Monday, March 15, 2004

Pam, Allen and I are happily ensconsed in front of computers with English keyboards here in Goreme, Turkey, the heartland of Cappadoccia, aafter an 11 hour bus ride. I slept. They didn't. Today we hiked all through this amazing park of peaked chimney type mountains, something like the badlands in the Northwest. In this case, though, in the 10th Century, Christian hermits and monks settled here in seclusion and literally hacked churches out of stone. So we hiked around the park, visiting these amazing churches hewn from stone. Most were entirely rock enclosed yet with pillars and altar all of stone and a few beautifully painted with Byzantine style mosaics. Tomorrow we tour through the region, perhaps with some additional hiking. We saw snowflakes and sun today. It was very cold.

Yesterday was also an amazing day in Istanbul. First we toured the Harem, a part of Dolmabahce Palace, the first Ottoman palace modeled after European styles, complete with French Rococo. In this case, the Ottomans fell in love with birds and flowers and took rococo over the top -- so much so that we now have Ottoman rococo. Here, the Palace is right along the Bosphorus, so imagine sparkling sunshine and shiny blue water right up to the beautifully manicured gardens of the sultan, complete with carved lions of stone. What a contrast between Topkapi Palace and this new Europeanized palace, but the harem remained the same in that women lived entirely separate from men, except for the sultan. Each wife, concubine and other favored relatives (and even visitors) had her/their own suite of rooms, each decorated more fantastically than the next, depending on how high up the royal hierarchy the person was. The ceilings were particularly finely painted with fantastic birds, flowers, fish, and in the sultan's apartment, lions and eagles.

But the most interesting part of the day -- that took two buses, a hike up a very large hill, a ride on a trolley through the middle of a mountain, all not being sure whether the performance was scheduled or not, led us to the Mevlani Dervishes and a service of music and dance. We were amazed by the beauty and sincerity of these devotees of Rumi (the poet and also founder) of this order based on absolute love of the universe. Their dance was really a form of meditation. As they whirled, one hand was lifted to heaven to receive its blessings, while the other hand was turned to the earth, to ensure those blessings flowed directly to us all.

When we first arrived in Goreme, we checked into the Legend Hotel, part cave and part hotel, to find our rooms very, very cold despite space heaters, but with stunning views of cave homes and rock formations throughout Goreme. Tomorrow night, we move to a warmer hotel, but we will miss the view. Our next stop is Konya, a mere three hours away. This part of Turkey is suffering because tourism has nearly ended since the bombing of the synagogue in Istanbul in November. One carpetshop owner told us that he typically sells 250-300 carpets during the summer season, but only 25 during the winter, and trust me, it's cold enough to still be winter here, even though the ides of March are passing.

I hope you all are well. Enjoy spring wherever you are! And the rumor is that Rachel and Nick now have a kitty.


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