April/May 2011 – So it was back to the 'Bul to rendezvous with Ivan the Terrible. Actually, his name is Dimity, not Ivan. And he is not remotely terrible. Not even a smidge of horrible. In fact he is a rather pleasant bloke. He does happen to be Russian and, unfortunately for him, Ivan the Terrible was the first famous Russian to pop into my head soooooo.....
Dmitry and I crossed paths over a year previous in Nepal in the small village of Kagbeni in Lower Mustang. I had just come out of Upper Mustang and he was on his way to Annapurna....I think. My memory is a little fuzzy. Speaking of a fuzzy memory I did not initially record this part of my journey (my visit to Cappadocia that is). This came at the tail end of my quest and although I fully intended to do so I never got around to it.....until now.
But details of the engagement have faded, shriveled and blended together making it almost impossible to accurately recollect. But alas, I shall give it the ole college try. It is a little disjointed and represents more of a quasi-stream of consciousness attempt to elicit memories from that time than a faithful retelling but I suppose it is better than nothing.
So why bother at all? Good question. As I sat there debating that very point I realized it underscores brilliantly the whole reason I wrote about my trip in the first place: To remember. And had I not bothered to put thoughts to digital ink the whole adventure would be a nebulous blob of discombobulated recollections. Thanks to my painstaking efforts it is nothing of the kind. This is also the reason I've taken the past year to revisit everyone of my posts to add some finishing touches and, more importantly, reminisce. And now anytime I wish to travel backward in time all I need do is clickity-click.
But back to the discombobulated blob. Dmitry had always wanted to visit the Cappadocia region of Central Anatolia in Turkey. My presence provided a suitable excuse to do so. From what I'd read it sounded like a worthwhile trip. We were in.
I returned to Istanbul a couple days early to reserve a room for our two night stay in the city. After that it would be off to Kayseri in central Turkey. Ivan and I spent a couple days wandering the 'Bul. We fiddled around the Blue Mosque district for a spell which included a visit to a carpet shop. As I know Bo Diddly about carpet I found this a welcome diversion. I was intrigued before but carpet salesman are not window shopper friendly. In fact if you plan on buying rugs in the 'Bul do your homework and be prepared for an ordeal. Frankly, most of the salesmen are borderline lunatics. Too harsh? Perhaps. I never experienced the hard sell myself because I had no desire to purchase carpet and even less desire to run the proverbial negotiating gauntlet.
Dmitry was interested so I figured I would just sit back and observe. We were invited into a shop where the lights were turned on, tea served, and carpets laid out for display. I was given an impromptu carpet lesson by Dmitry and listened attentively while he spoke with the salesman. Of course, they applied their disgruntled makeup when they learned Dmitry was not going to purchase carpet immediately and was merely scouting for a possible buy right before leaving Turkey. They said something about wasting their time and turning on the lights for us but we just chortled and moved on. It comes down to this: If you look you must buy. Any other course of action is treated like some sort of cultural insult. Seems patently absurd but if it didn't work they wouldn't do it.
We also explored a mosque or two and were both mesmerized by the sheer grandeur on display within some of these magnificent structures. Istanbul has a shit ton of enormous mosques. If you throw a rock you'll probably hit one. (I would not recommend it.) Non-Muslims are allowed inside many of them but I am always a tad uneasy entering sacred areas, as if I do not belong and am committing blasphemy just by being there.....and that I might explode.....like a vampire in the bright sunlight....poof!
We did our fair share of meandering making sure along the way to drink tea, drink coffee, eat pastries, drink more tea, eat fish sandwiches, avoid vomiting, drink more tea, so on and so forth. Thought about experiencing a Turkish bath but were rebuffed. No appointment. We were treated like derelicts for having the audacity for even entering without one. How dare we?!
We capped off the evening with a whirling dervish performance. Dervishes are Sufi Islam's version of Christian friars, Hindu Sadhus, and Buddhist monks. Sufism represents the more mystical components of Islam and its followers adhere to a simple, devout lifestyle. Although many orders of dervishes whirl the most famous are from Turkey (Mevlevi order). The whirling is a form of meditation undertaken to achieve religious euphoria. Although never meant as a performance you can witness dervishes whirling all over Turkey.
To Kayseri. Our flight from Istanbul landed in the morning. Upon arrival we promptly acquired a rental car and made our way to the heart of Cappadocia, the small enclave of Goreme. Got a little lost along the way but that's about right when I'm involved.
Cappadocia is a veritable eye-gasm, filled with fantastic formations right out of a fairy tale. In fact, some of the formations are known as 'fairy chimneys' whose 'construction' could not possibly stem from human intervention. The only logical explanation would be underground fairies. I love fairies, at least the benevolent ones. Bad fairies are real fuckers.
The surrealist anomaly that is Cappadocia results from geological quirks and erosion. Volcanic activity combined soft layers of ash atop harder formations of basalt and andesite. Erosion and time took over from there. The result is a remarkable landscape begging one to explore every nook and cranny.
The region became a troglodyte's wet dream and led to the creation of entire underground cities. Some of them were built out of convenience, others out of necessity (i.e. survival). Underground structures cover the region, not the least of which are a number churches still containing original frescoes. These days most caves are occupied by tourists. Cave hotels abound and are rather popular. After inspecting a good number we chose our own little grotto. I believe Bugs Bunny said it best, “There ain't no place like a hole in the ground.”
As a sort of temporal place mark I should mention how surprised I was to discover one morning in the cave that Osama bin Laden had been dispatched. My reaction, or lack that of, was one of ambivalence. Part of me was relieved. Part of me was like, “Big woop (insert yawn)”. Part of me was a teensy weensy alarmed at possible consequences. All of me was disgusted when I saw college students dancing in the streets while screaming, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” in unison. I get the fact that Binny was a twisted fuck fanatic but there is something indescribably unseemly about partying like its 1999. Frankly, I think it made Team USA look like a bunch of doochebags of the Third Order. But then again, who the hell am I, really?
So Ivan and I finished out our week looking for mythical fairies (no luck) and returned to the 'Bul where we parted ways. Dimitry was off to the Crimea region of Ukraine for a week long hiking extravaganza while I had a date with reality. We bid a fond farewell I found a cozy cafe and started deliberating.....
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