The magic of Cappadocia

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Esbelli Evi - a Turkish style breakfast, but with eggs cooked to order as well as cereal.
Without me needing to ask, Suha took us aside and spent 15 minutes drawing a map for us with a tour of the region taking in some of the significant sites, explaining which way to go, what to look for etc. It was very valuable advice, because the region is bog and there is a lot to see.
With my trusty navigator Jess operating the map, we were ready to hit the road. First stop was the magical Devrent Valley and the spectacular fairy chimneys. These incredible formations have been formed as a result of a volcanic eruption from that large mountain I spotted from the plane as we landed in Kayseri. Mt Erciyes was an active volcano thousands of years ago and erupted, leaving a layer of hard rock sitting on top of softer limestone and soil underneath. This eroded away over time, creating the amazing and beautiful fairy chimneys.
We roamed around these magnificent structures until we realised that we were never going to get through our schedule unless we kept moving. Next stop, Zelve Valley. Suha had suggested that we might want to spend at least an hour here. As it turned out we spent almost four hours and still we could have stayed for longer. This valley is a village made entirely of cave houses, cave churches, meeting halls and other structures. This village was occupied until relatively recently (the 1950s) but abandoned due to the erosion. In fact most of the cave dwellings in the Cappadocia region were abandoned after the proclamation of the Turkish state in 1923. At this time there were massive 'population exchanges' between Turkey and Greece, which meant that the Christians who had been living in Cappadocia for more than a thousand years were sent to Greece and Muslims in Greece were sent to Turkey. Whole villages at this time became ghost towns.
It was a remarkable experience crawling through the cave house, churches and halls, imagining how they had lived, who had slept in this place, who had eaten there; the lives, the loves, the births, the deaths. Friendships formed and deals done, all gone now.
From Zelve we headed for Goreme. My trusty navigator led me down a variety of roads, mostly leading back to our starting point, so that half an hour later we were still just near Zelve. Never mind - at least we had gotten to see some of the scenery. By the time we got to the Open Air Museum at Goreme it was well after 3 and we were pretty tired. The man selling souvenirs told us about a place we could visit in Avanos. 'Is carpet school' he told us. 'The girls will see silk being spun and traditional rugs being made. It is run by the government.'
This sounded like just the excuse we needed to take a rest and postpone the rest of the tour for the next day. The souvenir guy drew us a mud map - they seem to LOVE drawing mud maps here - which showed the way clearly. Our navigator was able to get us straight there, if by straight I mean a couple of wrong turns, a multiple crossing of the same bridge, retracing our steps half way back to where we came from and then having another go, that kind of straight there is what we did.
So in we went to Sentez, to look at the carpet school. It was fascinating to watch the deft handiwork of the talented carpet makers. The man who had assigned himself to guide us through explained that the workers worked 7 hour days, 7 days a week. I'm not clear if this is exactly what he meant, but it certainly depressed us. 'Is it mainly women who make the rugs?' Jess asked. 'I would say 99% of the time, yes' our guide replied. The tour of the rug making lasted about 5 minutes and then we were shuffled into another part of the building where we were shown many carpets which we could buy if we want to. Many many. And we drank apple tea and looked at carpets, compared quality, different types, sizes etc.
At some point we were handed over from our initial guide to a man who was much more sharply dressed, much slicker. After the men had shown us about 40,000 carpets it was time to talk turkey, so to speak. 'How much are these?' I asked, pointing two carpets out of the jumble we had been shown after Jess had given me the nod.
'Ah, you have very good taste' our new attendant told Jess. 'These rugs are very fine quality. Compare these with these inferior rugs. These [indicating the inferior ones] are still good, but not in the same class as the ones you have selected.'
'Yes, but how much are they.'
'This larger one is 1500 lira, the smaller one is 1000 lira. 2500 for the two. For you, I will throw in free shipping so the total of 2500 includes door to door service.'
And so it went. We were told about Certificates of Authenticity, government inspectors, lead seals etc. Despite all of this I was pretty sure that the carpets were way overpriced. Based on what we had seen in some other shops, I was pretty sure this was the case'.
'Let us think about it' I told the new guy. I could see him wince and realise that there wasn't going to be a sale, despite our reassurances that we would think about it. I found out later that we had probably made a sensible decision, as Sentez has a reputation for being very expensive. Still, as one of the rug sellers told me, 'It is not expensive, it is valuable'. Nice line.
As we were leaving we noticed that a Spanish tour group had arrived and were being shown rugs. Apparently tour groups are there bread and butter. We would hardly have made a drop in this ocean anyway.
Congratulating ourselves on our escape, we headed home to Urgup and then to the second of Suha's dining recommendations, Ziggys.  This is a wonderful restaurant, and although it took a while for the meals to arrive, when they did they were literally works of art. Tasty too. The girls were most impressed with the salad vegetables made into flower shapes. We ate our fill, Jess and I had wine and coffee, the girls had dessert and the bill was 90 lira. Can't complain about that!
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