Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cappodoccia Churches & Flying Carpets

Today we enjoyed a nice breakfast on the terrace overlooking the valley and then headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum which is set in a narrow valley behind the village of Goreme.  The site is renowned for some of the best examples of early Byzantine churches that were hand carved into the cliffs made of soft tufa stone deposited by nearby dormant volcanoes.  The churches have beautifully preserved frescoes depicting Christ, Mother Mary, St. George, the 12 Apostles, and many scenes from the bible.  The colors are brilliant and the artistry was at the highest level.  It was fun to weave our way trough the maze of passages which revealed hidden treasures like the Dark Church resplendent with frescoes that are in superb condition. 

After touring the site some of the kids took another camel ride while we enjoyed tea and coffee in a nearby cafe.  Our next stop was Pasabag Valley where the kids had a grand time scrambling up into the cave dwellings and trying to climb up into the upper levels of these abandoned homes.  The towering formations here are called Fairy Chimneys and they resemble a giant sand castle that one might make from squeezing wet sand into a tower at the beach.  Some of the towers have huge boulders precariously perched at their tops because the boulders are made of harder stone which did not erode as fast as the tufa stone below.  Locals carved their homes into these towers over centuries and there are some amazing multi level houses built into the cliffs.

We were treated to lunch at our driver’s village home where we feasted on local specialties and the we were invited into the home to have tea and discuss village life.  It was one of those “real deal” cultural encounters which make travel so rewarding.  

Our last stop was at a carpet weaving cooperative where we received a fantastic educational demonstration of how carpets and kilims (flat weaves) are made. We saw how they were dyed using natural plants found locally, how the wool and silk was spun, how the loom was set up for each specific carpet and how the nimble fingers of the village women weave the famous Turkish Double Knot which makes Turkish carpets so strong and durable.  We learned that silk carpets can have as many as 900 knots per square inch and that a large silk carpet can take 2 women almost 2 years to weave...
Then we went into the showroom where we were shown various regional carpets and told of the symbolism in the patterns. Several of us picked our favorites and will now have a memory of the trip for life whenever we walk on our “magic carpets” back home.

 Jale treated us to a “dinner and a show” which was lots of fun.  There were a wide range of dancers from Black Sea to Whirling Dervishes and even a belly dancer.  Several people from our group joined in the dancing at various points in the evening and it was good fun to see the kids joining in without any hesitation.  The live band enhanced the atmosphere and a good time was had by all.  We returned to our wonderful hotel and fell asleep the second our heads hit the pillow after a long day.

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