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After a sumptuous breakfast of fruit, eggs, and a spinach and feta gozleme, we were picked up at 9:30 am to join our ebullient tour guide, Oguzhan and a small group of 11 for our full day’s tour of Cappadocia's northern region. It’s at this point where I must mention what a great tour guide can do to enhance a cultural experience for a group. Rather than prattling an endless stream of facts and figures, Oguzhan made it a point to get to know us individually first, asking us where we were from and telling us what he knew about our own country or city. With a self-deprecating sense of humour, Oguzhan drew us out of our own private spaces and helped us to relax into the group. By the end of the day, a real camaraderie had developed amongst us.

Our tour began at the Devrent Valley, where we went for a very short hike and viewed the most unbelievable rock formations. Also known as Imagination Valley, we spent time trying to identify different animals shapes in the rocks. Stopping at nearby Monk’s Valley, we saw small cave habitations that were used by monks one thousand years ago and a chapel dedicated to the well known reclusive monk, St. Simeon. 

At Avanos, an artistic center that dates back to the Hittite occupation some 3500 years ago, we had the opportunity to witness potters at their wheels. The red clay found at the Kizilirmak River, along the banks of which the village is located, has been used since the times of the Hittites to make functional and ornamental pottery. By far the most beautiful pottery we had seen anywhere in the world, it was a shame that we couldn’t "buy up." But with our lack of luggage space and weight a major consideration, we had to limit ourselves to imprinting the creative beauty that surrounded us in our minds eye. 

After our lunch break, we moved on to visit the Goreme Open-Air Museum, where we "oohed and aahed" over the numerous cave churches and monasteries, with their richly frescoed walls painted by Orthodox Monks around 1000-1200 AD. They really were spectacular. Unable to enter Uchisar Castle, it was nonetheless as impressive from the outside. With a 360 panorama of the magical Cappadocia landscape around it, the castle is full of interconnected rooms, stairs, tunnels and passages that have been carved from the tufa. Scattered throughout the immediate surroundings are several Roman tombs, also cut from the tufa. 

The day helped us to appreciate what human beings will do when faced with extreme repression. As survival instincts kick in, a new creativity takes over, enabling them to find their salvation in the most unlikely places. For the early Christians, it was carving out tunnels, passageways and underground cities out of the rocks of Cappadocia.

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 23rd September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Turkey

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