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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....

Ruth from Cappadocia

 - Ruth tell us a little bit about yourself..
I grew up in a relatively small tourist town in the North Island of New Zealand, though part of my early years was spent living in an English private boys boarding school that my grandparents owned. My family go back three generations with the British in India, though they were not necessarily typical of their time and always ensured that there was always Asian and eastern influences in our life and an awareness of other cultures. After University I moved to Australia, hitchhiking through most of the continent, doing a variety of jobs, most simply too awful or mundane that they are best not mentioned!

Like most Antipodeans in my early twenties, I headed for Asia and followed the route from Indonesia through to India with a Buddhist boyfriend of mine, who I would regularly leave at various ashrams while I went trekking in Nepal or similar .On my return I more or less went straight into the corporate world, working my way to the position of regional Training and Business Development Manager for Price Waterhouse Coopers. It was a fantastically challenging position, but after 5 or so years of marrying my job, I really wanted to travel again and headed via Indonesia to Greece with the intention of private contracting in London in the training and human resource field. From Greece I made a detour to Turkey and never left !! I was 28yrs old then and living here has been my biggest challenge since.

- What made you come to Turkey?
Greece initially failed to inspire, so when a friend suggested that we take the ferry from Samos to Kusadasi I readily agreed! Turkey was fascinating from the beginning with the constant juxtaposition of ancient and modern, a rich diversity in the people and culture, with a wealth of history and tradition. I met my Turkish husband at that time and eventually settled in Goreme to open a tourist pension. By the time we divorced many years later, I was well established in various business enterprises and well known as a specialist dealer in antique Oriental Rugs and Kilims.Despite the difficulties of being a divorced woman in a small Muslim village, I decided it was easier to raise a child as a single mother with established businesses to support us, rather than starting all over again in either Australia or NZ.

- 14 years is quite a long time. Can you compare your first years here with today?
Fourteen years ago feels like looking back into the dark ages, so much has changed since then! When I first arrived, Goreme was really just a rural Central Anatolia village, steeped in tradition, rather insular, with an ancient mindset little changed over the centuries. Modern facilities or amenities were poor to non-existent - running water and electricity were never something that we could never rely upon and often had to do without. (That's still occasionally the case even now!) I was only the second foreigner that had settled in the village, so the locals set about with great enthusiasm to turn me into a typical Turkish village girl. There with so many rules, codes of behavior and dress, and social formalities to be observed, all to be understood with just a few words of newly learned Turkish that some days I was scared to step outside for fear of offending someone. The early years were difficult on us all!!! They gave up when they realised that I wasn't going to make the grade with a rolling pin and flat bread, made exceptions because I was a businesswoman and a 'yabanci 'so had to work closely with men, and slowly came to share and understand parts of my culture however small.

Goreme, though still a very small village, now has great bars, cafes, (ahh the joys of going out for real coffee!), Internet cafes, digital and cable TV, supermarkets (albeit in the next town), a few foreign products (how many years did I yearn for cornflakes instead of white cheese), shops, tourists and a plethora of restored cave hotels pensions and tourist related businesses ...........and just sometimes water and electricity that are reliable!.Strict social conventions have loosened with increased tourism and other foreigners moving into the village (either through marriage or to restore the many crumbling, often derelict cave homes and 'fairy chimneys') so my life is more free, less restricted and certainly less the cause of attentive speculation that it once was! I never thought I would say it, but occasionally I do miss seeing scores of shrouded woman trotting to the fields on their donkeys, the innovativeness that came from managing without, and the archaic simplicity of a life unchanged for centuries. Those things are still here, but more in the background and slowly eroding with every passing year.

- Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
Turkey has made me so much more relaxed, less time conscious (we do everything on 'Turkish time' here!) and far more inclined to take things as I find them. Aspects of living here, especially the bureaucracy, are simply impossible to control in any shape or form, so you just give up and let the 'surprises' happen! .

Certainly I am more tolerant and sensitive to cultural and religious differences in all people. Being confronted with these issues on an almost daily basis make me less judgemental far less 'black and white' in my thinking and enable me to appreciate the uniqueness that we all bring into the world. Being very much a minority group here, I have a greater empathy for so many immigrant groups and their needs to retain their own culture when living outside of their own countries, just as I found the need to retain aspects of my western ways no matter how strange or diverse they may still seem to the local village people here.
I have also developed a greater understanding of Islam (though I have never entertained the thought of converting) and find myself perhaps more critical of western media for their portrayal of Muslims and Islam in general. Living amongst Muslims has given me broader perspectives than I often find is normally available in western culture. I also adore Turkish and Islamic arts, (ebru, embroidery, calligraphy and of course Oriental carpets and Kilims) and I have become somewhat of an eclectic collector and a specialist in certain fields, so in many respects Turkey has given me many new interests and what are now life time passions.

- Turkish language? You must be fluent now? When did you dream in Turkish first?
My Turkish is nothing short of appalling after all these years. I communicate in grammatically poor Turkish, delivered at a rather rapid pace, and in heavily accented local dialect, which makes the crowds gather in bewilderment in Istanbul to hear a foreigner speaking such 'village' Turkish!!!! I learned on the streets and from the man in our local bakkal, so for years had no idea how coarse my language was until a young blushing university graduate was kind enough to explain some of the things I was really saying! I simply find it such a difficult language, though I admire it when spoken on the streets of Istanbul, rather than swallowed and mumbled out in local dialect. Although I now at times think and dream in Turkish, it is only those wonderfully expressive words and endearing formalities that have no comparison in English! (This is not to say that my English has not also deteriorated after all these years into a more clipped pigeon form!)

- Let's talk about Cappadocia.
What has retained you there? Cappadocia with its unbelievable natural lunar landscape of fairy chimneys, rock hewn caves, underground cities and frescoed churches is nothing short of captivating and in part the fascination with the natural environment is one of the many things that has kept me here. There is simply no place like it in the world! My daughter loves it here and protests vehemently when I occasionally entertain the idea of moving elsewhere.

I also adore my work with Tourism and Oriental carpets and Tribal Weaving; the people I meet, both those buying from me, who come from every possible country and walk of life. To those that I buy from! Some come with as little as a sack over their back to sell Grandma's precious dowry kilim, or exotic Afghan and Turkoman dealers who I first met when they were smuggling antique carpets over the borders with the former U.S.S.R. I have always enjoyed interaction with people and with my rug and tourism links I am in contact with International artists, oriental rug collectors, dealers and enthusiasts, innovative weavers, travel agents and tour operates and every imaginable personality that make up the tourists that visit Turkey.

I guess my life is colorful, sometimes busier than people imagine (at one stage I owned a Carpet shop, Boutique Hotel and Travel agency!) The setting and traditions are sometimes surreal and still archaic despite encroaching modernity. Cappadocia is a unique environment, community orientated, and very laid back in a small tourist village, certainly very safe and no commuting to work!!!

- What do you do in your daily life?
During the tourist season (March- Nov) I work every day, more or less from 9.00am -9.00pm in my carpet shop; buying, selling, providing educationals for special interest groups, organising rug study tours, communicating on the website with buyers, dealers and various international organisations (and my mother who still worries about me!), visiting local carpet markets in far flung villages, accounting, dealing with bureaucracy and tax men, taking visitors and guests through the historic sites when time permits ( as an unofficial tour guide!) ,entertaining clients for traditional local cappadocian meals( that I sometimes also cook!),looking after my daughter and trying to supervise her homework when she gets home from school or simply keeping track of her when she's on holiday and off with her friends all day . My days can be very varied in the summer, with one client who spends all day with me to sometimes 20 clients in a day. There are always loads of friends and visitors, local and international to enjoy a 'chay'with !

Winter is completely different - Life is quiet, tourism virtually nonexistent, so I spend much more time at home, rather domesticated, and making up for all the dinners I didn't cook my daughter, friends and long suffering Turkish relatives, in the tourist season! We are often invited to present Oriental Carpet 'educationals' in Istanbul and Ankara for IWI, The British Woman's, private homes and Embassies as well as occasional overseas exhibits and specialist conferences etc. As I came from an educational background, being able to introduce and enhance peoples knowledge of Oriental carpets and tribal weaving is almost my favorite aspect of winter!

- Family?
Since I am divorced there really is only my daughter and I here, as the rest of my family are in Australia and New Zealand. They love Turkey, though due to distances visits from them are rather rare, but we return 'down under' for a few months every 2nd year I am still very close with my ex -husbands Turkish family, who live locally, so we attend all the family get togethers, circumcisions, weddings, births etc. A large family of Turkish relatives lives next door to me so we see each other everyday and my business partner is also from my extended Turkish family! Göreme village is so small that I think I am related to over a quarter of the people from my former marriage!!!

- Have you traveled a lot in Turkey?
When I first arrived here in 1988, I traveled around the Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines, as well as most of Eastern Turkey and the Black Sea. I love to travel and have to cover some distance for my work, finding carpets in out of the way villages and from remote nomadic groups up in the mountains. Back roads, shortcuts and unpaved roads lure my curiosity so by direct or circuitous routes, I have covered most of Turkey, discovered fascinating historic ruins or little visited archaeological sites and some times taken 10hrs to get somewhere when I could have driven it in 2hrs!!!

- What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
I love the Turkish warmth, the hospitality, kindness and generosity of the people. At times it is nothing short of overwhelming! Those traits remind me why I live her when I am having a bad day!

-What is the annoying one?
I have huge difficulties with the duplicity of some of the local people; their perception of some values differ from mine, so trust can sometimes be an issue. After all these years I can still be irritated by the fact that every ailment known to man, from heart attacks to glandular fever, is blamed on' catching cold Sometimes I find it very hard not to roll my eyes at that notion when the temps are soaring above 38c!

- Turkish Cuisine?
Turkish cuisine is one of my favorites (my ever expanding waistline is testimony!) I especially enjoy many of our local specialties like 'Guvec'-a lamb stew slow baked in deep clay pots as well as simple village foods buried for hours in the ashes of communal wood fired ovens. Home cooked food is the best as Turkish woman take such pride in their culinary skills. I love Gozleme, my ex mother-in-laws very fine dolma, mantı ....well, the list is endless. You really have to know what to order in Turkish restaurants and even more so what the local specialties are, otherwise it seems superficially as if there is just endless rather uninspired kebabs. For many years I owned a well-known boutique hotel and loved experimenting and serving old Ottoman palace dishes. Some were really a royal taste sensation. Any of the infinite ways to cook aubergine also have been known to make me swoon! My all time favorite is Tokat Kebab -a pinwheel of succulent lamb and vegetables not like anything I have ever tasted before. Don't miss it if you are heading that way!

- Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
Be adventurous! Explore the little known areas as well as the vast numbers of famous sites, get to know the people, experiment with the food, shop in the local markets and know that one in 3 Istanbul taxi drivers will rip you off, remember that whenever you bargain, do so with good humor and you will achieve a lot more, accept that nothing is as it seems in Turkey and enjoy the 'surprises', invitations and sudden turns of events, even when you don't want or need them-its amazing what can happen here if you let it !

- Any suggestion to people planning to visit Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is listed as a World Heritage Site and usually a highlight for most people when visiting Turkey. At the very least you should plan to spend 3 days or longer, as this area has so much to offer as far as ancient historic and religious sites, unbelievable natural scenery, adventure, hiking, horse trekking, hot air ballooning, traditional arts and crafts (famous carpet weaving villages, ceramics, clay pottery, doll making, lace making etc.) and charming village lifestyles and culture.

May - Early June is spectacular in Cappadocia with a magnificent profusion of wildflowers, warm days and fresh evenings. Late Sept/Oct is also recommended with the beginning of Autumnal colors, fresh temperatures and fewer tourists.

The must 'sees and do's' for me are:
Stay in any of the excellent Cave hotels and pensions. Hewn from the natural rock, often encompassing the varied natural formations, colors and contours, staying in a cave is an experience not to be missed! These range from your own deluxe cave suites with every possible comfort and amenity, to clean basic family run cave pensions at prices to suit every budget range .The village of Goreme is set right amongst the Fairy Chimneys so the atmosphere is extraordinary, but Urgup and Uchisar also have some excellent authentically traditional cave accommodations.

Hot Air Ballooning - a simply awe inspiring experience that gives a unique perspective on the sheer size and complexity of this area. Recommended even for the feint of heart!

The Goreme Open Air Museum, Zelve, Uchisar, Derinkuyu Underground City, Mustafapasa, Soganli, Avanos, Peribacheli Valley, Devrent Valley, Rose Valley - all of these are considered the main sites and can be accessed by private or rental, or via the numerous daily guided tours operating in the area.

Valley Walks/Hikes-I really don't believe that you can know Cappadocia until you have hiked through at least one of the vast numbers of varying and fascinating valleys. They are spectacular, colorful, and seem ever changing. Walks can be as short as Pigeon Valley (45 mins from Uchisar - Goreme) to Ihlara Valley (14 km from Ihlara- Selimne ) and whilst there are some excellent local walking guides available (highly recommended as a safety precaution for single or woman travelers), a lot of the walks can be easily traversed even with relatively small children. Good shoes and water are highly recommended.

Less visited, though still wonderful, sites include: Pancarlik Churches, Nigde Monestry complex,Guzelyurt-a lovely village with Armenian architecture, Gulsehir 'Open Palace' complex and Mushroom rock, Cat Valleys, and the wonderful, recently discovered and partially excavated site, of a Roman city, on the Soganli road.

I would be more than happy to provide more specific detailed advice and information for anyone planning to visit Cappadocia. If you need some help or just need a good contact in this area please do not hesitate to contact me by email:
[email protected] or by phone (0384) 271 2400

I would enjoy to share Cappadocia with you all !

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Sincerely,

Tribal Collections
Nomadic Rugs & Textiles
Ruth Lockwood & Faruk Ciftci
Muze Yolu No: 24/C Goreme / 50180 / Turkey
Tel / Fax: +90 384 271 2400
E-mail: [email protected]



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Latest comments about this article

 By alta  7.2.2004

It is a wonderful article, Ruth. Its full of surprises, just like Turkey itself. The acumen with which you are carrying yourself in turkey is very nice. I also want to come to Turkey, for a whole lot of reasons. I would like if you are able to focus some light on the business aspect of the country in regard to the changing scenario around the globe. As you urself are into the business, I feel you can be a sound judge to analyse the current and future economic status of the country. I would like to know your views about it, if you dont mind. I like the archeological sites and the countryside of the place. I would definately visit this country. Gule gule.

 By David Nawrocki  15.1.2004

What a small world! I´ve passed by your shop a number of times with friends visiting me from the states, and I´ve been to your shop as well. But I never met you, so as a fellow lover of Turkey for past two years, I delight in your thoughts and disclosures: it was like meeting you! Cok guzel!

 By C.Akkelle From Cirali  13.10.2003

(originally posted on 20.8.2003) I really enjoyed Ruth´s article. It is an inspiring story and she must be commended for her efforts and achivements in Goreme. Like many of us living in small rural areas of Turkey we are faced with daily challenges in culture, religion, and language. But as she writes these barriers can be overcome. Keep up the great work Ruth!!! I hope to visit you some day.

 By annie abay  13.10.2003

(originally posted on 26.8.2003) charming article, so much of which is unobserved by the passing tourist but well captulated here by Ruth. Your talents have not been wasted for one single day and the opporunities you have taken have bought you such growth as a human. What else do we want! Looking forward to a raki and fanta with you soon!

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