We’re off on another adventure through central Turkey with our friends Jim and Chelly. Jim is our chauffeur and I thank him constantly for that effort. Driving is something I simply do not appreciate; it has nothing to do with Turkey, I simply don’t like to drive.
We’ve talked about where to go over the last several weeks for this long weekend and we decided on Goreme and Kayseri. We’ll stay at the Ottoman House Hotel in Goreme and travel out from there. Goreme is a very lovely little community and central to most of our travel plans in the area.
This is really a great time of year to be traveling; Mother Nature tends to splash a vast array of rainbow color across the green landscape like a painter splatters paint across an empty canvas. Much of what we see, as we ride, reminds me of a Monet painting, a slightly out of focus array of color, racing by our windows.
The temperature in Adana has been three digits for several days now and our escape is quite timely for a little relief from this heat. We take the autobahn up into the mountains and as we climb we gradually feel the temperature drop. The breeze we encounter in the foothills is cool and a welcome relief from the coastal-plain heat. At the end of the autobahn we stop to stretch and get some simit (the over size sesame seed bread donut we often talk about); the air smells fresh and clean as compared to what we’ve left in the valley below. After our rest stop we begin our ascent higher over the mountains.
The wild flowers are in full bloom this time of year and we are completely consumed by their profuse and dazzling beauty. We travel for an hour through this immensely stunning wonderland of vivid color. There has apparently been a great deal of rain up here this spring, because the hillsides are fully blanketed in shades of green with sprinkles of bold rainbow colors. On the horizon we see the jagged black rock cliffs covered in the slightest veins of sun-brightened crystalline white snow. Raising our gaze just above the jagged cliffs we’re greeted by the most awesome blue sky hung with billowing cotton puff clouds that you can imagine. Our current view is nothing short of postcard-perfect.
We travel a two-lane blacktop road through a divided mountain range. Our roadway tends to cling to the hillside in places along this route. The air is so clear we can see forever, or at least it seems that way. I hesitate to detail the scene before us because, I know full well, I simply cannot adequately describe in words how beautiful this view actually is. On one side of our route the hillside ascends to the cliffs and on the other it drops sharply to the valley floor below. The fields are both prairie grass and orchards above and below us; I wonder how on earth some of this land gets cultivated as steep as it is. This route is also dotted on both sides with houses and the occasional mountain village. There are a number of new housing developments along this roadway that give the appearance of being summer homes for the folks who live on the coastal plains. Some of these houses are under construction but many others have their windows boarded up or covered in shutters; not yet open for the summer.
Here now, we crest a hill just out of a small village and the paved roadway disappears from under us; we’ve left it behind with no advance warning at all. There’s been no indication of what’s up ahead but we immediately know the highway department is widening the road. The roadway we enter now is twice as wide as what we’ve left behind. The roadway becomes very rough; it’s a combination of crushed stone, gravel and compacted clay. We kick up immense amounts of stone and dust as we continue traveling on this unimproved surface for nearly an hour. In several places the road narrows to just two-lanes, as the bridges are not yet expanded to match the width of the new road surface. We encounter a number of different pieces of road equipment; large dump trucks off loading road building materials, graders leveling the newly dumped stone, rollers trying to smooth the graded surface, and water buffaloes spreading water trying to keep the dust to a minimum (it isn’t working well). So far we’ve encountered few signs indicating roadwork is taking place and none of the road is closed, except where the dump trucks have offloaded and one cannot drive there. We’re free to use any part of the road surface we think is drivable; the choice is fully ours.
Finally, we’ve traveled the full length of the road construction and now find the old paved road back beneath our tires; how smooth it sounds even though it a pretty rough road. This stretch of old pavement is patched and patched again but smooth by comparison to what we’ve just left behind. Shortly beyond the construction we take a rest stop; what a relief to have that section of our travels behind us. As we get out to walk around and relax a bit we look at the van; the dust has transformed it from its bright forest green to a dull tan! Judging from the color, it looks as though the van were blanketed with whole-wheat flour; it must be a half-inch deep on the back bumper.
Back on the road now we continue our journey toward Kayseri. Our first stop is going to be Soganli where the famous Cappadocia dolls are created. Soganli is also an open-air museum; one can drive through or walk through the village tucked away in a small valley. On our arrival at the entry gate to the village, we must stop and pay a meager entry fee. With our fee paid, we’re handed a crude little map of the streets and walking paths of the village. We opt to use both; we drive to end of one of the streets and walk around some of the old carved stone ruins. This is the area of Turkey where Christians once lived to escape persecution; they lived ‘in’ and ‘under’ the hillsides like moles or ants. These hillsides are full of passageways and rooms. Imagine if you can, an old time child’s learning toy, the ant farm; these dwellings are very much like this on a human scale. This area was blanketed by volcanic ash a millennium or two ago and the resulting rock formations are called ‘tufa’, a fairly soft and easily carved stone, somewhat similar to pumice but not as porous. Many homes and churches were carved into the hillsides that surround this village and in fact make up part of this village. This entire region of Turkey is awash in these types of shelters. One region alone in this area is said to contain 1,000 churches.
Carol and I walked up a short incline into a cluster of rocks called, ‘The Church of Snakes’; fortunately we encounter NONE, thank you. Jim decided to take the full walking tour and walked back to the entrance on his own. Chelly, Carol and I took the van back to the entrance where the tourist shops are located. Chelly and Carol spent some time shopping for dolls and both came away with one or two. Carol also bought a very lovely scarf from one of the stands as well; the beaded edge work on it is just too fine and Carol said she had to have it. The handcrafts here are plentiful, colorful and fairly inexpensive for a tourist location; there must be twelve or fifteen tables all attended by village women.
Jim catches up with us shortly after we get to the tourist shops so his walk is a lot shorter and quicker than any of us had thought it might be; he said it was an interesting walk.
After Carol and Chelly’s shopping is done we decided to have lunch at one of the three restaurants that are available in this village. We opted for the one nearest the entry point, ‘Soganli Cappadocia Restaurant’, which is located in an apple orchard. We sit at a picnic table just under a very lovely apple tree, shaded very nicely from the sun. Jim and Carol have the fresh fish, trout the gentleman says; Chelly has a beef plate and I have chicken. Jim says the fish is great; I wouldn’t recommend the chicken. The price is very ‘touristic’ and my chicken is a ‘sample’ of a real Turkish lunch, NOT that good and far too little. Eating outside in the orchard is nice and the cool breeze coming through the trees makes it all very lovely. We have a very relaxing lunch and rest from the road trip this far.
After lunch we make our way out through the backcountry to Urgup. The landscape in this region of Turkey has a unique beauty this time of year; it appears somewhat desolate but at the same time it teems with scrub brush and low growth vegetation. We have to ascend a gradual hillside to escape the village of Soganli; the road seemed to meander as we climbed curving first this way than that. As one looks across the plain above Soganli it looks like a bedspread someone has just risen from after a nap; loosely rumpled with clefts and ridges. I’m reminded to some degree of our time living in Arizona.
We’ve talked over the last several days about maybe taking a balloon ride over Cappadocia and we want to check into the cost so we now head for Avanos to see Jim and Chelly’s friend Ali. Ali owns a carpet shop but has set up balloon rides for other friends in the past and Jim wants to check with him rather than our hotel clerk. On the way to Ali’s shop we alter our plan; we decide to go to the hotel instead. Our current location has us closer to the hotel than Ali’s carpet shop anyway so we head for our hotel. We check in and get our bags unpacked for the weekend. The hotel is going through some renovation and the manager says he’d rather we didn’t take our usual rooms on the first floor. He wants us to take two rooms on the second floor and shows us to a couple of newly renovated rooms. The restoration is not fully completed in our rooms but they are plenty adequate. We unpack and meet Jim and Chelly again in the lobby to continue our day’s events.
I note the cost of balloon rides in the flyers and advertisements at the desk but Jim is pretty confident we can do better through Ali’s contacts so we head off to Avanos. As it turns out, Ali can not do better than the hotel and we opt out of the whole idea of the balloon ride. We simple feel like $180 per person is far too high a cost for an hour of air time; besides the money can be better spent on other things. Since this is a carpet shop though and we love carpets, Ali shows us his newest collection; he begins opening some very lovely old carpets but nothing we’re really interested in. He has acquired a number of old carpets from a dealer long out of the business. Well, truth is, the pieces are nothing we choose to be interested in; these pieces are very beautiful and I fully believe some to be museum quality. We have plenty of other things we hope to do this weekend and simply thank Ali for his hospitality and leave. As we leave Ali’s shop the sky has turned a pretty ominous black; there is thunder near by and it looks as though it could down pour any minute. The van could well use a good shower after this morning’s drive, so let it rain!
Before leaving Avanos though, Jim wants to visit an antique shop he’s visited in the past; it’s just down the street. We walk just a short way from Ali’s shop and find the antique shop is gone; but across the way we see the ‘Duru Carpet Shop’ and decide to check it out. We just never pass up an opportunity to visit one more carpet shop. Carol almost immediately sees a ‘model’ carpet on one stack and asked that it be opened; it’s a very nice example of a model carpet. A model carpet is very simply as it implies; it has a number of motifs modeling what the carpet maker is capable of creating. Think of it as similar to an embroidery sampler. There is great tragedy attached to these carpets however; they were never made for sale purposes. Any time a model carpet becomes available for sale it means one more family has given up the carpet creating work of the past; this is a very sad thing in our view but we surely understand the future. Carpet creation is a master art, a handcraft that is dying rapidly in Turkey and across the more technologically progressive countries. I fully believe, especially in Turkey, carpet production will be dead as a trade in twenty years; it will simply be done as a small tourist craft demonstration in the future. We spend another thirty minutes looking at probably 50 more carpets. We must have a layer of carpets on the floor two feet thick. The shop is so tiny that with all these carpets on the floor there is nowhere to walk but atop them. Jim and Chelly succumb to the rich quality of the model carpet Carol has opened at the beginning and asked to have it packed. Yusuf, the owner of the shop, wraps it and we have our first carpet purchase of this weekend trip. Yusuf gives Carol a hanging pocket thing made of old kilim pieces as we’re preparing to leave; he said he is very happy to see us because he hasn’t sold anything for a couple weeks. This is a very nice shop and we will certainly return as we visit Avanos in the future.
Jim drives us back to our hotel and we decide to walk to dinner just a short distance away. The café we choose is situated on the main street and we sit out in front on the patio right next to the street. The waiter hands us a menu but I want to look in cooler counter to choose my dinner. Each of us opts for something different to eat and the service is fast and efficient. The food is great, the traffic is light and the temperature out here is cool; we’re very pleased to be out of the heat in Adana. This is a great start to our weekend.
After dinner we walk through the Goreme shopping area and stop at several carpet shops and look at a hundred more carpets as well as other things. Jim and Chelly succumb once again to a nice piece of embroidery; black background filled with white doves and they have a second purchase of our trip. Carol and I have not yet been bitten although we’ve been tempted a number of times but the weekend is still very young. We stop once more across the street and are again invited to view some truly beautiful carpets. We decided a number of years ago, there’s simply no way to ever be bored with carpet viewing. We rarely pass up an opportunity to view and learn more about carpets. We never cease to be amazed at the number and variety of carpets stacked in store after store around this incredible country.
On our third carpet shop now, Tribal Collections, Chelly is again bitten by the carpet bug and buys a very unusual salt bag. This is a unique piece of utilitarian carpet work; this one is part kilim and part carpet. A salt bag is as it suggests, used to carry quantities of salt. These bags generally hold two to five kilos of salt; this one probably held two, as it’s fairly small. Farouk wasn’t going to sell it but keep it for his collection—but Chelly talked him out of it. Salt was ‘mined’ from the Mediterranean Sea and carried inland in these bags. It was extremely valuable in times gone by and was even used as ‘barter’ currency. Again, another example of a lovely piece of handwork used for an ordinary task. We’re all somewhat captive now because it has begun to rain very heavily. I’m somewhat tempted here, almost beyond refusal, with a couple very lovely silk kilims but fight off the bug. The weekend is just beginning, I figure, and there’s plenty of time yet to succumb. I vow to return later in the weekend to get more serious about the two silks I like.
Our whole time at dinner we were entertained by a lightening show from the sky so we knew rain was near by. Jim and Chelly know this shop owner well and have purchased from him in the past so the gentleman is very happy to simply visit with us while it rains. The shop though has plenty of quality carpets and numerous temptations for the discriminating carpet buyer. It’s nearly 11 o’clock before the rain stops and we leave to walk back to the hotel. It’s still a lovely evening and our walk is only ten minutes or so. We’ve had a full day and we’re all exhausted; we agree to meet at eight in the morning for breakfast and retire to our rooms.
I’m not one to sleep in so I’m lounging in the lobby when I hear this very unique sound from outside; I walk to the front of the hotel and see two balloons just right there overhead! These are so close I can hear the people in conversation. I turn and run up the stairs to retrieve my camera and return to the front steps of the hotel. The sound I heard was gas being fired from the torch that blasts hot air into the balloons canopy for lift. There are six balloons aloft from where I stand, two of them just several hundred feet over my head here in front of the hotel. These two are so close together I wonder if they will collide, fortunately they do not. As I snap a couple photos I begin to wonder if the one will crest the hill just across from the hotel; it seems awfully low. From my vantage point it appears the gondola will scrap the hilltop but miraculously it crests the hill without incident. As I stand and watch; the other four in view appear to be climbing higher and higher into the sky. I turn my gaze back toward the two that have just passed over and they are headed back my way but they too are much higher in the sky.
We’re all at breakfast now discussing our day. We’re going to Kayseri to the covered bazaar, the archeology museum and the ethnographic museum. As in the past, the hotel has put together a great spread for us and we eat plenty of great food. We’re just short of an hour and finish and head for the van. It’s about an hour’s drive to Kayseri; again we enjoy the landscape stretched out before us.
Once in Kayseri we begin to look for the sites we’ve come to visit; I have a map from a tour book I’ve brought along but it quickly proves less than valuable. We drive in circles changing streets and still we find nothing. The total lack of signs indicating museums and their locations amazes me; it’s like they don’t wish for you to fine their places of interest. We can’t even find a street signs on most of the corners where we have to stop for red lights, very frustrating. Fortunately, Jim is a patient and persistent driver; on our third or forth pass through one area we finally notice a directional sign for the archeology museum and turn as the arrow indicates. It’s just a short distance and we find an easy access parking area and visit the museum. We have visited many archeology museums in Turkey and this one is well done; certainly well worth the time to visit. We spend nearly an hour walking among the many exhibits both inside and outside the building. This museum has a number of very large clay caldrons, clay coffins, and even a bronze sarcophagus that looks like a bathtub. One large exhibition hall has a baby sarcophagus and a massive adult one both in white marble and with intricate figures carved in 3D on their sides. As we prepare to leave, we ask the man at the front where we will find the city fortress and covered bazaar. We show him our map and he studies it intently before he brushes it aside. We ascertain he knows less of the city than we do OR as is more likely, we simply do not communicate our need very well.
As we head back for the van, I decide to go to a modern looking building just across the street; it appears to be a cultural center or something like it. I feel certain someone there will be of more help to us. We enter and explain our need and a gentleman takes us out front and points us in the general direction he believes we want to go. We thank the guy and he immediately wants all of us to have a drink at his shop; Turkish hospitality at it’s finest. Again we communicate our sincere thanks and head for the van.
Jim heads us in the direction indicated by our new friend and we ride three or four blocks and the city fortress comes into view; now to find that always-elusive parking space. We go around the block and come at the wall from a new direction; it isn’t only a few minutes before we’re in a very convenient space. The price of the parking is high ($8 for the rest of the day) but we pay and feel fortunate that we found any at all.
In just seconds we’re walking through the gate of the city walls into a bazaar; I say ‘a’ bazaar because there are several interconnected here. We’re not in this bazaar only an alley and a turn before a young man says hello and what are you looking for. His name is Mehmet and he wants very much to practice his English. Mehmet comments that few tourists get to Kayseri, seems odd but we certainly can’t dispute him; we tell him we’re not really tourists either. That’s not totally a true story but we never feel like tourist; we certainly never act like tourist. Carol talks to him and tells him we’re looking for carpet shops; low and behold, his bother has one in the bazaar just across the way. He suggests we follow him and we leave and do as he suggests. We enter the bazaar across the street from the one we started out in and it’s truly covered as opposed to the one we just left. Chelly wants to get some scarves so we indicate we want to stop and look at some of those. Mehmet says, wait, I have a friend just down the way who has those and we can get them there.
In just a few minutes we’re at a booth that is piled high with scarves. We take a good deal of time here as Chelly looks through stacks of them and chooses those she wants. Carol too decides to get a few and as we conclude our deals, both Chelly and Carol get a gift scarf. With Mehmet’s help, Chelly’s 20 scarves are purchased at a third of the original asking price.
Now Mehmet takes the lead and we go down one alley after another until we come to a large entry hall with a gate to the street. We’re told this is a carpet auction section; there are a number of men milling about looking at carpet and kilim pieces thrown out on the floor in the center of the place. As we step down into the area, there are carpet shops around the entire wall space; there must be ten shops down in here. Mehmet introduces us to his brother, Mustafa, and we sit down to look at his carpets. Once again we see some very beautiful old carpets and we talk at long length about age and region of origin. Many of these carpets seem to illuminate this rather dull corner shop like artificial sunshine; their colors are bold and quite stunning. After an hour, we decide to break for lunch and we ask if they can suggest a good kabob stand. Not only do they make a suggestion they take us to be sure we find it.
We’re shown into a very small place; it’s as if someone blocked a hallway and made it into a kabob house. There are four tables with four chairs and the place is full; there’s more food going out the door than could ever be served in here. It’s obvious the locals eat here with regularity and that speaks fathoms to us. We all get a chicken sandwich (it’s in a foot long hotdog bun of sorts) the bread is very fresh and soft; the sandwich is great! Our combined lunch tab is less than five dollars including our drinks!
Once we’re finished with lunch we walk back to the carpet shop. As we turn the corner toward the bazaar we run smack into Mehmet coming out of another shop. He joins us to return to the carpet shop. On the way there I see a multi-pocketed vest that I’ve considered buying before and decide to check size and cost; I have to try several but find one that fits and buy it. We’re just around the corner from the carpet shop now and it’s beginning to rain so we dash for the carpet shop. Our task now is to select just one carpet to commemorate our first visit to Kayseri. Carol and I have a couple pieces we truly like and want to discuss price on; Jim and Chelly have a couple as well to discuss. After a half hour of negotiation we both walk away with a carpet each.
Jim and Chelly are looking for some old doors to create benches from and Mustafa has a friend he thinks might have some. We follow him out of the bazaar and several blocks away to the shop of his friend; but it’s closed today. He asks if we would like to see the Ethnographic Museum; we say most emphatically yes! It seems it’s just around the next corner; he gets us to the entry and bids us enjoyment.
We enter the guard post just inside the gate and pay the fee to visit. This is a walled compound with a large well-appointed courtyard. We get a double bonus here too, we get to view the ethnographic collections displayed inside and get to admire this Ottoman Pasa's mansion. This is a marvelously restored home, built around 1418, with a traditional harem section for women and an adjoining section for men. The exhibition halls are on both an upper and lower levels, the upper reachable by way of an ancient exterior wooden staircase. Displays contain jewelry, robes, embroidery, arms and Ottoman money. There’s also a Turkoman nomadic tent setup on the upper level. The architecture in this building is stunning; the wood inlaid ceilings and wood paneling in each room is craftsmanship one simply does not see today anywhere.
While walking through each room with the security guard never far away we stop to photograph a number of lovely exhibits. Twice the guard comes over to us and removes a rope enclosing the exhibit we’re viewing and ushers one of us in for a photo op. Carol and Chelly together are guided into one display to have their photo taken; they hesitate but the guard insists, we’re amazed, this would NEVER happen in the states. We thank the guard so very much for his kindness.
This is worth our whole days visit! We would recommend this museum far more highly than any we’ve seen in the last several years.
We leave this most wonderful place and head back to the van for our return trip to Goreme. As we get back on the road toward our hotel we try to get a photo of the large mountain that dominates the central plain around here; this is a major sky area during the winter. We can see the snowcap and we can sit in awe of this high peak but in our photos it has blended too well with the sky and clouds. So, simply take my word for it, this is a wonder to behold.
We have the usual experience driving back; you know; it’s never as far on the return trip, it seems to take no time at all before we’ve returned. We’re not fully prepared to end our day though, so we stop at another carpet shop. We’re in Uchisar just twenty minutes from our hotel; we’ve stopped at ‘Ala Turca’ carpets. I know what you’re saying but one never passes up an opportunity to see new and different carpets. We’re not disappointed with our visit here; we see more of the large and stunning kilims of this region. This shop has tucked away a good number of well-preserved kilim flat weaves that one simply does not see very often. Our host, Taner, immediately sees we know something of the carpet world and brings forth, for our viewing pleasure, more collector carpets. We see many pieces we never consider purchasing because they are Turkish treasures and should be preserved in country, probably even in a museum.
Time marches on and before we know it, we’ve been in the shop two hours plus. We’ve all come away with a piece or two and on our exit find art pottery available for sale. Carol and I buy two pieces and Jim and Chelly one. We thank Taner very much for his time and for showing us his personal collection of kilims. This was time very well spent!
We now return to the hotel, leave the van and we walk down the street to the same restaurant where we ate last night. I have the same and the others go for different plates; we’re all still very happy with each selection. The evening is cool again and we enjoy the relaxation as we enjoy our meals. We talk incessantly about our day and all the wonders we’ve had the privilege to enjoy. Life is simply great as we look back on our weekend so far.
On finishing our dinner Jim and Chelly decide to stop across the street at another carpet shop they know well, The Rose. They want to talk with the owner about Chelly’s search for doors. We are not completely there to ask the question however, when in a carpet shop one must look at the carpets available and this certainly is NO exception. The owner, Hasan, throws open ten or twelve carpets he has recently acquired and then announces he would pick them back up one-by-one and tell us the price as he does so. I know I continue to repeat myself but here again we see some very lovely carpets, all of them representative of this region. Jim and Chelly eye a couple of them and they are put aside for further contemplation. Chelly asks about her doors and her search will continue; Hasan really doesn’t know of any but offers the suggestion she have some made. Based on the conversation I don’t really believe that is an option Chelly is interested in, at least not at this point in her quest.
Again, it’s nearly 11 o’clock before we end our day. It’s hard to imagine but we do make our days fully productive and there’s never a dull moment in one. We set out to do this or that and generally get done most of what we’ve planned but our schedule is always dictated by the moment. I like to say, we have no plans chiseled in marble; our plans are chiseled in Jell-O and very flexible! Serendipity generates our movements on these long weekends, we go, we do and we enjoy each day as it unfolds before us. Tomorrow we have an adventure planned to view several caravansaries, so you see we do plan to some degree.
Once more we meet for breakfast and enjoy light conversation and good food. We begin our adventure today by heading off toward Aksaray. About an hour into our trip we see ruins off a good way from the road; my tour book indicates we’re seeing Alay Hani a ruin of the early Ottoman period. This ruin is a caravansary built in the early 1200s on what was then the silk-road merchants travel route. These caravansaries were set a day’s ride apart along this way; many remain to this day. We intend to see the best preserved one in all of central Turkey – Sultan Hani.
Before we get that far though, we come to another of the ruins along this route, this one is the Oresin Hani and there’s parking in a field right next to it. We pull off the main road onto a gravel side road, then into the field that surrounds this ruin and park so we can walk around the place. This caravansary is also one from the early 1200s, our literature doesn’t really say exactly what date but we know of others of this design, along this same route, that are from 1229/30. This is a small building and I would guess more than two thirds of it is in ruins. There is enough of it still standing though so we can get an idea just how magnificent it was so many years ago.
Carol and Chelly have wondered off looking at wild flowers and simply getting some relaxation from riding. I look off in their direction and they begin to wave and point across the main road; there’s a farmer mowing hay and in the field are several storks. As I focus on them another one circles overhead and lands in the same proximity to the others. These birds are so graceful as they make their approach and land. On the horizon just over the field are two snowcapped mountains that are beautiful as well, making a lovely backdrop for this stop.
Jim is already back in the van and I move back that way too; I don’t get seated well and just out the door of the van I see a little creature, a ground squirrel or maybe a Turkish prairie dog. The little guy blends so very well with the ground it’s difficult to see him but I take a photo.
By now Carol and Chelly have returned to the van and we get back on the road. It isn’t long before we’re at the turn off for the Konya Highway; we decide to stop for lunch because Chelly knows the rest stop here well and says the cafeteria is good.
YES! The bus stop is one of the finest now supporting traffic on this major intersection between Ankara, Konya and Cappadocia. There’s a petrol station, a super market, several upscale clothing stores and much much more at this stop. We spend about an hour at lunch and then get back on our way. We’re headed for Sultanhani – the village where the caravansary of the same name is located. As we leave out of Aksaray, we notice there’s a Mercedes Benz plant, it appears they build trucks here.
Well on our way now the landscape becomes monotonous, it’s really flat and endless. We can see mountains very distant from us but as far as we can see clearly it’s simply plains. We feel as though we have ridden for days and still there’s no caravansary in sight. Some of us are getting a little annoyed, OK, it’s mostly me, so we stop at a petrol station and inquire as to how much further we need to expect to travel. The young man we speak to indicates, it’s 15 kilometers yet; we get back on the road and ride so more. We go fifteen plus but we actually do find the place. As we pull into the large parking lot it’s obvious we’ve found a very well preserved caravansary; the building is 105 meters long and 62 meters wide according to my literature. This one was constructed in 1229 and altered again a number of years later adding a full new section.
The gate attendant takes our entry fee and we pass through a set of steel doors that easily go thirty feet up and ten or fifteen feet across. The threshold we pass over reflects the immense age of the structure; the stones are worn glass finish smooth, six hundred years will do that I think. As we enter the main courtyard we are confronted by a stone box on a pedestal; it’s really a Mosque rising far above the courtyard and it must be ten meters square. On both sides of the courtyard are internal structures; to the left are shops of the past; they’re NOT currently occupied. On our right there’s a covered colonnade built into the wall of the caravansary. As I walk over under the colonnade it looks like two arched hallways without walls. There are a number of ancient artifacts lining the wall. I walk the entire length of this section and come out near the entrance to the back half of the facility.
There’s a tour group just coming out of the back and I wait for them to depart before going into the dark; yes, this back section is totally enclosed and very dark as compared to the brilliant sun drenched courtyard. Once my eyes adjust to the dark I find Jim has entered from the other side and we both walk to the rear of this section. The majesty of this building is hard to describe, I feel very tiny as I stand and tilt my head toward the ceiling. Jim and I can’t join hands around the square structural supports hold up the roof. This area is said to be the ‘barn’, the animals were stabled here and there must be twenty separate sections that could well have been fenced off or divided in different ways.
Back in the courtyard now, we dash into and out of the rooms that were once shops and living quarters down the other side of the courtyard. I try to imagine what a magnificent place this must have been so many years ago. Think about it; one is traveling across the vast plain we’ve just driven across, he has camels, goats, sheep, a donkey maybe or any combination of these not to mention a wife and children. Naturally the higher the stature of the individual the more likely they would be to stop here and enter. These were pretty impressive motels of their day.
We leave with a new appreciation for ancient travel.
Before we get back on the road though, there’s a shop across the road that has a number of carpets hanging over it and from tables out side. We have to check this out; as we get closer we see too that these folks have fifteen or twenty kilims laid out on the ground around the building. The sign indicates; this is Gorhan Carpet and Rug Shopping Center and we’re greeted very warmly by Mustafa, the owner. We look around at his stacks and before we realize what we’ve done we’re up to our ankles in carpets. Carol and I have to have a couple, as do Jim and Chelly; these are very small pieces a couple feet square and smaller. They are again model carpets though and very lovely pieces. We didn’t drive all this way to purchase carpets but some things just shout, buy me. If I had not mentioned it before, carpet buying/collecting is a disease only curable by departure from this country. HaHaHa
What a day we’ve had to this point, we get on the road back. We’re already back in Aksaray and wonder how that was such a short drive coming back. We make the turn back toward Goreme and in minutes come to the sister caravansary to the one we just left behind. This is the Agzikarahan Caravansary built over time between 1231 and 1237; the structure is ninety percent intact and one-third the size of Sultanhani. This one has a Mosque in the center as well. The courtyard is not as well kept and the walls are in some need of restoration, but it’s not in ruins as those we saw on our visit earlier in the day. It’s interesting too that we passed this one by this morning because we drove right past this little village. As it happens we actually saw the caravansary from the road driving this way, we could not see it driving the other way. We spend just a few minutes here and move on. Carol and I remember very well being here over twenty years earlier on a tour from Ankara. This is one location we realize we visited so many years ago that has not changed at all, unlike so many others we simply don’t even recognize anymore.
Back on the road again we decide as we close in on Goreme that we want to visit a carpet shop in Urgup. We go to ‘Le Bazaar D’Orient’ and visit with Murat. We’ve visited here before and Murat has some of the most beautiful carpets and kilims we’ve seen. Jim and Chelly have their eye on a couple stunning pieces of embroidery and Carol and I see some silk kilims that are just brilliant and stand outs of the type one does not often see. After an hour of visiting and negotiating, we all walk out with one more purchase! I simply made up for the last time we visited and did not buy; I was very disappointed with myself. This time I was set to correct my last oversight.
Just up the street from the carpet shop Carol has looked into another shop and spied a large Cappadocia Wedding Doll. She decides she must have it; she goes in to inquire after the cost; she comes out and reports, I hand her the required Turkish Lira and she has her prize. It’s a very lovely example of this areas doll craftsmanship and stands near thirty inches tall; it’s all white covered in sequins and lace with some accents of red trim.
As we’re standing around on the sidewalk we all decide to have dinner here in Urgup. A couple yards from where we’re standing is a very nice restaurant we’ve eaten in, in the past so we go there. We have a very nice dinner and leave to return to our hotel in Goreme. We’re all worn out and simply head for our rooms and some much anticipated rest.
Breakfast was our usual and we checkout. Jim has to get back early so we head for Adana. Aside from petrol and rest stops we only make one stop in Derinkuyu a small village with a church (we vow to visit next time) and a massive stone statuary of Ataturk (the Father and Founder of Turkey). We must stop to get some photos because this gigantic statuary is like nothing we’ve ever seen here.
Our return trip takes us over the same route as before and in no time we’re home with memories of a very full and rewarding weekend.
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Kayseri & Sultanhani
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