On the bus, Day 5, Cappadocia...
Have we landed on the moon?
The terrain is extraordinary. Volcanic eruptions of boiling lava from thousands of years ago have cooled. Rain, snow and erosion have sculpted cone-shaped rock formations into the land, each one with a pointed, triangular cap perched on its apex. These eroded headpieces are called "fairy chimneys." The rock formations are astounding and absurd at the same time. The place looks as if Mother Earth designed it with a sense of humor (see photo).
Because the volcanic rock once was soft and porous, it was easily carved. Caves were formed both naturally and by generations of man.
The Hittites lived here in 1200 B.C. We visited the remains of their walled cities and the Lion's Gate (see photo).
Christianity developed in Cappadocia in the 4th Century A.D. The early Christians took shelter in these lava caves and established churches. They were boiling in the summer, but warm in the winter. People lived in the caves until 1924. We visited many of these rock cave churches with frescoes and wall paintings of biblical subjects.
The hotel in Cappadocia is luxurious. It was there that I got to dance with a Turkish belly dancer, nude from the waist up (Me, not her!). It is a very interesting cultural phenomenon.
One evening, in a damp cave, we witnessed the Sema ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. The Dervishes are mystical ascetics of Islam (Sufi). In a solemn atmosphere, five musicians enter, bearing a flute, a drum, a stringed instrument and a banjo. The fifth musician is a singer.
They are followed by five handsome young men, each wearing a stove pipe hat one foot high, and a black outer garment over a white, flowing dress.
As the music swells, they remove the black outer garment and begin to swirl around and around. They whirled, with arms extended, in a trance-like state for about an hour. They did not lose their balance and it was relaxing just watching them and listening to the music in this dimly lit cave somewhere in Turkey.
This ceremony represents the mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to the state of perfection.
We spoke to the humble Dervishes after the ceremony and they were warm, intelligent and sensitive people. They love everybody and their dance symbolizes the rotation of the universe around God.
Mevlana (1207-1273 A.D.) founded this sect and we visited his tomb in Konya, which is accentuated by an intense turquoise dome.
On to Aspendos!
The tour stopped in a jewelry factory, and Lorraine became the recipient of a gorgeous gold necklace. Everywhere we go people ask her about that necklace. I put it on my charge card. Eventually, I will have to pay for it. Hopefully, the charge bill will not find its way to Jericho.
Reflections and high points of our tour:
Aspendos: A Greco-Roman theater holding 20,000, built into a hillside, and still in use. Check it out, George Steinbrenner.
Perge: Hellenistic Roman city ruins. It must have been a swinging town in 1000 B.C.
Pamukkale: Another unique, "knock-your-eyes-out" natural phenomenon. White limestone, plus thermal springs have designed terraced petrified cascades that dazzle in the sunlight. The blue water is reputed to have healing powers. However, it didn't cure my tennis elbow.
Hieropolis: Roman city destroyed by an earthquake. It's famous for its Necropolis, consisting of decorated tombs and sarcophagi which extend for over a mile.
Aphrodisias: Hellenistic ruins of a city built for Aphrodite (goddess of beauty). Its baths, gates, theater and ancient stadium, which seated 30,000 spectators, were breathtaking.
We spent the night in Izmir, birthplace of Homer.
The following day, after lunch, I went for a swim in the blue Aegean Sea. From the shore we could see the Greek Island of Lesbos. In one day's travel we saw...
* The ruins at Ephesus, a Greek city, including a theater, a library, the Temple of Hadrian, the Agora marketplace and its Odeon.
* The ruins at Pergamon, which featured temples, and a gymnasium. Pergamon was the center of Greek culture in Anatolia. The Pergamon Museum in East Berlin contains its entire Greek temple.
* The Wooden Horse at Troy (see photo): A symbolic Trojan horse, 45 feet high, commemorates the Homeric tale of love, seduction, kidnapping and bloodshed. The Iliad has captured the interest of the Western World. The Turkish city of Troy has been excavated by archaeologists, who have found nine separate periods of settlement. The Homeric tale occurs during the sixth settlement.
Lorraine and I spent the night in Canakkale, celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary overlooking the Dardanelles.
Time to return to Istanbul.
The bus rode onto a ferry and we crossed the Dardanelles. We were back in Europe. One last day of frantic shopping at the Grand Bazaar. A final walk to the Bosporus.
We had seen and done so much.
History, philosophy, literature, religion and medicine were all part of our itinerary.
Turkey is a fabulous place. I learned the dynamics of an area of the world that had always mystified me.Thank you, my readers, for joining us on this eye-opening trip. I hope I haven't bored you by telling you what I did on my summer vacation.