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Brad’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 01 Jun 2005

Location: Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

MapThe last few days have probably been the most intensive fun I`ve had yet! I`ve drifted over fairy chimneys in a hot air balloon, hitched a ride between underground cities on a tractor, driven part of the silk road on a scooter, and watched whiring dervishs worship in a Seljuk caravanserai. Not bad, eh?

On Sunday I decided to investigate the two large underground cities near Göreme at Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. The city at Kaymaklı was amazing, just under the earth is an extensive warren of rooms used for kitchens, storage, churches, liveing space and even wineries, all interconnected. It was great fun to explore, espcially the unlit sections. Luckily I had my torch, and went scurrying down narrow, pitch black tunnels into the bowls of the earth.

Unfortunatly, getting to Derinkuyu proved to be more difficult than I thought. Public transprot is pretty thin on the ground on Sundays in Turkey. I walked for about an hour along the highway with no sign of a bus. I was eventually picked up by a Turkish roadworker in his huge truck. He took me halfway, where, prompted by the looming stormclouds I hailed down some young Turks on a tractor, who happily took me the rest of the way!

The city at Derinkuyu was even better than the one at Kaymaklı. Just under the surface it was pretty simikar, but deep under the city there was a huge space carved out from the rock. It was an amazing accoustic too, perfect for chant. I got back really tired but so totally excited about the balloon flight for tomorrow morning!

I woke at 4:15, (pretty close to a record I think) and was driven out to the balloon, already half inflated by the time we arrived. By the time we all clambered into the basket it was about 5:00 and the dawn light was just starting to seep into the landscape. For the first half of the flight we stayed really low and drifted around and over all the rock formations, going really close to them at times. As we rose over the first ridge, the castle at Uçisar appeared on the horizen, bathed in this incredible pink dawn light. Check out the photo. After drifting low for about half and hour we rose slowly to about 2000 metres and the panorama of Cappadocia unfolded beneath us. Although it was pretty cloudy, the landscape was lit up for about five minutes thanks to a gap in the clouds. The whole experience was awesome, it was really surreal to be so high up from the ground with no noise and nothing but a wicker basket (holding fourteen people) between you and a very long fall.

For the rest of the I did a really long walk out to the Zelve Open Air Museum. This was similar to the Göreme Museum, but the landscape was even weirder, there were fewer chuches with frescoes and it felt a lot older, proabably due to it`s state of disrepair and lack of crowds. It was great wandering around there for a few hours feeling the the opressive sense of age in such a place.

Yesterday I let my sense of adventure overcome my sense of self preservation and hired a scooter to drive through Cappadocia and a part of the silk road to see some caravanserais. Now, I have never driven a scooter before, let alone on the right hand side of the road in a forign country, so I was feeling a little bit apresensive at first. It proved to be easier than I thought though and soon I was zooming across the Anatolian grasslands along the silk road towards my first caravanserai. The caravenserais where stopping points along the silk road where people could rest their animals and trade the goods they were carrying. The one I stopped at was built in 1239. It was so exotic stepping into the courtyard of such a building, with stormclouds rolling across the plains. The guys looking after the caravanserai where having lunch and offered for me to join them...yet another free lunch, Turks rock! Back on the road, I drove an hour and stopped at anther carervanserai, much bigger than the first but unrestored and in the centre of town so much less atmospheric. I drove another hour or so, stopping for lunch then back to Göreme, going through several storms and nearly running out of petrol in the process. Cappadocian weather seems to be a bit like Melbourne weather, only sped up. There are usually about half a dozen spring storms everyday, occuring within fifty metres of bright sunshine. Wierd.

After I came back I found out that there was to be a performace of whiring dervishes at the first caravanserai that night! It seems that my fissing them in Konya has perhaps worked out for the best. I signed up stright away, then decided to spurge on dinner. Anatotian fried cheeses, Ottoman stuffed chicken Cappadocian wine (much better than the standard) and figs stuffed with walnuts left me feeling pretty stuffed myself.

The whirling dervish cermony was the most beautiful religious ceromony I have ever seen. It began with prayers, greetings and a musical improvisition on nay and mandolin, then the dirvishes began spinning. In spinning (as all things revolve), they try to dissolve their own ego and become one with God. Their hats represent the tombstone of their ego, and their white dresses their ego`s shroud. Aside from being an intensely spiritual ceremony, it also must be said that it`s amazing that they can spin for forty minutes with their eyes half closed with showing any signs of dizzyness. The most beautiful thing was the expression of peace on the dervish`s faces. I think anyone who thinks all muslims are fanatics should see this, they would lean a great deal about the beautiful side of Islam.

Today I`m going to the Ihlara valley to do a big treck tomorrow, then off to either Hatay or Adana, I`m not sure which yet.