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Discovering Bor

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#1 Fred Moore

Fred Moore


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Posted 09 November 2006 - 02:55

There’s always more of Turkey to discover! This weekend we spend time in and around the little village of Bor, not far from Nigde in central Turkey. However, let me begin our travel adventure with the drive.

You know our route by now and I won’t go over it again except to note our first stop over. We stay Friday night at the Sezer Motel in the mountains just an hour and a half above the city of Adana. We decide to stay here because we’ve left home in mid-afternoon and know we can’t make it to Nigde in daylight. Jim and the rest of us much prefer the daylight for both driving and sightseeing.

Sezer Motel is a wonderful stop in the middle of our most favorite valley drive; the valley is filled with small villages and acre after acre of apple orchards. The Sezer provides an escape from the dual challenges of heat and pollution on the Adana plain where we live. The air up here is clear, clean and crisp as the sun falls over the ridge-lined horizon. The Sezer is located in a narrow pass where the road crosses over a creek. The motel sits on a slope with a most impressive backdrop of mountain ridges well above it. There are 80 some rooms available and the accommodations come with both breakfast and dinner. The motel staff is more than willing to go the extra mile to assist you with anything you might need to make your stay more comfortable and fully enjoyable.

After we check-in, we meet friends staying here as well; a young man and his family from my office in Adana, Alex and Adina and their daughter. They have come to relax for a few days in the mountains to breathe fresh air and simply get away. It seems we four and our friends are the only guests in the entire motel tonight. There is a tour group due into the facility tomorrow but for now we have it all to ourselves. Management has asked us when we would like to have dinner and we settle on 7:00; in the mean time we simply enjoy this fresh mountain air.

Jim and Chelly relax in their room while Carol and I walk the grounds around the motel. Just behind the motel on the hillside above is a soccer field that has seen a great deal of water; its field is lush and green. There is plenty of construction around the upper grounds to add more buildings and there is even a pool around on this backside. As I walk around the motel the breeze is cool and it smells so pure. There’s the occasional sound of a car or truck on the road below but other than that all I hear is the water running through the cultivated field, here beside me. Whatever crop was here is gone and the ground has been prepared for the next crop rotation. Above this field is an orchard of apples; some have been harvested, others hang on the trees to wait their turn. There are several crates stacked below one tree and it’s full of golden apples. I’m really surprised I can’t smell the apples.

After walking the grounds for a while, Carol and I settle on the patio just in front of the motel well above the road. I say well above the road because you must climb 12 or 15 steps from the parking lot to where we are sitting. We both visit with Alex and his family and simply enjoy the view of the mountain face across the road. The mountain begins a major ascent and the further your eyes raise the rougher the terrain becomes toward the ridge. There appears to be a number of caves in the rock out cropping of the hillside but depth of each is only as deep as your imagination; we simply can’t tell from our vantage point. Suffice it to say, the scenery before us is simply beautiful. No one could possibly be bored with this view!

Carol is telling us about the reconstructed house that has been incorporated into one side of the lobby. An old home was removed from the mountain and rebuilt inside the motel, it’s set so anyone can walk around in it and even have tea or coffee while relaxing there. Carol points out that it too has a carpet loom affixed to the front so obviously whoever lived in the home was a creative person. The restoration and incorporation of this home inside the motel is tastefully done and makes for a great conversation starter. It’s obvious the staff here is proud of the preservation of this home.

Right on the dot of seven our dinner comes rolling out of the kitchen. We ask our young friends to join us since we’re the only guests in the motel tonight. We see no need for these young people to eat alone unless of course they wish to. We begin with lentil soup and then we’re served a hors d'oeuvre plate with probably ten different choices that are all quite good. Additionally we get a coban salata – shepherd salad in English (it’s the tomato, cucumber and onion salad). The main courses are fresh fish from their own tank, chicken grilled or baked, and korfte, which is ground meat. We make our selections and the order is sent to the kitchen. At the conclusion of our dinner, we’re brought a platter of fresh fruit. The platter has large chunks of watermelon, several bunch of grapes, chunks of honeydew melon and peeled apples all sliced and well displayed. To complete our feast we’re offered tea and/or coffee but we all decline to consume anything more; we’re just plain stuffed!

We’re all impressed with the meal from start to finish. The company and the meal are great; we make a celebration of it. We talk to the staff about breakfast; they want to know when we’d like to have it, we tell them 7:30. Afterward we retire to relax and enjoy the rest of our evening.

Morning breaks over the mountains and I start the day with a walk. It’s quite cool and quiet out here this morning. I walk around the motel; as I do the air began to move ever so gently and I can hear the leaves of the poplars fluttering. Off in the distance there’s the occasional rooster crow and then a cow makes his presence known, their morning greetings echo through the valley like chords of music. I walk down by the bridge and listen to the water run in the creek beneath my feet; it brings back memories of my childhood home where a creek ran directly behind my house. And there goes the first vehicle of the morning, someone off to begin their day.

It’s early so I have plenty of time before breakfast and I meet a gentleman on the patio as I return from my stroll; he asks if I want tea, I tell him, no thank you. I ask if he has coffee and I should have known; of course there’s coffee, and he brings me a cup. I carry it around as I pace the large patio and listen to the morning unfold. The sky is getting brighter and brighter; I can fully see the mountain ridges above me now and the stars are all melting into the lighted sky. The moon is the only sign left of the evening sky. There’s only a wisp of cloud here and there.

I begin to get cool so decide to retreated into the motel lobby and finish my coffee. I have no more than put down my cup and I’m offered another; I beg off and say I’ll wait for breakfast to have another. I don’t have to wait long before the others are down to get their breakfast. As was the case at dinner, our breakfast comes rolling out of the kitchen right at 7:30. We all join together again to enjoy it. Breakfast is good and we visit and eat leisurely. Alex and his family are staying on at the motel but Jim, Chelly, Carol and I will continue our travels this morning.

Jim and I checkout and the ladies make sure we have everything we came with. The motel staff carry our bags down to the van and we say our goodbyes and start on the rest of our adventure. This drive as I’ve indicated before is lovely; we curve and twist through rolling hills and apple orchards. The trees are hung low with ample crop and the color is awesome; looking this way it’s red, looking that way it’s yellow and there are even shades of pink. We pass one fruit stand after another with crates of apples for sale. We decide to stop at one we’ve stopped at before. (You might remember the young lady we photographed last year – I want to check to see if she got the photos we sent to her – we don’t see her.) Chelly buys a small bag of mixed apples for our trip. She takes some friendly ribbing from Jim as he says we don’t need so many, but Chelly prevails and gets all she wants. As we start back down the road Chelly, Carol and Jim enjoy an apple a piece. I’m told they are good, I don’t take the bait, I just won’t eat one.

I know I’ve said it before but I’ve got to tell you how beautiful these mountains are with the sun splashing morning light across their faces. The alternating shadows reflect just how jagged and shear some of these cliffs above us are! The topography in this valley will never bore me, it’s simply breath taking. I long to be able to capture the beauty of this landscape on canvas but sadly I can’t paint a lick. The valley floor begins to show signs of fall; many trees are beginning their color change. It’ll be another week or two before they fully take on a new look, probably. It will take a harder frost than has come to this point in time. The stands of poplar are the only ones changing right now and they are slightly yellow. There are roadside bushes with some hint of frost change but more is to come in the days ahead.

We drive a couple hours and come to our first destination. We’ll visit Eski Gumus Monastery. This is a Byzantine structure from the 10th and 11th century. It’s actually a cave structure, carved into the tufa rock here. There are frescos painted within the church that are the finest in this region of Turkey. We drive around the numerous carved chambers all protected behind a white metal fence until we get to the entrance and we park across the street. We enter under a grove of trees and pay our 2 Lira each fee to tour the carved churches and storage chambers. We entered through a carved doorway and descend some steps into an open courtyard. We stand in a large square hall with walls 75 or 100 feet above us and no ceiling. There are windows and doors carved in the walls on each side of us but the main church is directly ahead of us across the courtyard floor filled with holes.

Some of the holes we must carefully traverse are lower chambers carved into the floor below us; others are shallow graves with human bones still in full view. These graves are interesting for a number of reasons but primarily for me because of their narrow gauge. The graves are narrower at one end than the other but they are not wide enough for a body of today’s build. Also in the floor are clay pots (huge urns); these are differing sizes from a meter deep to maybe two meters deep. To cross the courtyard we must be careful not to drop into one of these pot holes (get it, pot --- holes). The courtyard must be twenty meters square and there’s a platform (maybe an altar) in the center covered with ruins from broken pots to column capitals. There’s even a small sapling growing up inside here.

We make our way across the open area and enter into the church. In here we can turn either left or right and enter other large chambers but the church proper is to our right. This is nothing short of awesome! The frescos are more fully intact here than anywhere we’ve been. We see paintings depicting a nativity scene, the presentation of Jesus, a row of 11 Disciples and several portraits of Mary. There are frescos painted on two sides of this large chamber and we’re not allowed to photograph anything. It’s thought photo flash causes damage to frescos; we’re sad but we fully understand the historical significance of these fine works and want to preserve them as much as the Turkish authorities do. We spend an hour exploring and re-acquainting ourselves with this wonder; Carol and I visited here more than twenty years ago when we first lived in Turkey. This monastery should not be missed.

As we leave to return to the van, we notice a shop across the street and Chelly wants a book or some post cards of the monastery and frescos. We both buy a few other things as well and then load into the van to continue our day. We retrace our drive to the main road and head for Bor. We drive into Bor now to investigate the village. We have no trouble locating the old bazaar and park along the street to take a look. The building has been well restored and there are a great number of shops within its walls but it’s a small structure and has two separate entrances and exits. We walk in one end and out the other; we turn around and do the same on the other side except Carol stops to buy some serving spoons at one small shop.

We look around for a kabob house because lunchtime is nearing but it’s Ramazan (the Moslem month of fasting) and few places are open so we simply leave town. We’re not concerned about eating; we’ve brought our own lunch knowing Ramazan might be challenge with open cafes or restaurants. On the way out of the village, we encountered a sign indicated there’s another historic location not far away -- a Roman Pool. We turned the van in the direction of the site and in just a few minutes get to another sign directing us to the right. It feels as though we’re entering a woods; there are trees all around us. We don’t drive but a moment through the trees and there to our right we see a pool larger than Olympic-size. The ornate carved marble walls are level with the ground and the drop to the water must be four or five feet! There may be a foot or two of water in the pool. There’s no stairway into the pool at all; how anyone would get out is beyond me. We’re told in our literature that this was a sacred pool so probably NOT used in the way we use a pool today. The water is crystal clear and there are schools of fish racing around in the water. There’s no deep end; the whole pool is the same depth from one end to the other. As I stand here at this end and gaze out across the length of the pool it reminds me of the reflecting pools on the mall in Washington DC.

There’s a park here to the side of the pool just across the driveway and we decide this is a great place to picnic, so we have lunch under the trees. There are picnic tables placed sporadically about under the trees both here and across the road in more trees where we entered the area. We settle on a table under some weeping willows and enjoy a leisurely lunch. After a relaxing interlude, we continue on our way.

We’re now in pursuit of the Roman Aqueduct that is supposed to be in this same area. We are not well directed; signs seem to be absent where we think they should be and then without notice one pops up in the strangest place directing us back where we’ve just come from. We do however make the appropriate turns finally and there before us is this ancient Roman Aqueduct from the 8th century BC! We drive along beside the aqueduct for over half a mile. It begins in the village of Kemerhisar and continues out of the village along the current roadway. When we first make contact with the arches they tower well above us, maybe 10 or 12 meters and as we leave the village they get lower and lower until they meet the level of the road. After driving out of the village we turn around and drive back. We want to go back to the start; we get out of the van to photograph the structures at full height.

Here, at what I’m calling the beginning of the aqueduct, is also a current archaeological excavation. It looks as though other structures are emerging from the hillside but I’m not qualified to suggest what may be hidden just out of sight. I stand and imagine a major structure is only a shovel of dirt away beneath this hillside or even beneath my feet. Turkey is filled with wonder and awe of this kind; generations of newly-minted archaeologists will be unearthing historic ruins here for years to come. Not far behind this excavation there is also a Roman Bath complex that has been excavated over the last several years. We unfortunately don’t take the time to stop to investigate fully those bath ruins. (I didn’t realize until I returned home that this all was a relatively recent archaeology dig.)

Our drive along beside the aqueduct on a narrow two-lane road offered us an opportunity to view eons of history. The roadsides are strewn with large building blocks that have fallen from the structure or blocks that were taken deliberately to be used in building the more modern houses along this road. Driving along beside this ancient structure makes one feel so insignificant. I try to imagine the day so long ago that commerce and population in this region came here to live and do business. The aqueduct brought water into this area ages ago when it was a Roman city named Tyana. Tyana is said to be the birthplace of Apollonius a man often compared with the Christian Jesus. He was a teacher and miracle worker who lived in the first century AD; he was sought out by Roman emperors who craved his wisdom. In the sparsely available research, little is truly know of this man but his life was reportedly chronicled by Flavius Philostratus a Greek professor highlighting what little we do know.

As we leave this site, I think back to the Roman Pool and feel like these two ruins and the bath complex must have been linked originally in some way. All of our driving has been within a five-mile radius and certainly, since all of these ruins are Roman, they must be a small piece of a much larger complex puzzle. I often think of being an archaeologist but then think how frustrating it must be to only be able to move tiny bits of earth at a time as something of great magnitude comes to light. I wouldn’t be able to dig fast enough to get to everything but then I would destroy so much history in my haste. I fully realize every centimeter of earth must be logged and documented to preserve the story unfolding in each of these excavations. The smallest discovery can contribute one more piece to the ancient puzzle unfolding before you, as you dig for the full story of our past.

We’ve had a full day and decide we need to go on to Goreme to our hotel; as usual we will stay in the Ottoman House. I know I mention it often but it’s simply a great location and has a great staff that looks after us and our needs. We drive directly to the hotel and check-in. We get our bags to the room and meet back in the lobby to run a couple errands before we retire for the day.

We meet Jim and Chelly back at the van and go to Uchisar. Jim and Chelly have some business with Tanner at the Alaturca Carpet shop. We pull up in front of the shop and as we’re getting out of the van, Tanner pulls in beside us. He greets us warmly and we go inside. He brings the carpet up from the lower level that Jim and Chelly have come to pick-up and we all are amazed at the terrific work that has transformed the piece into a lovely carpet. It was a nice piece to begin with but now it’s even more beautiful. As always, we must have tea or refreshments of some sort and we also must look at other things because one simply can’t come to a carpet shop and ignore what may be new for our viewing pleasure.

We spend an hour looking and visiting but only leave with what we had come for. On our way back to the hotel, we stop for dinner at the L’Orient in Goreme. Jim, Chelly and Carol get a full meal but I simply opt for soup. They decide the food is good and I report my soup is good too. Jim and Chelly have eaten here before so we have some reference point before we stop to eat. We decide after dinner to stop and see our friends at Tribal Collections carpet shop and we spend another hour there. I’ve promised Ruth and Faruk that I would bring my carpet inventory books for them to see. Ruth is not in but Faruk spends time thumbing through the books and pointing out where we’ve misidentified a number of carpets. We also are shown some of the carpet shop’s pieces that mirror what we have in the book. We all have a great deal of fun visiting and getting further educated on carpets. But, it’s late now and we decide to call it a day and return to the hotel.

It’s morning; I’ve overslept and I’ve got a migraine headache but have my pills so make the best of it. We all have breakfast and talk about what we’ll be doing all day. As usual we make plans for our day but then really let the day make its own way. We enjoy being more spontaneous than anything because then we get the most out of our day.

We begin with a drive to Avanos to visit a carpet shop but when we arrive we find it’s closed. There is another one down the street though so we wander in that direction. This one is Kirkit Hali; we enter into a large hall with carpets and massive kilims hung on the walls. We aren’t in the shop only a few minutes when we learn it has a carpet museum on the upper floors; we decide we must see this and ascend nearly to the roof. There are several rooms we visit on a couple different levels well above the entrance. We see some of the most beautiful carpets and kilims hung on the walls and placed throughout the room. Many of the kilims are in serious need of tender care but others needing no work at all. There are many pieces on display here and the stop is well worth our time. After visiting the museum area we descend and visit with the gentleman who greeted us at the door. He opens a number of carpets for us but the cost of each piece is well beyond our desire to buy. His offerings are fine carpets and he shouldn’t be ashamed of his prices; however, we simply do not pay tourist prices for carpets that we do not need! He tells us his company owns hotels, pansions, a travel agency, an export business and a carpet shop in Paris; we understand the prices more fully now.

After refreshments and carpet viewing we leave to go to our friend’s shop, Galleri Yoruk, up the street. Ali is pleased to see we are in town again and of course we have to have tea or refreshments. We don’t sit long before some friends (Brent and Karen Howie) from Adana come into the shop. There are a number of Adana people up here in the area this weekend because of our holiday. Ali has a number of new pieces in the shop and wants us to see them all. He opens them one atop the other as fast as he can un-stacking them and the floor gets covered with carpets 10 and 15 deep in no time. He has a number of beautiful carpets but like the store down the block, he has prices to match. If you’re looking for the unusual and the unique carpet though, this is a shop you must not pass up. We had come to Avanos to stop at another shop altogether but Carol and I poked our head in to see what was available and were confronted by prices nearly three times those from just the spring season so we didn’t return with Jim and Chelly later in the morning.

With our day fast marching on, we decided to return to Goreme and have lunch. We dropped into Cappadocia Kebab center; it’s billed as fast food and everything we’ve had here in the past has been good. After lunch we go to Carpedocia; this is a so-called ‘carpet factory’. We are given a tour beginning with the wool dyeing area where we’re shown a number of roots, plants, berries and nuts that provide natural color dye. Next we’re taken into a room where silk is extracted from cocoons. The cocoons are boiled and while floating in warm water, they are tapped gently with a small whiskbroom, which catches the silk from the outer shell of the cocoons. Those web-like strands, which are extremely thin, are threaded into a device that mounts it on a roller to dry. Once it’s dry the strands are spun with many other strands to form a strong silk thread that is used in carpet production. Those resulting threads are dyed, as necessary to make whatever color is needed. Silk is the strongest material used in the knotting of handmade carpets and will out last all other carpets when treated properly.

We continued further into the building and see a number of women sitting before carpet looms knotting carpets. There are probably a dozen looms in this hall we are shepherded into, but not all of them are in use. We watch one woman perform wool knotting and another do silk. We see the weft being put into a wool carpet and several knots being tied. We’re shown a cartoon/pattern that is being used for a carpet and we’re told how long it takes for these women to complete these carpets. Our guide says a four by six-foot carpet can be knotted in about four months. The silk takes a lot longer and can not be worked on continually like a wool piece because it’s far too rough on the eyes. We’re also told that mistakes are inevitable in silk because of the tremendous concentration involved in knotting one; we all conceded that truth.

After this small introduction, our guide leads us into the sales hall. Several young men begin unfurling carpets one after another as directed by our guide. It’s now getting to the most intriguing part of our guided tour; pricing of carpets, some of which have been produced here on the premises. As we had expected, the prices are extremely high and most are far and away beyond our wildest imagination. Our tour and the explanations were well worth our time and we’re pleased we made time to stop. This is a tour not to be missed; the carpet-shopping portion is totally up to you as an individual and the choice to buy is totally yours as well.

We thanked our guide for his time and his most informative tour. We leave and head for Urgup. We want to get over to see our friend Murat at Le Bazaar D’Orient carpet shop. Once in Urgup we park just up the street from Murat’s shop. Before we go down to his shop though I see some wonderful carpets across the street that I want to get a better look at. We enter Kazak’s Bazaar, a narrow little carpet shop, and they begin to open a number of carpets for our viewing pleasure. They’ve got stacked 8 or 10 deep before we explain the type carpet we truly wish to see. We get them on the right tract by telling them what our interests are and before we know it there are four pieces opened before us that require much closer inspection. It isn’t long after that we are again owners of another fine carpet! We see many other pieces but we must be off to dinner and go just up the street.

We have a wonderful relaxing dinner and talk about our day. We recap all we’ve seen and done over the last several days and conclude it has been a great adventure up to this point. We wish this restaurant were in our neighborhood because we’ve been eating here for a couple years now and it’s always good. After dinner we walk down to Murat’s shop but not before stopping to buy a lovely piece of ceramic tile from Elmas Cini. This is a hand-painted, framed ceramic tile. It’s an original tulip design created by the owner.

We get to Murat’s and he wasted no time getting out some new carpet pieces he has purchased since our last visit. One piece he shows us he says I just got this today; I immediately and without hesitation tell him to ‘paket’, Turkish for wrap it up, it’s sold. Some carpets simply speak to you and this one was one of those. Then he unfurls the most extraordinary carpet we’ve seen in years, a six square meter silk Hereke. What a beautiful collector’s item! This silk has the four seasons in small panels from top to bottom; there must be 36 or more panels on this carpet, I’m not counting. There are animals in many of them and trees of life in others. The price is even more astounding, ONLY $7,500; that people, is an absolute steal! A silk of this quality and age is simply not found everyday.

It’s late now and we decide we’ve had more than a full day. We thank Murat for his time and leave for our hotel in Goreme. Before we retire for the evening though we agree on 8:00 as our breakfast time and then go to our rooms.

It’s 6:30 and I’m sitting on the roof enjoying the morning air. I know I talk a lot about the balloons every time we’re here in Goreme but they are so fascinating. I’ve seen at least five trucks with trailers moving balloon gondolas down the street. There must be a competition to see which balloon company can be the first to launch their balloon. This morning I see this one being inflated just down the street in a valley rock formation; it’s an orange-colored canopy and the flame from the hot air jet makes it glow orangey/gold. The pilot is obviously blasting the heat to inflate the canopy every few seconds and it looks like a caution light at the intersection as it flashes.

I have to wait until 8:00 for my friends so we can have breakfast together so I decide to go for a walk. I walk down into the center of Goreme and out to the old caravan carpet shop. Here’s an interesting place; they must leave several hundred thousand dollars of carpets simply hanging out side! I spend the better part of an hour walking around looking at all the carpets and kilims this shop has left out in the elements. This is one of the most blatant examples of why Carol and I love this country; security and honesty are core values here. People of Turkey simply don’t steal or molest you on the street; at least not in these small close-knit communities.

I walk back to the hotel and it’s time to join the rest for breakfast. As always we have a relaxing meal and talk about what’s up for the day. We’ve got to return home today; that’s not as much fun as exploring new things but a must. We know one thing we want to do on our trip back today; we want to stop and get some freshly-dug potatoes. We finish up here and return to our rooms to pack and checkout.

We load the van with our bags and ourselves and head for Tribal Collections; we have one last thing to take care of. Ruth has to get the opportunity to see our carpet inventory books as we told she could on our last visit up here. We find Ruth sitting behind her desk when we pull up to the shop; we collect our books and visit with her while she goes through them. It isn’t long after we finish the book review that Ruth says we’re missing a valuable piece in our collection. She has a Yesilover we need to see. It’s dragged out from the bottom of one of the stacks; well, actually two are brought out for us to see. These are beautiful purple and green carpets. We take both out to the street and lay them out in the morning sun. WOW! We’re not leaving town without one of these. But then Chelly too decides she wants one. Chelly makes her selection and Carol and I take the other one. We truly don’t need this carpet but it’s gorgeous.

It’s much later now and we really must be on our way. It’s a lovely day for a ride. We see a number of fields filled with people harvesting potatoes but so far none near the road where we can stop easily to purchase some. Jim continues to drive and we keep watch for the bags of potatoes standing on the roadside; this is our sign that the potatoes are for sale. Finally, there’s a pick-up truck just off the road ahead and a guy has bags of potatoes so we pull over. We buy a ten-kilo bag and get back underway. We now collectively talk of the things we can make with these fresh potatoes.

It’s a beautiful day and the ride is great. As we start through the mountains, it appears while we were gone the area experienced a more serious frost because the trees are now far more golden in color. Many of the roadside bushes are red and orange as well.

Once we arrive in Pozanti and before we get on the autobahn we decide to stop for a meal. We pull into a truck stop, Eroglu Tesisleri. We order from the cafeteria line and everything is good. We’ve had a great trip and this is a wonderful way to top it off. Jim gets the dirt washed off the van and we get to relax and eat. Just an hour and half and we’re home to sort the van contents and unload all our treasures!

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