Communal Bakery with local Pastry Master
We really thought we had pushed ourselves in the walking of the first couple of days in Beyoglu, but we were lazy bums compared to what lay in store for us on this two day tour. You want to get your body moving again after jet lag? Hire an enthusiastic and ultra-fit tour guide. If you want to take a deep dive in the historic culture of Cappadocia from the Hittites to modern day, hire a university professor. If you want both, then you’d better get Sami! A lifetime of knowledge and 22 years of hiking, rolled into one wonderful package. We’d swear that guy had just as much fun as we did. From our North American perspective, natural forces gave nature the whimsy of Hanna Barbaras’ Flintstones.
Towering windswept rocks and hand-dug cave homes don’t look real, yet people had populated them for over two millennia ��" and still do today. Storage caves first used by the Hittites in the 9th Century B.C. because of their cool constant temperature and low humidity today store the potatoes, lentils and chick peas that feed the nation. We are walking in the origins of reduce, reuse, recycle. Nothing is wasted and nothing is thrown away, right down to the very last pigeon. We saw the pigeon holes carved into the exterior rock, painted with the dyes made from minerals and vegetables to attract them. We heard how they were used as messengers to send warnings from one settlement to the next. We saw how their egg whites had been used to adhere the paint of the frescoed ceilings and walls that adorned the different places of worship. We stood in the kitchen caves, where their meat was cooked, and sat at the tables where these same birds fed the communities.
Early Mosque foreground, Christian Church background.
Room with a View, Upper Cave Dwelling
And over the centuries, as migrating tribes ebbed and flowed, different faiths, different cultures, shared these spaces together. We could see evidence of harmony in the hollowed out churches intertwined with the many mosques. Square cut entries to the Christian homes peppered among the arched stone-cuts that marked the Muslim dwellings. All threaded together by communal baking ovens, shared stables and mutual cultivations.
The cave dwellings provided not just shelter, but security as well. For many centuries, until the inhabitants felt secure, the caves had no windows, entries and exits were concealed.
At the first sight of advancing forces, the entire population would disappear into the rock with enough stored food and water to survive for up to a month, every sign of their existence hidden from potential intruders. Different cave communities were connected by subterranean tunnels. Stored food could be shared, tribes could stay connected, life would go on until the invaders above eventually went away.
Sample of Earliest Preserved Frescos, Time of St. Paul
What worked then, still works today. Modern adjustments take care to use what the natural world gives it so yesterday’s linseed oil lamps give way to today’s electric light, powered by solar panels. Air conditioning stays unchanged ��" the cave’s constant temperature keeps one cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Absent the necessary window panes, satellite dishes, and occasional driveway, the caves not endangered by erosion are in use as much today as they have been throughout the centuries.
Doll Makers at Work Outside Cave Dwelling
Cappadocia isn’t all a canvas of caves and caverns ��" it is a multi-coloured pattern of artisans, merchants, cafés and modern day village life. We visited a family owned pottery, housed in ancient caves, where we watched painters execute intricate glazes, tried our own hand at the pottery wheel and toured their stunning showrooms. Actually, we toured a lot of showrooms; stone cutters, rug makers, jewelry makers, wineries and endless market stalls that ringed every stop along our way. We gathered bread from the communal ovens, sat for lunch under farm field trees, picked apricots from the orchards and dined with the locals.
We visited a folk dancing festival ��" again, you guessed it, in a cave, and sat one early morning, high upon a cliff terrace watching balloon riders float from the distance to right over our heads.
Unique Rock Formations Housing Connected Webs of Cave Dwellings
Sami filled our heads, our eyes, our ears and our stomachs. The level of detail is as hard to compress into this story as Maureen’s height was to curl into the caves and up through the tunnels. Cappadocia was a must-see magical adventure, and we were happily along for the ride.