Aug 232013
 

 

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The Silk Road conjures images of caravans and exotic spices. The months long journey between China and Europe passed over a network with several branches focusing travel through the Anatolian Peninsula to Constantinople and the Black Sea and Aegean coasts. 

During the Seljuk empire, 1077-1307 CE, 250 Caravansaries were built to facilitate trade. For three days, travelers received free food, water, shelter and fodder. Built a day’s camel journey apart, some still exist and have been restored. The Sultanhan Aksaray, along the highway we’re traveling from the coastal city of Kuşadası to the other-worldly landscape of Cappodocia, is a beautiful example. 

Built in 1229, its imposing stone walls, elaborately decorated portal and massive gates would have signaled that within lay security and hospitality.

Caravansaries operated year-round. The interior courtyard and surrounding storerooms accommodated fair-weather travelers while the enormous enclosed space behind provided shelter for winter.

 

Sultanhan Akasaray

 

Sultanhan Akasary Turkey

 

 

Sultanhan Akasaray Turkey

With humans and animals housed within, the stench must have been incredible. Still, it beat the open spaces of this high, windy plateau. On the day we visit, dust, blown by a strong, southerly wind makes things a bit unpleasant.

Traveling farther east, the tawny plains give rise to rolling hills dominated by a snow-capped volcanic peak. This volcano is one source of the soft volcanic tuff that eroded into the other-worldly landscape for which Cappodocia is famous.

 

Goreme Cappodocia

 

 

Weaving Turkish carpet Cappodocia Turkey

  The Cappodocia region is the primary source for high-quality hand-woven Turkish carpets.

 

Goreme Cappodicia

 

 

Cappodocia

 

For thousands of years, people have carved their homes, stables and churches into the fantastic hills and canyons of the region. During the 9th century, they excavated entire underground cities which could shelter as many as 50,000 people from the marauding armies of the time. 

Our travels this day take us to the city of Nevşhehir and into the unforeseen warmth and hospitality of a resident of the tiny village of Nar.

 

Nar, Nevshahir

 

We planned to first wander the streets of this ancient village of cave houses and later to explore a valley near the famous outdoor museum of rock-hewn churches in Göreme.

As we walk the twisting lanes, people invariably greet us. A women sorting home-dried raisins, offers us a handful.  A man leaving a tiny mosque motions us to follow him. Leading us to an opening, he shows us an ancient mill where donkeys had driven the huge grinding stone for generations.

 

Nar Cappodocia

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Mehmet's Neighbor

 

  

Nar Mosque Camii

 

 

Nar Cappodocia

 

  

Nar Nevshahir Cappodocia Cave House

  

Leading us further, he points out various things but our non-existent Turkish inhibits understanding. Then, coming up the street, he introduces us to Mehmet, a colorfully dressed gentleman with salt and pepper hair and an infectious laugh. We quickly find we can communicate in German and our plans for the day evaporate.

Mehmet is a retired art teacher. Born in Nar, he returned after retirement to buy the cave house he grew up in to turn it into an artist’s retreat. He invites us to visit and without hesitation, we accept.

 

Mehmet of Nar

 

Entering a hand-carved wooden door reveals a series of hand-hewn caves set in the cliff,  some are ancient, others not. He has excavated 2,500 pickup loads of rock to date. There are multi-room caves, two-story caves with hand-made wooden floors, stairs and cabinets. This is a labor of love.

 

Mehmet of Nar Cave House

 

Climbing the cliff reveals more caves, one half-filled with rubble yet to be hauled away, and another former stable with stone feed troughs and hitches in tact. How many generations have lived here? 

Mehmet plys us with tea and homemade bread as we sit on his terrace  overlooking the town. Here is a truly happy man, building his dream.

 

Mehmet's Cave Garage Cappodocia

 Mehmet’s Garage

  

Nar Cappodocia

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Mehmet's Neighbors

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Turkey

 Mehmet and I with some of the locals.

 

Mehmet's Neighbors Nar Cappodocia

 

He invites us to go hiking. Soon we’re leaving the town behind, walking through a narrow valley of small farms. Purple blossoming almond trees shelter people planting potatoes while earlier crops poke through the ground.

 

Husband and Wife farming outside of Nar Cappodocia

 

Unprepared, after several miles, we’re thirsty, and hungry. There is no town or market. 

Mehmet makes a call, leads us across a field and into a small dwelling where we’re greeted by his friends, a retired commissar and his wife.

 

Mehmet's Friends Nar Cappodocia

 

She prepares tea and produces bowls of nuts, dried fruits and cookies. It’s difficult to communicate but there are thank you’s and smiles and they know we appreciate their hospitality.

A different way back leads over hills, through vineyards and past an old Ottoman cemetery. We say our goodbyes, thanking Mehmet for a memorable day, once again, blown away by the graciousness of Turks, a culture of hospitality that extends far back in time.

 

Ottoman Cemetery Tombstone Cappodocia

  

Plastic bag trash Nevsheshir Turkey

Plastic bags are sadly a scourge seen all to frequently around Turkey.

 

Rainbow over Nevşehir, TurkeyNevşehir, Turkey

 

Cappodocia Turkey

An old women in Nar chopping grape vines for kindling, used to flavor grilled meats.

  

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Also check out my photography tutorials at:  http://dreamcatcherimaging.blogspot.com

Jul 192013
 

 Kusadasi Panoramic View of the City

 

Being a photographer, what I love most about traveling is wandering the old neighborhoods and back alleys of some exotic locale. Turkey offers this in spades with the added benefit of safety. I have not felt unsafe for a minute.

Unfortunately for photography, the government is pushing urban renewal. The slums are fast disappearing. Developers are given government land in exchange for building modern apartments that are given to those whose houses are then bulldozed.

 

The slums of Kusadasi

 

Yes, I said given. The developers turn their profit on the additional condos that can be sold. This enlightened approach is transforming Turkish cities and the lives of the poor.

The coastal Aegean city of Kuşadası is a prime example. Kuşadası is the bedroom for tours visiting the ancient and cosmopolitan, biblical city of Ephesus.  http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com/blog/2010/10/13/from-the-ruins-of-ephesus-to-the-mediterranean-beauty-of-antalya/    Four and five star hotels dominate its headlands and coves. The azure waters of the Aegean washes lazily at their rocky foundations.

 

Kusadasi Hotel swimming pool

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Fisherman rowing boat

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Fish Market

 

Kusadasi Harbor

 

The city’s waterfront, pedestrian plaza is evidence of the urban transformation. New sculptures, restaurants and playgrounds follow the sweep of the city’s bay which terminates in a slum encrusted hill at its south end.

Wandering the steep lanes and narrow alleys of this poor neighborhood, I find old, Ottoman houses in various states of decay. Children play hopscotch in the cobblestone lanes while a man on his balcony proudly displays his prize fighting rooster. Observing this is an elderly grandmother safeguarding the neighborhood from her rooftop perch. 

 

Kusadasi

 

Kusadasi street

 

Kusadasi Man with Fighting Cock

 

Kusadasi Old women watching her neighborhood

 

Turks are invariably friendly and eager to help. Several stop to talk as I wander, some offering me cookies and fruit juice.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Girl

 

Kusadasi, Turkey bearded man

 

The tree-filled park crowning the hill provides a panoramic view. Urban renewal is evident in the new, multi-colored apartment buildings stacked upon the surrounding hills.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey park with children

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Panorama 

Rooftop, solar hot water installations are ubiquitous. With Turkey’s lack of petroleum resources, it makes sense to use the abundant sunshine.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Solar hot water installation

 

Turkey’s enlightened attitude influences not just urban renewal and energy use but extends into infrastructure, education, social security and health care.

The country is investing in their future with new roads, bridges and communications access. Education is mandatory and free. Win entrance to college and the government picks up the tab. Everyone has access to free, quality health care, and government retirement benefits are generous.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey men talking

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Man selling vegetables

 

This hasn’t always been the norm. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 brought frequent upheavals over the following decades. Since the Turks embraced democracy and modernization, there has been a steady rise in prosperity and stability.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Ad for modern apartment

 

Kusadasi. Turkey  panorama at night

 

Moving east into Western Anatolia, the fertile Menderes River Valley reminds me of California’s enormous central valley in miniature; a long, broad, agricultural valley bordered on one side by hills and low mountains and on the other by magnificent, snow-covered peaks. 

After several hours traversing the valley, a white scar becomes evident along a bench on the northern mountains. This is the national park of Pamukkale, or Cotton Castle, one of Turkey’s major tourist destinations.

Drawing closer, the enormous size of the majestic, travertine cliffs becomes apparent. Think Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone on a truly mammoth scale. The brilliant, white formation is a mile and half long and over five hundred feet high. People have bathed in its terraced pools for thousands of years.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Panukkale, Turkey Hot Springs

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hot springs bathers

 

The ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis sits on a broad bench of ancient travertine behind the cliffs. Green hills sprinkled with crimson poppies rise behind the ruins. Hierapolis must have been a magnificent city in a spectacular setting. People from around the Roman world came to take the cure and many, to die. A vast Necropolis of tombs and sarcophagi lies west of the reconstructed ruins.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

  

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

The modern spa and hot springs allow visitors to partake of the ancient waters amid a lush oasis. Columns and pedestals of the long dead civilization provide resting places for those enjoying the healing waters.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

The more I explore Turkey, the more impressive it becomes. Coming from a country with a historical perspective of only a few hundred years, it is difficult to imagine the viewpoint of a Turk. 

America has known only two civilizations in 1,000 years of history. The Anatolian Peninsula has known 623 years of Ottoman civilization preceded by the rise and fall of numerous civilizations over some 8,000 years, back to the very dawn of history. This must influence their outlook.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Also check out my photography tutorials at:  http://dreamcatcherimaging.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

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