tomb from 1312 and on and on. I had two little boys who were my guides, who were pleasant and thorough! After all this we had pide and Fanta. One last destination that they really wanted to show me was the Eski Gumuslir Monastery, about 10 km out of town that had very well preserved and wonderful frescos from the 7th to 11th century.
That evening Ahmet invited me to eat next door with him and four others at the Gallery where I bought the carpets. Ahmet grilled fish and we also had bread, salad, raki and coffee.
The next day I drove to Bogazkale to see the Hittite cities. The hotel man (another Ahmet) guided me on a tour of Hattusas and Yaglikaya, two ruined Hittite cities. At Hattusas we saw the Great Temple from the 14th century BC, the Lion Gate, the Sphinx Gate with a tunnel, the King’s Gate, and the Southern Fort with hieroglyphs and a king’s figure, which were all in a very high and beautifully rugged setting.
Then we went to Yazilikaya to see the 13th century BC reliefs cut into the rock—and an especially dramatic one of 12 soldiers marching in procession. The Hittites had a 17-year battle with the Egyptians under Ramses II in about 1500 BC, which was portrayed in carvings in the Abu Simbel Temples in Aswan in Egypt.
There was a green rock about three feet high here that was supposedly sent by Ramses II to indicate a truce when neither side could win the war.
It’s hard to believe that these ruins are that old. Turkey has layer upon layer of antiquities to see as well as mountain, steppe, and sea scenery spiced with wonderful colorful bucolic farming scenes of men and women “in costume” working with burros, horses, tractors and by hand. It’s also wildflower time, so one is tempted to stop all the time and take pictures. I saw many purple poppies growing wild. I find that driving along is almost the most fun thing. Driving is easy—very little traffic and I haven’t seen any crazy or reckless driving (knock wood).
I did visit a third Hittite city on my way to Amasya. The next day there was a ceremony near the Ataturk Monument celebrating a national holiday. I saw all the mosques and madrassas. The next day I drove to Turhal and then Nile. I went north to Amasya, a very old small city with Pontic tombs (4th century B.C.) cut into the rock face above the city and many Seljuk and Mongol buildings from 12th to 14th C. —ho hum, so new! Stayed in a wonderful Ottoman house (Ilk Penzion) where I had to leave my shoes at the entrance.
I stopped at Tokat and was amazed that they have an Internet Café because the population (“nufus” in Turkish) is 90,000 and it’s kind of in back of beyond. I visited the museum, the caravanserei, a great 19th century house, and a hamami (bath) from 1572. Then I drove on to Niksar, and then to Unge where I stayed on the Black Sea.
From there I left for Trabzon, a small city (175,000) on the Black Sea where I stayed in a hotel right on the Ataturk Alani, the main square. I did a guidebook walking tour that included the bazaar, mosques, hamani, an 884 AD church, tombs, more mosques, and then back to the hotel.
The next morning I taxied to their Aya Sophia way up on a hill. Then on my way out of town, I drove up a mountain to Sumela Monastery, which was gorgeous, but I had to take a four-wheeler up to the monastery and then walk the last 15 minutes. This is REMOTE! After all that, it turned very foggy so I couldn’t see the views. However, a man did meet me with flowers! Getting down in the fog was terrible but I finally came out of it and it was a beautiful drive all the way to Sivas.
The next morning I drove to Ankara—I had made arrangements to leave the car at the airport, and fly to Istanbul, from where I would fly home. I wasn’t sure how to connect with the rental car man, but even though I arrived an hour earlier than I had promised, as I drove in front of the terminal building, there he was! He waved at me and I pulled over and that was that!
I flew to Istanbul and spent the last day buying a few souvenirs for the grandchildren, and going through the Archeological Museum, which was fun to tour after seeing all the original places of these finds. For my last meal in Istanbul I decided to go upscale to the Four Seasons, wearing jeans and tee shirt—I asked the greeter outside if it were all right for me to be dressed like this, and she said it was fine! I had wonderful sheep cheese and smoked salmon, salad and a half bottle of Cincaya (my last now) and Turkish coffee.
I love Istanbul and Turkey in general but I was glad to get home the next day to reconnect with family and friends. Here I am at home, now, and will no doubt begin to plan my next trip soon!
Roger and out—-