Friday, 29 October 2010

Turkish Mosaic circuit. Day 7 (760 kilometre distance covered).

10th October 2010
Cappadocia - Ankara -  Bolu - Istambul

On the way to Ankara, Central Cappadocia

Because of the distance  we had to cover along the day, we were forced to leave Cappadocia very early on our way to Ankara, the capital city (Western Anatolia), where we started by visiting the Citadel, whose  foundations are said to have been laid by the Galatians.
The area around the Citadel and inside it are the oldest part of Ankara and having had the chance to wander about it before lunch, we came across several examples of traditional architecture. Its narrow streets, where some of the old houses are recovered and others being recovered ... made me think of some of Lisbon old city quarters.

Partial view of Ankara as seen from the Citadel walls (Left). Citadel walls (Right). Around the Citadel  streets (Underneath).

Soon after lunch it started to rain heavily, but we were lucky enough to have a programmed visit to the Anatolian Civilization Museum (an old "covered Bazaar", which has been beautifully restored), considered one of the richest Museums of the world. It holds a huge amount of artifacts from the Paleolithic Age through to the Hittite, Frygian  and Lydian periods. These latest ones really caught Christian's attention and mine.  We finally managed to get some really good books and the moment we walked out, we felt this well organized Museum  had  really made our day.


Bronze figurine of a naked woman breastfeeding a baby (from a grave Harozotepe) - New Hittite Period (Right). Goddess Kubaba- Orthostat basalt fragment - Karkamis (700 - 900 B.C.) - Neo Hittite (Left).

We then headed towards  the Anitkabir,  the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, leader of the Turkish War of Independence and founder of the Republic of Turkey. Located on Rasateppe (literally meaning Observation Hill) it is seen by all  distinct parts of the city.

Anitkabir with its ten Towers symbolizing the ideas that influenced the Turkish Nation (Left). The hall of Honour - Atatürk's tomb (Right).

Ceremonial Guard at the Mausoleum entrance (Left). The Mausoleum Ceremonial Plaza (Right).

Amongst some of Atatürk's important achievements, is the implementation of a new alphabet for the written Turkish Language, based on a modified Latin alphabet, replacing the old Arabic script, as well as the promotion of modern teaching methods. There has not been a single town we stopped at, in which we haven't either seen his statue or his portrait in  display at some public building.

I did feel the Turkish people have a strong admiration for Atatürk, which in a way reminded me of the admiration Cubans still have for Che.

We headed towards Istambul via Bolu having reached the city by dawn ... and although I feel we have spent quite some time on the bus ... I have not disliked today's circuit.

One day to "discover" Istambul, that's what the programme says ... we know now it is not going to be enough ... but we are looking forward to it ... 

Turkish Mosaic circuit. Day 6 (Folkloric night)

9th of October 2010
Sarihan Caravensarai folkloric night

The performing stage of the Sarihan Caravensarai was in the shape of a round arena with quite a few corridors disposed as if they were small auditorium like  dining rooms. There were tables on each side of those corridors, on which several drinks, as well as fresh and dried fruit had been placed. The atmosphere, which had been getting gradually livelier, changed its course and gave way to an impenatrable silence, as they announced the Dervish  performance was about to start and that no photo taking was allowed until the performing act had finished.

In the light of what the word Dervish means "A member of any of various Muslim ascetic orders, some of which perform whirling dances and acts of ecstatic devotion", it may be understandable.

What we  actually watched, was  a worship ceremony performance (Sema) through which they are expected to  reach the source of perfection by abandoning their egos or personal desires  focusing on God and spinning their bodies in repetitive circles, which correspond to the symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar system orbiting the sun. In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, their camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego and the white skirt the ego's shroud and the fact that their arms are open and direct to the sky during the second part of the whirling implies they are ready to receive God's light.


I was impressed by the circling movement. Irrespective of having read that the rotation itself is on the left feet and the impetus for the rotation provided by the right feet, I was still impressed, particularly because some of the dancers reached quite an amazing speed and the moment they stopped, it was as if they had not been spinning at all ...
Whether it is transe or a mastery of the spinning itself ... I honestly don't know ... but it was worth watching,  namely because of its uniqueness.

Several folk dances were to follow, which brought with them a sense of joy and colourfulness to the performing room. A few Spaniards sitting next to us started behaving in a rather indelicate way, (I believe influenced by the alcohol), but their loud talking and singing, which had partly interfered with the playing of a traditional instrument similar to the  Oud was to soon stop ... the moment a female Dervish walked onto the stage.

She filled the whole room with beauty, a unique graciousness of movements, theatrical expression, dazzling and almost dizzying spinning capability ...
I  simply can't describe her as a dancer nor can I do her justice in words ... because what we witnessed in the area of dancing performance was the highest point of the night and  this young lady was (is) among the best dancers  I have had the privilege to watch dancing.
She later came back to perform a belly dance, in which she was once again majestic ... but it was the Dervish dancing performance of hers that really filled my eyes and "soul".

It was around midnight by the time we left the Caravensarai ... but I was extremely glad to have paid the extra 25 Euros, so as to "witness" all of  this  ..


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Turkish Mosaic circuit. Afternoon of day 6. (Around the Cappadocia valleys).

9th October 2010
Pasabag valley - Devrent Valley - Gorëme Valley - Zelve Valley

We have wandered around these valleys in the rain ... and every one of them has impressed me for different reasons ...; be it because of the rock formation shapes of the Devrent valley or the history behind the almost unrecognisable frescoe remains of some churches in the various valleys, reduced to just some pigments tinging the corroded walls .. . or even the capacity one's mind has to "travel" back to the 10th, 11th or 12th centuries in which most of the cave churches in the vast monastic complex of Gorëme valley were erected ... is less relevant than the fact that I have been impacted upon.  

To hear that the Zelve valley once housed one of the largest communities of the region in an amazing cave town now reduced to a ghostly assembly of caves and find out that right there Christians and Muslims are said to have lived together in perfect harmony until 1924 ... is  astounding.

The strong rain was not able to interfere with the "raw beauty" of these valleys ... and although we were not able to visit some of the "best " churches within the region  ... the unique opportunity to "walk into" this almost surreal atmosphere has been worthwhile and  ... deserves a "revisiting" trip one of these days.

Dinner at a local restaurant allowed us to try another  really tasty specialty of the region " Nevschir Mantisi" (a ravioli like local cuisine specialty) eaten with a garlic infused yogurt poured over it.

Soon after dinner, some of us were driven to Sarihan, also known as the yellow Caravanserai built in 1249,  though having undergone restauration in the 1980's, where we  will be watching some folkloric dances, including the famous whirling Dervish performing dance.

I wonder what tonight's performance might hold for me. I am literally dying to see the whirling Dervish dance ...  and have been since I first saw a World Press black and white winning photo of Dervish dancers spinning round  ... as if almost coming out of the photo frame.  

Turkish Mosaic circuit. The morning of Day 6 (Around the Cavusin Valley, Cappadocia).

9th of October 2010
Uçhisar Valley - Cavusin Valley - Avanos village - Ulasli

Uçhisar Valley

Prior to continuing towards the Cavusin Valley, we visited a jewellery atelier  in the Uçhisar Valley, in which we became acquainted with various techniques used in the making of traditional jewellery pieces, as well as old time designs incorporated in today's jewellery.

Soon after, I was able to buy one of the famous handmade cloth dolls  from Soganli Köyü in one of its street stalls.  According to what I have read, during the winter months when women are forced to remain indoors, they make these fairy like rag dolls out of cloth remnants and other waste material.


Cavusin was used  hundreds of years  ago by monks as a place of retreat. One of its churches, believed to have been dedicated to John the Baptist, is dated back to the late fifth to early sixth century, with frescoes having been incorporated on its walls in the ninth century.

John the Baptist church frescoe details (Left). Inside archs of John the Baptist church (Right)

It came as a surprise to realise that most churches we visited along the valley had no guardian and many of the frescoes had been scraped, which is really a pity taking into account the role these rock caved in churches played during the persecution of Christians throughout the fourth century.

Our next stop was Avanos village, so as to visit one of the many pottery ateliers, where artisans, like their predecessors since Hittite times, continue to make pottery with the red clay removed from the bed of the Kizilirmak river, using simple foot-powered wheels and having designed and painted Hittite paterns on it.

Michele, one of our group companions prepared to try out he foot-powered wheel (Left). Young artists designing and painting the Hittite patterns on the pottery pieces (Right).

We were amazed by the worksmanship involved. Young women artists (modern in their looks, yet traditional in their no-eye contact with the visitors, even when asked a question) were the main workers, there being only one male artist "revising" the produced potery, so as to find potential flaws, before having it put on display to be sold.
We wandered up and down the exhibition room, marvelled at the beauty of the finished glazed artifacts ... and had they not been"breakable", I am sure many of us would have taken home more than  just one of these "pieces of Art".

The morning ended the best possible way - Having a typical Central Anatolia homemade lunch at an  Ulasli  "troglodyte" inhabitant's - a very tasty "Yarma asi" soup and  delicious "Patlican dolmast" (aubergines stuffed with rice, onions, parsley, raisins and spices, that are particular to this region) accompanied by a rich salad and local baked bread. The ones who ate inside (prt of the group travellers) had the advantage of being warmed up by the tandouri oven.

Outside the Ulasli's inhabitant (Left). Inside the dining room of the troglodyte house (Right)

By the time we left the village it was raining  really heavily ... so the afternoon visit to the Pasabag and Devrent Valleys, Zelve and the open air Museum of Göreme didn't sound very appealling ...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Turkish Mosaic circuit. The morning of Day 6 (around Uçhisar, Cappadocia)

9th October 2010
Around Uçhisar Valley, Cappadocia

We had been told some of the hotel guests were foreigners participating in the Peking-Paris old automobile race, but we had (for obvious reasons) not yet been able to see the vehicles they were participating in.
Prior to leaving to Cappadocia we photographed some of those ... and what a sight it was ... I  must salut some of these drivers ..., because irrespective of having adapted their vehicles for the long drive ahead, some of them will have to face some adversities along the way ... (I am sure).

The circuit schedule for the day was slightly changed, firstly because we had to collect some of our trip companions who had left very early to go on an hour baloon ride around the Cappadocia area and the dinner at an Ulasli inhabitant, which had been arranged was substituted by lunch, so as to allow some of us to participate in a folkloric night out.

We  headed towards Uçhisar, Cappadocia's highest hill to visit the Kale Garisi, a castle and fortress offering a magnificent panorama of the region, which has been defined as a basalt rock area covered in tuff by spewing volcanoes thousands of years ago and whose aspect does not ressemble anything we may have seen before, creating an unexpected  and undescribable enchanting mystery.

Different landscape views from the Kale Garisi, Uçhisar (Top Right).

Tombs to be seen outside the caves (Left). Inside the caves (Right)

Dovecotes, which have been seen in Cappadocia since the Byzantine era, are one of its most distinctive features. According to Turgay Tuna and Bulent Demirdurak, well known Turkish authors the fact that the dove has been considered sacred in the three Abrahamic traditions does not provide the most important reason for the presence of so many dovecotes in the region, which they strongly believe to be, the use of their manure as fertilizer, which  Cappadocians have been using on their crops for hundreds of years, and continue to do so.

Uçhisar Dovecotes (Left). Dovecote with multicolour ornamented façade (Right).

It was a seemingly  grayish day, but amazingly  enough there was a rather strange luminosity projected from these basalt rocks. A distinct feeling that it would rain at any moment accompanied us all the way throughout the Uçhisar valley visit, but it didn't ... and had it rained, the magic would still be there. 

Before heading onto Cavusin Valley and Avanos we stopped at some stalls to buy dried fruits, seeds and nuts, consummed in generous quantities  around Central Anatolia ...  and I am not surprised, because they are amongst some of the most delicious I have tasted so far, particularly the cashew-nuts.