22.04.2009 18 °C
While our plane from India carried us silently through the night over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria before landing in Istanbul we read the book “Sweetness in the belly” by English author Camilla Gibb. While fiction, it beautifully crafts and transcends the boundaries defined by propaganda makers that pit Islam and the West against each other. It offered us an insight in the Muslim tradition we were previously unaware of and it now aids in understanding there where we are. Trading books all over the world with passing travelers has enriched our lives and kept money for other purposes. We have as of yet not been caught without a good read. In Phuket, Thailand on our way out of the door we came across the book ” America unchained” by Dave Goreman and a must read for our Kansas friends. The book in humorous details describes the journey an Englishman attempts in America, coast to coast, determined to not give any money to “the man”, staying away from big corporate franchises and only fraternizing the mom and pop businesses.
Our first Turkey sunrise was seen from the overnight Istanbul to Cappadocia bus and after a very long, sleepless night it was a welcome and beautiful sight to witness once again a bright red sun peeking over mountains. It was our first, clear sunrise in over a month since the sun is so overshadowed by smog in the Asian countries we have been. The overnight public buses in Turkey are quite comfortable, once one figures out which is the correct bus to board. We booked our Cappadocia trip through a travel agency associated with our Istanbul hostel and together with a large group of young travelers from all over the world we boarded a bus commandeered by a Turkish Al Pacino look alike who frantically tried to make us understand our transfers and who became quite frustrated when upon his order; “understand” all in unison shook their head. Being lost with the crowd is more freeing and enjoyable than being lost in the crowd and in great humor our trip to Cappadocia went under way. The bus ride is around 13 hours long and appears even longer if one has a cranky, old woman sitting behind you who is determined that you will be the only one on the bus not allowed to recline the seat. That was my luck and after an unsuccessful attempt to battle it out with sheer strength against 4 feet of veiled, distempered anger I used my wits and sweetly told the steward on board that my seat was broken and he put it in the reclined position under a barrage of angry retorts which continued with well placed kicks the rest of the trip.
Arriving and now spending three days in Cappadocia has been amazing. The area is set high above sea level and surrounded by the snow capped volcano’s whose eruptions formed this geological wonder. Spreading lava, together with lakes, formed a high plateau up to 100-150 meters in height. Today’s valleys were created through erosion and the harder, wider layer of rock on the top, called chimney rocks formed. Chimney rocks can be seen in other regions of the world but nowhere as densely formed as in Cappadocia. Human hands early on joined creation and carved these thick but pliable porous rocks and made them suitable for houses, monasteries, churches and underground shelters when protection was needed. Christianity settled in this region in the third century and a mystic monastery life began which lasted until the 12 th century when Islam took its place. The town of Gorame where we are staying in a delightful, family run, cave pension (Star Cave Hotel) is surrounded by hundreds of cave churches, all small and many used as schools before the 12 th century. We visited some and saw the ancient paintings on the walls which made them unsuitable for the Islam faith tradition. While some of the painting is very primitive and done by local church attendees many centuries ago, other church paintings are master pieces created by Roman artists. One of the cave churches we visited today, now well over 900 years since last used as a church, still carries in its domes and on its walls pictures of every biblical scene. These paintings have lasted through the years because of the natural make up of the paints. No chemicals were used since there was no existence of these in those times. The color red came from grapes, yellow saffron, blue ground lapis lazula, and green from ground shells. What will stand out more than anything we saw today was hearing a young Turkish, Muslim woman describe to us, in a very gentle voice, the biblical scenes portrayed so many years ago and still holding its color. What is equally amazing are how these formations, many years later, still offer its usefulness to the people who live here and not only as a tourist attractions. Centuries ago, human hands built pigeon houses and artfully built steps in the soft rock so that the pigeon droppings could be collected and spread as manure on the fields and around the grape vines. Today, these pigeon houses are still used for that exact same purpose and the wine, manufactured in the Cappadocia region is still stored inside the caves where the temperature is perfect without human intervention. As with all tours we have been a part of this past month, one does end up in the local industry and with their hopes up, cajoled into buying. In Cappadocia it was pottery and rugs and if we had the funds we gladly would have bought the pieces of craftsmanship we saw today. Even today, the red clay used for the pottery is still gathered from the river which runs through the region, and fitfully named the red river. It is the largest river in Turkey and flows into the Dead Sea. We have one more day here tomorrow and will use the time to hike around the region before boarding an overnight (drats) bus to Pamukkale region which also offers the beauty of natural wonders, this time in calcified, terraced hot pools.
Traveling these past couple of days with young people from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Japan, China and Germany makes us realize how different it is to travel when there is at least 30 years difference in years. We listen to them and remember the ease with which we in the early seventies, as our young friends do now , threw on our backpack and the disregard we had then of where we would lay down our heads to rest at night and whom we had left behind. We require more rest, comfort and peace of mind now. In the book “ Sweetness in the belly” 6 year old Lilly asks her parents, nomad travelling hippies, why they have to move once again and her father’s answer is that staying in one place means that roots will be put down and roots grow. The child asks why that is so bad and the father’s reply; “It just makes the passage between places too painful. It’s all about the journey. You don’t want to spoil the journey by missing what you’ve left and worrying about where you are going”. If missing makes one a lesser traveler, we no longer are great travelers. Beyond missing our children’s presence we miss the normality of living life. The simple task of opening our own front door and finding the paper there and reading the news while enjoying a great cup of good brewed coffee. We now have spent many months in countries where tea is the norm. Our young traveling friends shared their journey time and we all bemoaned the noticeable inclined prices in Turkey and what can be expected when the Euro countries are reached. Some of our young friends were ready to head back to Asia where “ Life is cheap”. There are two ways to look at that statement depending on where the emphasis is placed.
Is life valued less there where lesser value is needed to live life?
Gule , Gule,
Tom and Els