Thursday, August 7, 2008

Turkey - Day 6

Cappadocia - The highlight of the trip

Cappadocia is another heritage site and protected by UNESCO. (Please view more of Cappadocia's fantastic site in clearer view in my Flickr - link on left hand side).

The morning was pretty disappointing as we missed out our chance in riding the hot-air balloon over the Cappadocia’s terrain. Our tour agent made a last minute booking and we lost as other tour groups snatched the chance first. I can only see the balloons from afar. “I was supposed to be in there!”

Well, I cant complain more as there is nothing that can be changed now. As we approached the dusty city of Cappadocia, we stopped at the Valley of Pigeons. Pigeons took advantage of the soft rock formations and made it their home. Holes which looked like man-made were actually the work of the pigeons. At this spot, we had a magnificent view of Cappadocia. It reminded me of the Aladdin cartoon-sort of Arabian night kind of landscape. The entire place is brown in colour. Rocks and square looking houses dug from the soft rocks lined up closely across the land of Cappadocia. I am not sure how many pictures I took but I cant help snapping away. The place is so dusty almost desert like, a gust of wind will cover the whole city with sand. I took a few more pictures as I walked back to the bus-just as a backup in case the pictures did not turn up right with the constant dust flying around.

We stopped at another spot with a different view of Cappadocia. As I was snapping away, I heard bells from behind me. Walking down the steep terrain was a camel with its owner. The camel looked dirty and I tried to take some pictures of it. The owner demanded money from us but we just walked away. Taking advantage of tourists? NOT!

We finally arrived at the heart of Cappadocia. I had never seen any place like this before. Bayazid told us the place has a strict rule. Because of the fragile environment, residents have to get the approval from UNESCO just to hang a picture on the wall. Even if they need to paint the walls, they have to paint it brownish, a colour that blends into the whole area. I understand the fragility of the place. The structures are built very closely to each other. If one falls, it will definitely have a domino effect.

We arrived at our destination – Goreme open air museum. Being not able to eat Malaysian food for so many days, it rings a bell about Mee Goreng. This is Cappadocia's most famous attraction which houses several painted cave-churches carved out by Orthodox monks between 900 and 1200 AD. The tour groups hording the place had to take turns to enter the narrow caves. The painting represented mostly of Christianity. However, I was puzzled why most of the people in the paintings had their eye sections rubbed off. After coming back and reading some articles, I understand that it was done by some local Turks who believe that they are the “evil eye”. The churches themselves had an interesting name; The Apple Church, the Dark Church, The Snake Church etc. Photographs with flash are strictly prohibited due to the fragility of the frescoes. Only photographs without flash is allowed but it will make no sense as you cant capture anything decent inside a dark cave!

After visiting some of the famous churches, we had some free time to stroll around Goreme. Not only did it houses the Churches, the area itself contained very distinctive rock formations. Most of it had windows and doors carved on them, which I believe that this place was once a sacred ground.

Our stomach began to rumble as we walked up and down the jagged and steep pathways back to our bus. Later we had a cave lunch. Mmm…fantastic! I never had lunch in a cave before but it was really exquisite. The food is slightly better than our average spaghetti and weird sauces. We had grilled fish and yummy dessert. While chomping away, I was awed by the atmosphere of the place. The cave gave us a cooling shelter from the heat outside. Although the walls and floors are all dusty (as it is a cave), it certainly added to the ambience of the place. We were serenaded by live traditional music as we savoured our meal. The cave definitely enveloped the music. Even without speakers, we can hear the small band loud and clear as they moved from one table to another. We looked so amused by the whole experience that another tour group which I believed from England joined us for the fun.

We stopped at Aksaray square after lunch. This place used to be the shelter and trading for traders that come as far as Silk Road. The place is deserted now and some random trolleys (that were used by the traders) were scattered strategically around the square. There were large chambers surrounding the square. Most of them are too dark to see what’s in there. Surprisingly, I had some of the best shots at Aksaray Square. Outside the square, we were approached by Turkish kids selling postcards. They ran everywhere approaching tourists. How cute but I am not sure if they did this for fun or their family forced them to.

No comments: