Sunday, 30 September 2012

Turkish Delight - Cappadocia

Cappadocia? This was another place in Turkey I'd never actually heard of before getting there. Although strictly speaking it is a region rather than a place.

The reason for the region - the volcano dominates the view.

It was formed by volcanic rook which cooled and has eroded into the most weird and wonderful rock formations.

 The rock is very soft so the local inhabitants ( early Christians from Roman times)  burrowed into it to make their homes. Once the rock surface is exposed to air it hardens to make a strong durable "house". Some of which are still lived in today and we were lucky enough to be able to visit one such home. Many have been now been extended by adding various brick and stone additions since the area is now protected from further tunnelling.

We stayed in Göreme which is the main town of the region. We decided to forgo the delights of the hot air balloon trip over the region but did enjoy an authentic Turkish bath in the local Hamam. An experience in itself.

 No escape from the tourist shops - here was one of the more imaginative displays from the view point above Göreme.

Of course a fairyland  landscape needs a castle. This was also carved from the rock and it was a stiff climb up. On the top were graves cut into the rock. No one seems to know much about them or how the burial practises evolved, A lot of them were very small so were just the bones interred?

Cappadocia is famous also for its "fairy chimneys" These are really strange formations. The "necks" are eroding faster than the caps leading to these groups of rock. I'm not sure I'd describe them myself as chimneys.....

The final surprise Cappadocia had in store for us was its underground cities. The early Christians were frequently attacked and to protect themselves they hollowed out huge cities UNDER the ground. The one we visited was truly amazing. It went down 7 or so levels and would have housed up to 10,000 people and their animals. Ventilation was taken care of by shafts and inside the entry tunnels could be sealed by stone boulders if necessary.

Some of the tunnels  required you to bend low but in most of them I could walk comfortably upright and I'm 5 10. The inhabitants even hollowed themselves out a church deep underground and water was supplied from a well. There was much nervous laughter when a coin was dropped down and thoughts of  Gandalf and Frodo's adventures in the Mines of Moria came to mind. Despite listening hard we heard no drum beats... They had store rooms, stalls for their animals and even a graveyard down here.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Turkish Delight - Here be were-rabbits?

Having left Istanbul we found ourselves in Beypazari. Never heard of it? No neither had we but it is the centre of the Turkish carrot industry.

Where most towns have a statue of a local dignitary or historical personage,  in the centre of the town Beypazari has ...

..... a giant steel carrot.

If you want to sample carrot flavoured Turkish Delight or drink carrot juice then this is the place to do it.

They also do a very nice line in baklava  with 80 layers of  filo pastry rather than the usual 40  - can definitely recommend this.

Joking apart, Beypazari had a few surprises in store. One of which was the museum. It's a "living history " type of place where they are trying to preserve some of the old beliefs and customs of Turkey before they are swept away by the influx of modern global culture.

One of the ubiquitous symbols of Turkey is the "evil eye" or more accurately a talisman to protect against it. How do you know if you have been afflicted by the evil eye? Like this

The person to be diagnosed sits covered in a white sheet  whilst the wise woman hold a bowl of cold water above their head. A ladle of molten lead is  then thrown into the water.

This results in a loud bang, a cloud of steam and water everywhere.  


The shape formed by the lead is then examined and a pronouncement made. In this case, yes our volunteer was afflicted by the evil eye and a prescription to cure it given.

The museum is housed in what was one of the grandest houses of the town. The owner would have been very wealthy and the house has been maintained to give a flavour of how they would have lived. 

 Multiple generations would have lived under the same roof. This room belonged to the eldest son and his wife so it is one of the bigger ones and has a nice double aspect. They would have eaten slept and lived in this one room with the bedding taken up during the day time.

but they did have en suite facilities. 

Beypazari is famous for its old houses. Much of the old town still consists of these old homes. In many ways it was like going back 3 or 400 years with the people living above the animals. Very quaint but I wonder if those who seek to preserve the nature of the town would be prepared to live in such conditions themselves?

The final picture this week is looking down over the town itself from one of the rocky outcrops that surround it.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Turkish Delight - Istanbul

I'm back - this is rather later than I'd planned but I've just killed another laptop so I've been waiting for a replacement keyboard from Amazon ( what would we do without them).

Thousands of photos later, here are a few of the selected highlights from the last couple of weeks. Firstly Istanbul. Well where to begin? A huge vibrant city and a mix of the old and new. We didn't have time to fully explore the old city; never  mind the new.

So just  a few pictures then:

Firstly the  bronze Serpent pillar dedicated to Apollo from the Hippodrome. This is in the heart of the old city by the famous Blue Mosque. There are three serpents twisted together and it is known to be at least 2500 years old. The heads have sadly been removed but.....

......we found one in the museum! Terrible picture. I'm sorry but the glass was very reflective. At least you can't see much of me.

More from the museum. We spent hours in there and I could have filled the memory card here alone. This is a relief of Psyche. Love the "Tudor" style roses. This was a motif that cropped up time and again all over Turkey.

This is the Alexander Sarcophagus. Decorated with scenes depicting  Alexander the Great, the quality and preservation of this was incredible. It is virtually undamaged despite dating to 4BCE and traces of the original painted decoration are still evident.

The Istanbul museum holds many treasures including reliefs from the gates of Babylon themselves. Truly amazing.

However if I was to post all the pictures that are worth showing, this would be the longest blog post in history so moving on....

Under the streets of Istanbul are giant water cisterns. Despite the cathedral like appearance and its name, the Basilica Cistern its sole function is a reservoir for water ( and a fish pool). Built in the 6CE it was forgotten, rediscovered and then restored.

Hidden in the darkness are some real oddities including this head of Medusa. No I haven't got the picture upside down...

The next pillar has a further head of Medusa but at a 45degree angle. Obviously reused from the past there is no history of their original location.

You may recognise the location from the Bond film "From Russia with Love".

A couple now from the Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman emperors. This was heavingly busy due to the number of cruise ships in the city but inside the harem it was much quieter ( costs extra to visit!

The whole palace was quite breathtaking with the quality of decor  - here is a small sample.

On now to the fabled Blue Mosque. Shoes off here and headscarf on. Far too big a space to photograph well so here is a snippet.

Finally for Istanbul was the Hagia Sophia, firstly a cathedral ( around 300CE ) then a mosque and now a secular museum it is also extremely popular with the cruise passengers.

Full of Byzantine Christian mosaics and paintings mixed with some surprisingly secular carvings and of course the ubiquitous  Turkish gold and blue this was an undoubted highlight of the city.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Bear with me....

 The lack of summer in the UK this year has really told on me so  ...... just back from a couple of weeks in Turkey.

I'm just hoping the Blogger scheduling widget has done its stuff or it will have been a very quiet blog for the last few weeks!

Anyway  - first Turkish  adventures  in a day or two.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sleeping with the Devil

Old burial tombs seem to have got themselves associated with the devil all over the place - he must have been a busy lad!

Just down the road this one at Rode ( near Trowbridge in Wiltshire). So just a short afternoon stroll but a very pleasant one.

This is a lovely Neolithic chambered long barrow - well worth the effort to hunt it down

A glorious peaceful setting  - it isn't very well known and as I said takes a bit of effort to locate.

The site is much disturbed but there are the remains of maybe two or three chambers here. The site is concealed by a copse of mature horse chestnut trees and as there are a couple of copses in the immediate vicinity it takes a bit of finding.

Unsurprisingly we had the place to ourselves which was nice. I don't think it gets many visitors.

Local lore is that attempts to move the stones will be foiled by bad weather!

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