Göreme - A Different Way
by Fred Moore - December 2007
Today, I'm doing the driving; we're planning a stop in the mountains just above Pozanti to overnight at the touristic Sezer Motel, as we travel to Goreme. We leave home at 1:10 in the afternoon and head west and north on the autobahn. This will be my first solo drive since I drove to Konya a couple years ago; as you know from my numerous articles, I prefer not to drive. For the record, Turkey is NOT the reason; I simply do not enjoy driving and never have. I've often thought IF I were to win a lottery, I'd hire a full time driver and never get behind the wheel ever again.
We near the split in the autobahn as it turns north toward Pozanti and the hawkers are out in force along the route selling fresh fruit. Several of them remove their hats as we breeze by and try desperately to flag us down as they point to their bags and baskets of fruit. Today the offering is mostly apples and we simply pass them by and press on. I'm not sure I would stop along the autobahn for anything anyway, it just wouldn't be safe in my opinion, but some travelers do stop, we see them regularly.
As we draw closer to Pozanti the autobahn gets wetter, it has been raining here and not long ago. The sky looks ominous toward the north and rain is certainly falling up ahead. We enter the green light traffic lane at the tollbooth and inch along until we pay our toll. Just beyond the tollbooth we're in Pozanti and travel for ten minutes to our turn-off up and over the mountain headed northeast. This is not the standard route to Cappadocia; it's a two-lane with lots of charm and beautiful scenery. You've joined us on this route before; it's 19 km to the Sezer Motel from here. This road is probably 20 km further than the road straight north but the traffic is far less hectic and the panoramas are not to be missed. The vistas at each turn along this road are breath taking; whether it's the valley below or the mountain above, the mural stretched out before us is magnificent!
In minutes, we've come upon an old station wagon having some challenge climbing this mountain. I'm not concerned about his progress however, it simply means I drive that much slower and that's fine. Twice I make it to 35mph but we crest the top of the hill with no problem. Shortly after we level off it begins to rain ever so slightly and it makes driving more slowly most prudent. I turn on my wipers and find I don't need them fully engaged but leave them on the lowest intermittent setting. This is simply a nice gentle rain that cools the temperature down too.
As you will remember, there are a number of small villages along our route for nearly the entire 19-km to the Sezer. We're two thirds of the way to the motel and it begins to rain harder; we haven't seen any rain in quite awhile in Adana. It's beautiful and makes everything around us look crystal clear and shimmering. There must be a dozen shades of green out here and the color is just bold and beautiful with this rain. Just as I'm lost in the freshness and beauty of the drive I make a gentle curve and realize just ahead is the motel. I pull off the road and cross a small bridge to the parking lot up against the motel's retaining wall. The Sezer is situated in this wonderful valley at the foot of a majestic mountain.
I want to sit in the car for a few minutes because of the rain but decide it may simply get worse and we hop out and fast climb the stairs in front of the car to the covered patio just above us. The retaining wall holds up a very lovely marble paved patio deck that fronts the entire motel complex. We cross the patio and dash into the main reception area. We check-in and we're given a very lovely suite just over the reception desk. Our balcony over looks the patio below and we watch the rain. The patio is far enough above the car park; so we can't see our car at all. It's so relaxing to simply watch it rain; we can see what appear to be individual streams of rain falling straight down. This is a hard rain but not torrential; we can easily see the mountain backdrop across the road in front of us. The rain has made the cliff rocks over there glisten in the fading afternoon sun. It hasn't stopped the pigeons from soaring from one roost to the next either. There must be twenty or more of them flying in formation across the face of the rocks and it looks like a ballet; very relaxing to sit here and observe their flight.
As Carol sits and I stand on the balcony, we listen to the mountain creek that rushes beneath the bridge at the foot of our parking area. There are two springs directly across the road gushing with water. The water simply comes forth from the face of the mountain; it looks as though the mountainside is weeping. There's no water above these rivulets so we must conclude they're natural springs with an origin from within the rock itself. They both fall toward the road's edge and there they merge to form a waterfall over the cement footings of the bridge. The sound carries as the waterfall hits the rushing stream below. The stress of a long week melts away in this picturesque setting.
The Sezer has expanded since our last visit; there's now a very large community room off the back of the reception area. I remember seeing all the construction on our last visit but certainly didn't visualize anything as huge or as wonderful as this new space. There's also a TV room and a game room off of this large hall. Each room is wood paneled with high ceilings. In the main hall and largest room there are five or six individual sitting areas stretched out across the space closest to the windows. The center toward the back is accented with a magnificent four-sided fireplace of exquisite architectural design. The room is not completely finished but 98% would be my guess; the radiators still need to be installed under the massive windows. The ambiance certainly rivals any ski chalet you could imagine in any other country in the world with skiing as a sport!
The rain has slowed to a sprinkle and I decide to go to the car for our bags. As I start down the patio steps toward the car, I hear the faintest sound in the distance; the call to prayer is marching down the valley to fall on the ears of those willing to attend. As I get to the car, the sound gets lost in the roar of the stream below and it's gone before I can ascend. When I get to the room, I get out my long sleeve denim shirt; the temperature coupled with the dampness has dictated a little more clothing than is necessary in Adana. Carol and I sit out on the balcony for a while to enjoy the tranquillity, the fading afternoon light and to simply breathe this fresh mountain air! This is truly a man's paradise; up here among these beautiful sights and sounds.
It's Ramadan; we have a late dinner so as not to interfere with the dining room staff and their fasting. We make it our habit to honor our host country customs as much as we possibly can. The Sezer has both dinner and breakfast because of its location; it's simply out away from everything, making it great escape from Adana. Our experience here has shown dinner and breakfast to always be well presented and very plentiful, not to mention excellent. After dinner we retire to our room.
We're up early and after we freshen up, I take our bags to the car. We have a leisurely breakfast and we leave around 7:30 to continue our drive to Goreme. I've told you many times how much we enjoy this trip through the mountains so I'll refrain from further embellishments except to say it's apple time again and they are plentiful. The branches of the trees just droop, laden with fruit; many roadside stands are stocked along our route. I notice one orchard as we drive through here with apples so rich in deep red they look nearly black. Many orchards have already been harvested so there's obviously a season of picking going on all through this valley.
Once we're fully through the apple orchards, we come to the plains where potatoes are the subject of the harvest. Vast fields of potatoes dot the landscape as we drive on toward Nevsehir. Along the highway we encounter plastic bags of potatoes propped, one against the other, on the shoulder of the road; these are for sale and you can buy 5, 10 or even 20 kilo. We see many fields that have been fully harvested; others wait their turn and still others have bag after bag of potatoes sitting in rows in the field like patient soldiers awaiting the truck that will transport them to market. These are all white potatoes; we've purchased some in the past but not today.
We drive into Goreme at 9:45 and weave our way to the hotel. We pull into the parking area in front of the Ottoman House for our weekend visit. Yuksel Bey (the owner) has set aside a suite for us this weekend and we're very excited to see it. The Ottoman House is evolving; it has come great distances in the four years since our first visit. Hussein meets us at the entry and he welcomes us warmly. He knows we're due in and phones Yuksel to be sure we have the correct suite. He tells us there are some minor things to be done in the suite but they are of little consequence for us. We ascend the stairs and follow our host to the front of the building on the northwest corner to our suite. We enter a sitting room, there's artificial hardwood on the floor along with a beautiful Taspinar carpet. Immediately around to our left is the bathroom; it comes fully equipped with a Jacuzzi! The sitting room has an overstuffed chair just outside the bathroom door to one-side and bench seats under the windows at the front of the room. The room is facing out on the main street. Through a tastefully sculpted arch, we enter an alcove with a table and two chairs. Turning further left and around behind the bathroom is the bedroom with a queen size bed and wonderful large draped windows. As we make the turn toward the bedroom there's a decorative Roman column with arch to accent the space; this gives the room a very Romanesque flare. In the alcove is a wood framed glass door that opens onto a lovely little balcony, a space well suited for morning or evening relaxation.
After a short time settling into the room and making a quick rest stop, we're off to see the Goreme we don't generally visit. We've come alone and have no one to coordinate our movements with; we know others are coming up from Adana but we're currently on our own. Carol wants to visit the little shops in the central shopping area that we have never gone into. There's an amphitheater behind these shops and there are a few shops down there that we want to visit as well. We stop in one small shop to look at carpets; we see many old pieces of beauty but pass on each for now. We walk around and down the stairs of the theater to the shops below. The most fascinating of them for us is ‘Moulin Rouge' and there we meet Zafer Bey, a young man with a shop filled to over flowing with ALL things Turkey.
Zafer's shop has tie die clothing (think US – 1960s), shawls of many colors (fairly priced), travel guides, meerschaum pipes, Gaziantep inlay boxes, canes, daggers and backgammon sets. The shop has Kutaya plates and tiles (lovely domestic pottery), onyx, silver jewelry, tapestry purses and backpacks as well as glassware. It is off the main shopping path, but be sure to step down here to check it out. Zafer will treat you well and has something from every corner of this country; he actually went the extra kilometer to get me something I wanted that was not in his shop this morning. You see, his father has another shop in another city and the next day he brought me what I wanted, no extra charge, that's simply the way things are here.
After our visit to a number of shops, we stop at Cappadocia Kabob for a quick lunch. This little kabob house is on the main shopping street above and opposite the entry to the amphitheater and Zafer's shop. We eat here fairly often when in Goreme because the food is consistently good, very simple and inexpensive. If you're looking for a light lunch, something quick and easy, make this is your stop. As we're finishing our lunch, we notice our friends from Adana drive by without even looking in our direction.
I quickly pay our bill and we head back toward the Ottoman House to catch up with them. In no time, we're standing outside the Ottoman House where everyone is unloading his or her bags. We introduce Yuksel to the group of new comers and see that everyone is in a room and comfortable. They suggest they need some lunch after the long drive; Carol and I explain we've already eaten lunch but can suggest a nice place. We don't suggest our little Kabob house because it's quite small and most of these folks are fairly new to Turkey. Additionally, we want to expose them to some of Goreme's more culturally structured ambiance. Carol suggests we go with them to Dibek Café & Restaurant, a place that has been recommended to us a number of times.
The Dibek bills itself as ‘traditional home-cooked' and has a sign stating that over their entry door. We're warmly greeted and taken all the way to the back and up a few stairs to a large room with benches on three sides. We all sit around knee high tables. We're provided refreshments to start and everyone orders an individual dish for lunch. We sit around visiting and every one seems to be talking at once. Photos are taken in all directions as our newest friends to Turkey rave about what they see. The waiter is in and out a number of times until everyone has what he or she has ordered. This restaurant is another cave dwelling that has been tastefully converted into a restaurant business. The large room we're sitting in was the family's living space in times past. You can still see the fireplace at one end decorated with a monotonal design. We spend an hour or so in rapt conversation as lunch is consumed; after everyone is sated each one pays his own tab and then all of us go our own way.
Carol and I leave to visit our friend Taner in Uchisar. Taner owns Alaturca, a carpet shop at the foot of the Uchisar Castle. We weren't able to see Taner the last time we were in the area and we wanted to be sure to stop by this time. We spend several hours with Taner looking at some very interesting new carpets he has acquired. These pieces are hammered felt with painted or stamped designs on them. This is a very different technique than anything we've been exposed to before. They're not something we want to add to our collection (they don't appeal to us really) but we're probably making a mistake.
I offer Taner my thumb drive so he can see what our US carpet collection consists of. We've collected some very fine pieces over twenty years and wanted him to see them; he offers to buy several pieces, but we're not selling. While we were reviewing the carpet photos on his computer, a gentleman came into the shop with Taner's father and stopped by to say hello. We meet and have a very pleasant conversation with Muammer Sak. Muammer is a rug collector and shop owner elsewhere. We enjoyed our extended visit and finally have to excuse ourselves to return to Goreme.
After we slip away from Uchisar, we go for gas at Petrol Ofisi, on the main road between Uchisar and Urgup; (this is an ‘automatic' service station for those who have a gas ring mounted in their vehicle). We fill up and return to the Ottoman House. Some of our friends are milling about at the hotel on our return. We talk about dinner and decide to have it at the hotel this evening. The Ottoman House has an open menu as well as a set meal for the evening and we settle on a time to meet and then go out for a walk.
Carol and I promised earlier in the day to stop by a carpet shop to look at some new pieces they have for us to consider. They do have some very lovely carpets but they have raised their expectations well beyond our desire to have anything they show us. They seem extremely disappointed and that's unfortunate; but, we're simply not going to buy pieces well over the market value.
The afternoon progresses, the sun fades into the landscape and we return to the hotel to await dinner with our friends. Dinner is good, the conversation lively and we all enjoy each other's company. After dinner we all head off on our own; Carol opts to go to the room and read a book she's brought along and I go for a stroll with friends. It's a lovely evening, far cooler than Adana, so we head for the shopping street and pop into one shop after another looking for nothing in particular but looking at many things. The ladies find a silver shop of interest and we linger here for a little too long; I have found a lovely silver encrusted amethyst pin I purchase for Carol.
Out on the street again we continue down to the end and into a pottery shop. The ladies go down into the basement, I choose not to; well, that is, until some pleading comes from below. They have found some beautiful things they think I simply need to see. I acquiesce and descend the stairs; incredible, this is very fine pottery. The owner and his wife say they've created each of pieces we admire. The plate I pick up looks as though someone has embossed a doily on it; the background is deep green and the lace doily is snow white with a raised textured feel. There are numerous pieces of this lace work in blue, green and red.
It's late and these folks want to close up so we'll get on our way; we need to get back to the hotel ourselves. We stroll up through the shopping area once more, as we make our way back to the Ottoman House. It's a lovely night and once we get back I retire for the evening.
As usual, I'm up early and head up to the roof to see how many balloons are launching today. Our friends are going to be in one of those; I have no idea which one so will simply watch the launches. There are a couple others already positioned on the roof to watch and in just a few minutes, I see the first canopy rising above the village landscape over the roof-tops to the east. Toward my left of center view, I see a hint of blue striping, and then almost as quickly dead ahead, there's a red globe rising; now there are two red canopies off to my right. The morning sky begins to fill with hot air balloons in a multitude of colors.
As the few of us stand and watch the launching of these balloons, the sun begins its crawl out from behind the cliffs on the horizon. It's interesting to watch the growth and finally the rise of each of these balloons; the first one to fill with air from our lofty perspective is still not airborne. There are twelve now floating across the landscape toward the left of our view and three simply climbing higher and higher into space. Also, way off in the distance there are a couple just rising above the sunlit hilltops. They seem so much smaller than those already aloft but it's simply because of the distance between us and them. I'm counting now; there are twenty four in all floating across the sky. This morning is unusual for me, generally, the balloons are coming toward us and flying over the hotel, but not today; none are even remotely close to us.
Breakfast is ready now too and I leave the balloon watching to those who are new here; I've seen them many times in the past. I go inside to get something to eat. I think about our friends riding the winds out there; they had to leave the hotel at five this morning and won't return until nearly ten. The group has opted for the long duration flight; it's still only about an hour and a half but for the extra cost I'm told it's well worth it. The cost has prevented me from even venturing forward, long or short flight, doesn't matter!
Today we're supposed to attend the tour of the cave houses; that will be a story all it's own. Carol joins me now for breakfast and we talk about what we'll do after the cave house tour. After we eat, we go for a walk as we wait for our friends to return.
The balloon riders are back now, we walk to the square where the cave house tour is to begin. Read the article on the tour for details.
Carol and I made a note during the cave house tour to return in the afternoon to a garden filled with carpet looms and dying vats. Once back to our hotel we collect our camera (I had forgotten it for the cave house tour) and head off to see the looms and the garden. We learn that the garden belongs to a very large carpet shop. As we approach the shop there's a tour group just leaving; they're from Adana too, we speak with the guide for a few moments and they're gone.
We enter the shop and find it to be a massive facility; there's a large presentation hall to our left and two to the right of this very large reception area we've stepped into. I explain to the gentleman who greets us that I'm interested in the gardens behind the shop. He tries to distract and delay our walk outside by offering carpets for sale but we insist we're here to see the garden. He relents and shows us to the staircase that ascends well above our current position. This is a grand stair with a central railing that allows us to mount the hillside hidden beneath the building. At the upper landing now we find far more halls for carpet exhibition. We're led to another stair and finally we're in the garden far above our entry in the building. The garden is magnificent; an extremely large area we suited to the demonstration of carpet weaving, knotting and wool dyeing.
The upper garden wall is adorned with multiple skeins of dyed wool above a several of vats, large cauldrons used in dyeing the wool. Set out below the vats are numerous wood boxes filled with natural growing dye materials: nut husks, roots, weeds, leaves and other objects used in coloring wool, cotton or silk. There are a couple of young women producing pieces at their looms; both are working woven kilims today. Their working on large looms, these are probably two meters across and three meters high. The kilims are much smaller than the loom but these looms are fully capable of producing a carpet or kilim of large proportions.
We spend a good deal of time under a patio cover having refreshments and watching the two ladies weave and spin. The one young woman sits at her loom and is joined by a lovely cat who simply seems to bask in the limelight. I walk around the garden and admire several unoccupied looms with kilims in partial completion. These looms are designed to be expanded or contacted do create carpets or kilims of many different sizes; the only restriction on size is time. It will take far longer to create a large piece and depending on intricacy it could take years not months. Very few pieces can be created in days or even weeks because handmade ART is an individual creation not a stamped-out design. Even if these ladies have woven a particular motif a hundred times before, each piece possesses its own character and personality; there are simply no two handmade carpets or kilims created equal.
After our refreshments and the carpet/kilim orientation (this is a canned lecture for tourist) in the garden we go inside again. There are a number of ladies in this room knotting carpets; one of particular note is the young woman knotting a silk carpet. This is a talent of note because many women who create fabulous works of art in carpet and kilim can not work in silk. We're told over our many years of carpet/kilim experience that silk is extremely difficult to work with because the fabric of silk work is unforgiving; should make an error, going back is impossible. We know from experience, over the centuries mistakes in these creations were made ‘on purpose' because the thought was and still is; only Allah is perfect. Only in the commercial trade today will you find piece of total perfection. I believe that to be a real shame; after all these are handmade individual creations and extraordinary works of art.
Moving on now, we go into the silk separation room; this is where the silk is extracted from the cocoon. We've seen this before but it always fascinates me to watch this truly amazing procedure. Next to the booth where the process takes place is a huge bag I couldn't get my arms around; it stands on the floor and must be two meters tall. This bag is filled with silk cocoons but weighs virtually nothing. Cocoons are taken from the bag and placed in a sink filled with tepid water. After a few minutes the lady takes what looks like a whisk broom and taps the cocoons as if to submerge them in the bath. When she extracts the broom, extremely fine strains of silk cling to it. She carefully takes individual fibers, far finer than our hair, and threads them onto and around the bobbins above her head. She starts the bobbins spinning and we watch the cocoons begin to dance and spin in the warm water sink.
She picks up a couple cocoons and insists we hold them; wow, you can feel the fibers being drawn off the cocoon as you hold it; then the cocoon is gone you stand holding a silk worm – YUCK! Well, it's not that bad but you get the picture. Across the room is a large spinning wheel filled with silk and the wall has a multitude of pegs fully burdened with silk skeins of multi-colors.
We linger long enough to enter each hall in this mega-sales store. It appears the large exhibition rooms are arranged with region and country in mind; Turkish in this room, Afghani in this room and Iranian in another, then size also plays a roll as we dart from one hall to the next. It's interesting that we've never visited this shop before but now we've been through it and know what it is we're unlikely to return. Shops like this one are best left to the casual traveler who can get a touch of drama and education with their major expenditure.
We spend the rest of our afternoon and evening visiting in old carpet shops with good friends and then simply retire for the night.
The morning is crisp and clear, we have breakfast and checkout. We thank the staff for another very pleasant stay and begin our journey home. I decide that the short way home is fine and we head for Nigde and the mountain pass beyond. The day is wonderful, traffic is light and we make great time. The road over the mountain is well maintained and the scenery beautiful; we're back in Pozanti in no time and enter the autobahn for home.
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