Cappadocia is known throughout the world for its other-worldly landscapes. The rock formations and caves can look like the surface of a foreign planet. In fact, one of the earlier Star Trek movies apparently shot some of its scenes right here in the region.
Throughout this trip, one of the recurring themes has been that of desert spirituality—typically associated with images of monks and communes and asceticism and such. Church history buffs, even casual ones, may know of the Cappadocian fathers (Basil, Gregory, and Gregory) from the 4th century. They were key figures in the early ecumenical councils of Christianity, where the details of doctrine were debated and discussed and determined in regards to God’s triune nature, Christ’s mysterious nature of both divine and human, and more. They were also the core of a monastic movement that continues to impact the world of Christian spirituality.
I tell you all that so that it will mean something when I say that we spent the morning at Goreme, which is where these communities lived. Carved into the rocks and caves are living spaces, churches, kitchens, and more. It is a place that could be wandered for days, I’m sure. We gave it a couple hours.
After a quick lunch in a Turkish market (I had some sort of meat pizza for 5 TL), we headed to Kaymakli. This is an underground city that reaches down to 45 meters beneath the ground. It contains 8 stories and was built as the “Helm’s Deep” of Cappadocia—that description will be lost on those who are “Lord of the Rings” fans. Translation: In times of danger or invasion, Kaymakli was the place to hide or fall back. Walking through its tunnels reveal spaces set aside for living spaces, bathrooms, kitchens, stables, and churches. There are also spaces for storing and grinding grains, and pressing olives and making wines—it is mind-blowing! There is much question over just how old these sites are. They were certainly used between the 6th and 11th centuries when Islam was spreading across this land, though some speculate that they may have been used in the ancient Hittite kingdoms, dating back as far as 4000 years. Seriously, those numbers never stop making me shake my head!
The rest of our day focused on some Cappadocian art. We visited a carpet-making business. These are handmade carpets that would be similar to what people are talking about when they speak of “Persian carpets”. Honestly, if I’d been invited to browse a rug room at this store, I’d have been done in 2 minutes. Who cares?! But they walked us through the loom room, showing us how these are made. They gave us a demonstration of how the harvest their silk for the silk carpets. They trained us with some basics on how you determine the different values of carpets beside one another. After an hour so of that, they started to display their wares. Now, I know they were hoping for sales (and they got a few), but I found this just fascinating! And as they rolled out carpet after carpet—they said they had 50 000 hand-made carpets in stock—a roomful of Canadians got down on hands and knees to “pet” them and stripped off sandals to get the barefoot experience. I loved it. There, I said it: I loved the carpet store! Who’d have known? I chatted with Shannon on Skype last night, and I could hear her giggling at my “carpet crush”. I don’t know what to tell you. I was smitten by Persion rugs. And now I’m moving on…
Second art stop: A pottery business. Following a demonstration in which a potter changed a blob of clay into a beautifully shaped bottle right in front of us in 5 minutes, we were sent shopping again. Now Shannon loves pottery and ceramics, so I thought I might have found my “gift spot” for her… until I saw a price tag. Most pieces were hundreds of dollars—thousands were easy to spend if you needed to off-load some cash. Beautiful? No question! Tempting? Not so much.
Upon returning to the hotel, we received a quick briefing on tomorrow’s hot-air balloon ride and had a chance to do some group sharing about what had led each of us to sign up for this trip. That time of sharing was great. I’ve already come to really appreciate the people I’m traveling with, but it’s amazing what can be revealed in just a couple minutes each when people are eager and willing to show a bit more of themselves. I know that this is just a brief trip in the span of a lifetime but you bond with people when you travel, and I feel blessed to have opportunity to bond with this group.
For now, I close. Our “balloon bus” will pick us up at 5:15 AM, so bed is beckoning.