Cappadocia

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Within an hour of departing Istanbul we were in Cappadocia, 'land of beautiful horses' mentioned in the bible, home to St George the patron saint of England slayer of dragons and Santa Claus?

We were met at Kayseri's  joint military/civilian airport for the 75 minute drive to our hotel in the oldest part of the unspoiled village of Ayvali.  Across this bridge lies  our destination Gamirasu "Spring Water"

Abandoned cave homes beside Gamirasu.  There is also an underground city waiting to be uncovered

Gamirasu, a beautifully restored collection of cave homes, is the only tourist facility of any kind in the village.  No there aren't even any carpet showrooms

 

Typical tuff stone room.  The beds are made of wood and the bedding, mattresses, rugs etc are made of cotton.  All combine to induce a sound restorative nights sleep.  A guide book describes the hotel as being built to 'certain psychic principles of well being'.  I don't know what that means but I do know I felt better both physically and spiritually than I can ever remember feeling before

The kitchen may have been carved by monks centuries ago but Nezihe and Mefail have the use of the best of modern equipment.   Anyone around the hotel during the day gravitates to the kitchen to sip glass after glass of tea and chat to Nezihe, Mefail and their lovely daughter.  The fact they speak little English is no barrier to conversation

Our favourite spot. In the summer, days begin here with a breakfast featuring locally produced honey, jams, fruits and eggs.  Many people told me the food in Turkey was boring but the banquets provided here in this remote rural village were the best meals we had on our trip.  Only the freshest local produce is used to create typical village style meals

Ibrahim the Turkish co owner of the hotel plays a pre dinner game with Ken.  They were playing for the hotel but by the end of the evening it was still safely under Ibrahim's stewardship

Suleyman, Gamirasu's contact with the outside world via the miracle of the internet.  He is a great ambassador for the hotel and Cappadocia.  He  had endless patience when answering all our pre trip questions, booked our internal flights and had the tickets waiting for us when we checked into the Empress Zoe.  He runs a tour company in Urgup and loves to dance!

Iceridere Valley will always be Ibrahim's Valley to us.  A peaceful place to walk and explore.  Just you, the birds, bees, butterflies and flowers the only sound the distant crowing cockerels and braying of donkeys 

Built high up on the walls above the stream are many dovecotes.  Few are as pretty as these.  Doves, symbols of peace and love.  I had hoped for some lovely romantic explanation for this apparent devotion to doves but Ibrahim assured me they were cosseted for their' guano', rich in phosphates and ammonia.  Oh well!

Our neighbour across the bridge prepares a meal

Apricots drying on a neighbouring rooftop

The Roman style bridge leading away from Gamirasu and into the more modern part of the village

Mothers and children relax in the late afternoon

Women returning from the fields are a common site, as are groups of men congregating around cafe's and mosques playing board games

Smiling  as he passed me by he uttered one word, 'Grandsons'.  Having 5 of my own, I know how he feels

On our first full day in Cappadocia we hitched a ride into Urgup with Suleyman and took the dolmus  to the Outdoor Museum of Goreme

The first inhabitants of these valleys are thought to have been Hittites, carving their homes out of the soft volcanic tufa, 2000 years before Christ.  Many are still inhabited today

Ochre-toned frescoes at the entrance to a rock church.  The eyes of the figures were gouged out when the area became inhabited by Muslims who believed them to be graven images.  Flash photography is forbidden inside the churches as it will damage the frescoe

Following the fall of Constantinople many Christians fled to the central Anatolian Plains, finding natural homes in the caves of Cappadocia. Their, churches and monasteries, complete with Byzantine frescoes and iconography survive and are preserved here in Goreme as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cappadocia

The front walls of these dovecotes have eroded leaving the individual little niches exposed.  The proliferation of doves is responsible for the mineral rich soil which supports Cappadocia's fruit trees and vines

Interior of a vast church or possibly a monastery, badly eroded now.  All the surviving churches date from around 850 AD.  It is said there were some 365 churches in the valley at one time.  One for every day of the year.  Thirty are in stable enough condition to allow visitors

Barbara Kilise 

 Built in the typical form of an inscribed cross with a central dome supported on four pillars.  The simple architectural details were enhanced by professional artists paid for by local notables. Saint Barbara's church is adorned with  severe iconoclastic decorations from a time when human images were banned.  There are a few later images of the Virgin and St. Barbara

Pottery in the village of Avanos.  We had intended going by bus but we engaged a guide at the Open Air Museum and asked him to drive us around for the afternoon.  This particular pottery is little more than a shopping opportunity for tourists and I found it of little interest

On top of the loom are the hanks of wool being used.  The colour is obtained  from natural animal and vegetable dyes.  Wode for blue, Pomegranate for  Black, Walnut for brown, Chamomile and sage for yellow and madder root for pinks and reds.  All readily available to the nomadic tribes people who have been making carpets in this region  since 400B.C.

The women are the weavers of carpets the men the dyers and repairer

The carpet co-operative in Avanos, we found much more interesting.   Jean and I were met at the door and given our very own guided tour which included a demonstration of silk production beginning with the silk worm, taking us through the dyeing spinning and weaving processes to the finished article

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Young women receive training and certification in the traditional skills of carpet weaving.  Turkish carpets are made using the double knotting technique know as gordes.   Carpets are made of silk, wool or cotton.   They may be made of a single material as in cotton on cotton or a mixture of fibers.  These carpets are silk on silk, the most valuable of all

Naturally our wonderful tour ended up in one of the vast showrooms.  We consumed several glasses of apple tea while the sales team  dropped carpet after carpet at our feet.  We were shown, cotton, silk and wool, some produced in the villages some here in the Avanos factory.  The sales pitch was (for Turkey) very low key and we learned a lot about how to choose a carpet

Ibrahim loaned us an alarm clock and Suleyman arranged a 3.30 AM wake up call to make absolutely sure we didn't miss our date with Cloud Nine Kapadokya Balloons.  I phoned to make sure conditions were favourable.  They were - and shortly after a vehicle arrived to take us to their Goreme office where we had hot drinks and snacks before setting off.

 

Ready for the off.  Feeling chilly and a little apprehensive

 

Unfortunately we were in the prettier balloon, making it unavailable to feature in my photos!

The second balloon that day was a rather dull navy blue colour

Lars our Swedish pilot operates Cloud Nine with his English wife Kaili.  Flights take place at sunrise and last from 60 to 90 minutes depending on conditions.  They are backed up by a great ground crew

Just after lift off and swiftly rising.  

I wasn't sure what to expect and was somewhat surprised by how peaceful it was up there.  Excepting the occasional blast from the burner it was totally silent with no sensation of wind. 

Kaili pilots her Mercedes Benz balloon in our wake.

We were the wind. We appeared to drift from one glorious location to another but in truth Lars had a lot more control than I had realized was possible
 

This is about as high as we went.   Our flight was a special never to be forgotten treat.  The cost was  prohibitive at  $350 Canadian each but if you have a yen to go up in a balloon, where better than over the magical landscape of Cappadocia

The Kale (Castle)  Uchisar.  The 200' landmark which dominates its surroundings.   Two days later Ibrahim brought us here and we climbed through the base and up to the top from where there is a panoramic view like no other. The huge flag adorning the castle is the flag of the Istanbul soccer club which had won the equivalent of the F.A. cup the previous Saturday.  We were in Istanbul at the time and the celebrations continued all night

At times we were brushing the tops of the fruit trees in the valleys.  Had there been fruit on the trees we would have been able to reach out and pick it.  

Not far below Lars spotted a red fox and we followed him along the valley.  Up and down we went repeatedly. 

Sometimes we could see our ground crew.  Several rendezvous were arranged but conditions continued to be great so Lars sent them off to meet us somewhere else.  In all we were in the air for 1 hour and 45 minutes

Eventually we had to come down, landing in a field of glorious spring flowers.  The ground crew caught Kailie's basket as she landed but Lars advised us to adopt the landing position as he expected a bumpy touch down.   It was less than dramatic and the basket remained uprigh

Safely back on the ground we were treated to Cloud Nine cocktails, (Champagne and cranberry juice) cookies and cake.   Then it was time to pack up the balloons which involved nothing more strenuous than rolling around on them until they gave up and collapsed.  As luck would have it we landed quite close to Ayvali and arrived back at Gamirasu in time to have our third breakfast of the day

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