Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Steppes, Caravansarais and Turkey on $1,000 a day!

Well, we continue to be amazed by the geography of Turkey. Today we drove out of Konya without too much trouble and headed northeast towards Cappadocia (pronounced Kappa doke ya). An early morning sketching session was managed before breakfast in a nearby square. We looked out at the Sevafettin Camii (Camii is pronounced Jam me, means mosque) as the city of Konya woke up. A nice sunny morning with a little chill in the air. Then after breakfast at the Otel Ursulan, we rolled the suitcases and assorted bags, backpacks and plastic bags to our otopark, the parking garage. As Paul put it, the otopark was a 5 minute walk or a 20 minute drive (the one way streets in this part of Konya managed to baffle our master navigators repeatedly, so walking was a much better option.) Leaving Konya in a large 4 lane highway we had a horse drawn cart being driven alongside us on the road.

Once out of the modern fringe of Konya the land was so flat, it is a steppe, and high altitude crops such as dry wheat are grown. Treeless for the most part. Some sheep being tended and some goats. Lots of horses, donkeys and small tracktors were being driven. We passed lots of modern looking houses but also some really old stone, mud and tree limb dwellings. We also saw several small groups of what seemed to be nomad type homes, large tented structures.

After an hour or two we noticed a fantastic volcanic form in the distance, snow covered and a perfect cone. As we drove out of the steppe there were perfect fields of green with rectangles of faint violet, then yellow from wildflowers in uncultivated areas. Alongside the road were beautiful purple thistles and yellow flowers as well as an occaisional sprinkling of blue flowers.

At a gas station while refueling the gas powered Focus, a traktor with 3 men on it drove up to fuel up, and MaryAnne took some pictures. The men then gave her their email address to send the photos back. As it turns out this seems to be a big deal in Turkey, in fact at one point a police car pulled Jane's car over. They stopped and the police came out and said "take my picture, take my picture!" Of course the occupants of the car complied, and then they were allowed to take off again.

We stopped at the best preserved caravanserai in Turkey: Sultanhani Caravanseria, for lunch and sketching. The caravanserai was a place that was exablished for the benefit of the traders using the Silk Road trading all sorts of good to and from Asia and Europe. It was a place of protection from bandits and a place to rest and eat and sleep. They were set up at a the distance of a days travel all along Turkey (and points east I assume). Anyway it was very impressive, the camel quarters were really neat, cavernous and huge, perhaps still smelling a bit of camel . . . I hate to have to say it, but apparently the siren call of woven goods managed to infiltrate the brains of some anonymous members of the group. There is a carpet repair and restoration shop in Sultanhani, they are known worldwide for their skill at repairing carpets of all kinds, European as well as Oriental. You can only guess the result. One of the more interesting moments involved Mary Anne getting dressed in a fancy silk outfit consisting of shalwar (turkish pants) and a fitted jacket. All antique silk and very beautiful. To complete the picture one of the shop owners put on another antique long jacket and pictures of the happy couple were taken, soon were joined by a cute little Turkish girl also in a costume. We only hope that this type of union is not legal in Turkey . . .

Despite delays related to commerce and electronics, and turning down an offer of a horse drawn wagon ride tour of Sultanhani, we eventually were able to depart for the last leg of the drive to Goreme. In the car we discussed the overwhelming consumerism we seem to have discovered in ourselves in the face of such handmade artworks, and decided we were well suited to writing a guidebook entitled "Turkey on $1,000 a day!" This would include the souveniers too! (Dear husbands at home - this is a JOKE!!!)
We got to Goreme about 5:30 p.m. and found the Elif Star Hotel and are delighted with our rooms which are literally carved into the stone. Nicely updated with modern bathrooms and showers. Each room is different and has a balcony overlooking the surrounding landscape. The landforms are quite beautiful and everywhere you look you can see that doors and windows are carved into the stone. Tomorrow we will explore on foot and bike and perhaps a better description.

No effort is needed to include the wonderful hospitality at the hotel, and the wamth of a couple of Turkish men at the Panorama, a bar soon to become a restaurant just down the road (past a couple of fields with a horse drawn plough in action.) We all needed to have a break to relax. The Cappadocia wine was great, the beer good, and the raki, well . . . lets just say that Sherri has found the best raki brand so far. Nancy, Barbara and Sherri decided to take it easy while the others set out for a little walk and the usual search for an ATM. A nice talk ensued with the father of the operation, Osman, who works in a winery and whose English is quite nice. His son, Barish, also visited. A free round of raki also occured. The three of us managed to make it back to the Elif Star under our own power, just barely. And we all had a great dinner with the BEST dessert made by Jakki, a British woman who now lives here. It was a very good brownie with caramel ice cream. Jakki promises to share the recipe with us.

All to bed now, under an almost full moon in a clear sky and the wierd and lovely landscape all around. The morning will be full of new discoveries! Got to get some sleep so I can get up early and see them.

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