Friday, 24 August 2007

Happy Bırthday, Sue

Hope you are having a great day, as am I as I hit halfway to 70. Many thanks for the Hot Chocolate - will be perfect for the cold desert nights. Currently just outside the ancient city of Antakya (Antioch), soon to cross into Syria.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Turkey part 2: Turkısh hospitality

After the heat of the coast Cappadocia is very refreshing. Despite temperatures reaching beyond 30 degrees during the day, night time temperatures are nearly 15 degrees lower than at lower altitude, but I think it can be fairly bleak up here in the winter. It has been a long hot drive across Western Turkey but it certainly worth it. We have spent three nights at a delightful camping spot by a lake with belly flopping frogs, jumping fish and have enjoyed many days exploring the underground cities, bizarre rock formations, 4X4 tracks, churches and monasteries hewn out of rock and deliberating over the purchase of a Turkish carpet.

Scattered around the area are ancient underground cities, dating from 4000 years ago, to which the townsfolk would retreat to in time of invasion or threat. They are complete with schools, wine cellars, kitchens, huge food storage areas and more recently churches have been added. However, these are not for the claustrophobic, as we descended eight levels through narrow, low and twisting tunnels and staircases.

Some of the rock formations could be condsidered to be decidedly phallic in appearance which I think has led to some interesting graffiti and models for tourists to buy.

Many towns and villages have developed in the valleys and the houses built into and out of the hillside.

However the rock is so soft and the harsh environment up here has made some of the dwellings quite fragile that they are now derelict and the main inhabitants are pigeons and bats. Only this winter part of the church we visited collapsed. Although the rock, or more accurately Tufa, is quite fragile amazingly this 4th Century Church and Monastery has survived in quite a good condition- despite people having barbecues in it 20 years ago, forever blackening the walls. We were led up flights of stairs with only 3 feet of headroom and down chutes 20 feet long in pitch black.

Many of the frescoes have survived as has other evidence of how the monks lived, such as the use of carrier pigeons to communicate with the outside world. After such a fascinating tour our guide then played host as we drank tea and I was force fed biscuits. Turkish hospitality really perseveres throughout.

When we first entered Turkey it looked for a while that we were barely going to have to prepare food for ourselves. Everywhere we went we would be invited to join a family for lunch, or as we were leaving a beach a gentleman would rush over to give us some peaches. One delightful lunchtime stop, at a pebbly beach on a deserted and barren coastline, the local middle aged beach bum emerged out of nowhere. He was quite enthralled by Gavin’s skill in repairing the kettle which had somehow been dropped (!).

He proceeded to serve up chilled wine, went picking blackberries for me and on discovering that Gavin is an Engineer, he rummaged around finding a hard hat he had obviously been saving for such an occasion.

Now we head a little further and east and south to the Syrian border.