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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Driving in the Heartland

by Fred Moore - July 2009

It’s Sunday and we’re driving in search of two Hittite and one Byzantine site. We begin with a stop for petrol; we pull into the station and a gentlemen offers us coffee or tea, even before finding out what we’ve stopping for. In the US today they don’t even wash your windshield anymore, let alone offer refreshments! We decline the offer as we’ve just left the breakfast table and plan to drive awhile and don’t want to be over saturated with fluid. After petrol, we study our map to ensure we’re going in the right direction. It indicates the sites are fairly close and not far apart, we head off driving west in our search for them. We’re in Goreme and our drive starts from there. We drive toward Nevsehir and on toward Acigol where we’re supposed to find our first turn off. Carefully, we look for our turn south and find it; the village is Agilli there’s supposed to be a Hittite excavation in or around the village.

The countryside out here is covered in grain fields and we encounter a number of tractors on the road and fields just a flurry of activity; it’s harvest time and the whole landscape is saturated with farmers and their equipment. We observe men, women and children all working to get their loaded wagons up to the grinding machines. I believe these machines to be hammer mills; they are tractor operated through a long canvas belt and the wagons’ contents are unloaded into the throat of the machine. The straw is being ground into chaff and blown into huge mounds; I’m told by Turkish farming friends this will become animal feed. As a youth, I worked some farms in my neighborhood but never fed straw, ground or otherwise to our animals. I can’t ever remember grinding straw at all; it was usually baled and used for bedding in our animal stalls. Off to one side of the mill is a stack of bulging bags, containing what I surmise might be grain. I open the car window (we’re up-wind of the dust) and the cacophony of tractors and mills is echoing off the fields. We sit for a moment and listen to this symphony of agriculture; at the same time I can’t help but think how much hard work all this is for everyone out there in the field. I feel itchy all over simply imagining how hot and sweaty this morning’s task is for everyone out there, remembering the times I did similar work as a teenager. I have to remind myself that even though we’re sitting here in the 21st century, many, many of these farmers still work agriculture in the old ways.

We travel for 30 minutes through these lands and there’s our destination just ahead, Agilli. We drive back and forth through the village once we arrive and find neither signs nor any indication of an archaeological excavation anywhere around. Our map says there’s a site here but the village is small and we simply don’t find anything. We decide to leave the village going a different direction and drive off toward Karapinar. Karapinar is an old carpet village. As we arrive in the tiny town, we begin to look for carpets hanging out of windows or in shops; we think maybe by chance some may be hanging about, but we don’t see any at all. The village takes two minutes to drive through and we don’t see any shops either. Probably 100 years ago the home carpet business here was active but today it’s simply not so. It’s the same across Turkey, major carpet centers have faded away because the next generation of youth is not interested in traditional ways of life.

We drive on and in just a few minutes find we’ve come out on the main road east of Acigol again so we turn west toward it and drive into the village. It’s market day here today and everyone is in the village center is milling about. We’re looking for a sign to Tatlarin, a village to the north of here with a Byzantine Cave Church. We drive nearly through the village without seeing a sign and make a U-turn to retrace our route. We decide to try to find a sign from this direction; we still find no sign but we turn north in the village square because it seems the right thing to do. To clarify the point in our turning around, please note, sometimes we find signs traveling in one direction but not the other. I find it interesting because this happens when something is renovated or maintenance work has to be done; a sign is removed and simply not replaced after the work is done.

Minutes north of Acigol we come to the village of Inalli; Carol says yes, that village is on our map. We are in fact headed in exactly the right direction and we’re on the correct road! Again, we’re traveling through rich golden farmland covered in grain. Some of the crops have been harvested by combine and others in the old way. We pass one field where the farmer is cutting the stand of grain with a cycle bar mower; this piece of equipment reminds me of the late 19th century horse drawn harvester. There’s a rider on the harvester, he’s forking the grain off to the side of the tractor as it’s cut. Other workers are collecting the cuttings and stacking them into massive piles; in another part of the field workers are forking those piles onto a wagon. This is back breaking labor and doubly so in this heat; additionally, the chaff down the neck still makes me glad I’m not out there.

Ah, here’s a decision; the sign is here along the road but obviously it has been hit a time or two, which way do we turn? Carol suggests one way, I feel like it should be the other and besides, I like the road surface better this way; we go on from here without turning. A little while later we encounter another sign and we turn toward Tatlarin; we’re driving through a large village now and into a valley where we begin to descend. There, I point to a new sign ahead of us; it’s yellow and indicates a historical site. In minutes we’ve found the way to Tatlarin’s Cave Church. I cross the valley floor and begin to ascend a cobblestone street opposite where we entered, turning first one way then the other as we climb. The last hairpin turn brings us to the church parking area; what a magnificent view from up here.

We park and get out of the car for a look around. It seems there’s no one about and the church has a large padlock on the door; I think we’re out of luck and turn toward the car but out of nowhere come a gentleman who must be the caretaker. He motions toward the church and we follow; he unlocks the padlock, pushes the door open and ushers us into the church. Our literature suggests that the church was created in the 10th or 11th century, it reflects the usual frescos of Biblical stories: Mother Mary with Jesus, Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the Crucifixion, and the Transfiguration. The paintings are on dark grey walls, painted in purple, red and dark yellow; as is the usual fate of frescos, a lot of defacing has been done. The eyes of most of the artwork here have been destroyed but we can still see the magnificent artistry that was once cherished by parishioners.

There’s an underground city here as well but we opt not to visit (probably a mistake). We thank our site caretaker and pay nothing; I’m not certain we should have gotten in for free but we simply wish the gentleman a good day – thank him and leave. From here we drive to Cullar and on to Gokcetopak. This later village is supposed to have a Hittite archaeological excavation but again there are no signs and we discovered nothing. We drive on to Ovaoren and then Karakova; somewhere in between these two villages our map and our road took far different routes but we had a very lovely drive in the heartland of Turkey’s agriculture.

We’re headed south now back toward the main road between Nevsehir and Aksaray. As we approach the main highway we come to Alay Hani an ancient caravansary under restoration. There are a number of these throughout central Anatolia; these are inns or motels of the ancient past. They were built by the Seljuk Sultans who reigned between 1027 and 1307. This one, the Alay Han, is thought to be the oldest built sometime between 1155 and 1190. It’s currently under government restoration – the sign that highlights the restoration tells us that it’s costing nearly 2 million Lira. As we walk through the site, it’s obvious there is far more to be seen up close than one can see from the highway. Excavations around the south end of the Han show us there must have been more to this complex than now stands before us.

As I stand at the entry to the existing structure I’m standing in what was not long ago the road; the old highway was constructed directly over the ruins! With this current restoration the road has been closed and excavations are on-going. There’s no indication what these foundations might have been and unfortunately my archeological knowledge is limited. After walking around the site for fifteen or twenty minutes we get back to the car and drive off toward Aksaray to visit the Oresin Hani that was built in the 13th century. We’ve visited this Han a few times in the past but noticed on our last trip through here it was under restoration. Just minutes west we pull off the main road into the new parking area for the Han and suffer a little disappointment – it’s not open. The restoration has obliterated our memory of the ruin; the old structure has been consumed within this modern sterile edifice on the plains of Anatolia! I suffer mixed emotions; on one hand I’m glad the government is doing something to save these ancient buildings but on the other I’m sad to see how much less authentic the restored building looks.

If we could get inside, I’m sure we would recognize walls and pillars where we used to stand during our past visits. We only spend a few moments here, we walk completely around the new building and then get into the car and head for Aksaray for lunch. There’s this truly wonderful bus stop on the Ankara/Konya highway at the main intersection in Aksaray; the cafeteria has great food and we enjoy the relaxing atmosphere even though there are a multitude of travelers passing through the place. After lunch we drive back to Goreme – it’s been a wonderful day even though we’ve not found what we set out to see; we’ve seen many other things and discovered, as always, Turkey in a new way.

Walking in Goreme
It’s Monday morning; we’ve had a very lovely breakfast and while eating we discussed what to do with our day. Goreme is noted for its splendid open air museum filled with cave churches and communal dwellings, all carved into the hills. The museum itself is primarily a box canyon; a wonderful backdrop to the village. We’ve not gone to the museum in years (we drive by it almost every time we’re in the area) and it’s cool and cloudy this morning, so we decide walk over and visit. All the balloon rides have been canceled today because of the overcast skies, quite unusual for this area.

We set off at 7:20 from the Ottoman House and walk toward the bus station. As we pass in front of several different bus line offices we’re greeting by gentlemen who have come to open their businesses. We exchange cordial Turkish morning greetings and keep walking; one guy even offers us tea. Shortly beyond the bus stops we cross the canal that runs through the center of the village; this always has fascinated me, it has never had more than a tea cup full of water in it. We turn left now and continue our walk past the unopened businesses on this quiet main corridor of shops to the lower street that takes us to the museum. It seems odd to see all these places of normal activity so quiet and on Monday morning. There’s even very little traffic this morning; it’s as if it’s a holiday, but then it is early in the day.

We’ve walked nearly twenty minutes now stopping for an occasional photo and just enjoying the morning air. There’s no rush because we know the museum is not open until 8:00. As we walk the curving sidewalk toward the museum, we pass a gentleman carrying a plastic bucket filled with squash blossoms; they are bold bright orange flowers freshly chosen from the nearby vines. I tell Carol he’s going to have soup later in the day (I really have no idea of course), she’s never heard of squash blossom soup. (At home later in the week Carol looks it up on the WEB and finds several recipes for the soup!)

We walk past one of Goreme’s newest hotels, boasting a swimming pool and lots of roses and lush green landscaping. There’s a guy out here near the guard house washing a minibus. It advertises one of the balloon companies, we wonder if the hotel and the balloon company belong to the same people. Just a few steps beyond him we pass a new gida (minimart) that a gentleman is preparing for the day’s business. This is obviously a tourist market more than a local one with racks of post cards and tourist books out front. The guy is just now pushing open the metal shades covering the front windows. He pays us no attention and we continue our walk.

We’ve been walking for thirty minutes (even though it’s not sunny, it’s warm) and the museum is still ten minutes up the hill. Our progress has been on fairly flat ground up until now, here we begin to climb and before we reach the museum entrance we’ve climbed quite a substantial hillside. At the foot of the hill there are a multitude of tourist kiosks and a double parking lot for tour buses and cars. The sign at the entrance to the parking area says for a car it’s 3 Lira but the tour buses pay 15 Lira! As we pass there are very few cars and no buses at all; I assume the few cars belong to business people preparing to open for the day.

Even with an overcast morning I’m beginning to perspire and this climb isn’t helping. We make it to the entrance and I hurry over to purchase our tickets; a tour bus has just pulled up and is offloading a group of enthusiastic (half sleepy looking) Italian Tourists. Our cost of entry is 30 Lira; that’s about ten dollars apiece. That is an all day pass for the entire park with one exception -- One church within the park (the Dark Church) requires an additional 8 Lira ticket! We understand the pictorials in this church are very well preserved and well worth the extra fee, but we chose to pass.

With tickets in hand we walk down to the turnstiles; we insert our ticket and register our visit. To our left towering well above us is the monastery/nunnery of seven levels. The entire enclosure before us has been landscaped with cobblestone walks and graceful stairs to the many different churches. We begin our visit by walking completely around the interior ending up above and just adjacent to the monastery at the Carikli (Sandals) Church. To enter the church we must ascend a steep metal staircase but the climb is well worth it. This chapel is noted as the smallest church in the museum; it’s undated and has twelve very fine colorful Biblical pictorials of Jesus life. Three scenes represent Jesus’ childhood, two his adult years and seven His earthly sufferings.

From here we retrace our climb and descend the cobblestone pathway to stop at the Chapel of St. Catharine dated from the 11th century. The paintings within this chapel are singularly red ochre not as striking as the last church but certainly discernable for what they represent. We descend farther down the path heading back toward the entrance and stop to enter the Elmali (Apple) Church. This church is dated from the late 11th or early 12th century; within this church we see nine domes, the central and largest carries the portrait of Jesus and the others individual angels. The walls are pictorials of stages in Jesus’ life, again from childhood to His crucifixion.

From here we simply leave the museum grounds and descend the sidewalk again; we go only a short distance though and cross the road to visit the Tokali (Buckle) Church. This church is thought to be the oldest in the area dated from the later part of the 10th century. This is a MUST visit; you need the museum ticket to get in but this church is without exaggeration magnificent! The church interior is large and the pictorials are brilliant scenes with blue backgrounds – stunning beyond mere word descriptions. The blue is said to have come from Lapis Lazuli, the gem stone. There are 34 individual Biblical portrayals surrounding us as we stand in the center of this Holy Sanctuary.

We leave the Buckle Church and return to the village center. It’s nearly lunch time now and we decide to stop at our newly discovered lokanta, ‘Ozlem Restaurant and Pide House’ just in behind our old favorite Cappadocia Kebab. Ozlem is a ‘home-cooked’ meals place that’s recently opened; it’s great food and very reasonably priced. After lunch we walk back to the Ottoman House and go to the indoor swimming pool to relax.

This has been another weekend of discovery and learning; the more we venture out the more we come to realize we only know so very little about this country.




Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya
Birsen's Horizons
Fred's Trip Logs
Bahar's Views on...
Business World
From Members' Pen
Interviews with Members
Moms & Kids Corner
Pets with Dr. Demirel
The archives of The Guide
The Archives of Turkishtime
Teen's world

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Fred's Trip Logs
Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya

Focus On
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