Friday, July 2, 2010

Cappadocia, my treat

One of our impressive trips was to Turkey, and on part of that trip we went to Cappadocia. The Turkish ambassadors wife organized everything. It was an exciting experience. Since my family were Asia Minor Greeks, this was meaningful to me. We arrived in Istanbul, formally Constantinople, and still called that by most Greeks today, even though interestingly enough Istanbul is a corruption of “is stin poli” which means to the City, in Greek
“The city” is still one of the great cities of the world.

We spent a couple of days in Istanbul, we had been there many times before, and you never get enough of that city. We went to see the Janissaries march.
Interesting, even though they are not recruited the same way as before,
Young Christian kids were put in the Turkish army as pre-adolescents against their family’s wishes; they were trained to be ferocious persecutors of the Christians. These however, were young Turkish recruits that played musical instruments.

The marching band was great, the leader looked ferocious, huge mustache, great uniform, splendid stance, really looked good, scary guy.
The band were all young recruits, wearing fake mustaches that almost came off as they blew their trumpets, it was hard to keep a straight face as they marched by with quivering, crooked mustaches. Nice kids, they put on a pretty good show, pounding drums and demonstrating the old swordsmanship techniques, hard to imagine how their name “Janissaries” terrified at one time.

Later, we went to the famed Grand Bazaar and bought amber and some carpets, what else, it seems to be a family addiction. At the spice market as well, we were greeted with special consideration when they found out we were Greeks. It surprised many in our group.

Saint Saviour in Chora was also on our itinerary. An impressive Byzantine monastery just twenty minutes from the city center, now a museum and restored in 1316. It has remarkable, mosaics and frescos and is not on the usual tourist agenda but it is a gem with a serious history and not to be missed.

Ankara was our next stop, and we visited the capitol in style; we were after all with the wife of the ambassador to Greece.

The next part of the trip was the real highlight, we were going to Cappadocia with its unique geological formations and complicated historical heritage, google it and you will find an amazing area of Turkey with a fascinating history. Early Churches, almost cathedrals, carved out of the rock, mostly underground, (some eight levels below ground, each level had a specific function, water, storage, barn, housing, worship, etc.) whole towns under this lava like landscape, where early Christians hid from invading Persian and Arab armies. Whole towns disappeared underground for months at a time or much longer, leaving nothing behind except deserted villages to the bafflement of the invaders. Truly a unique experience, we all loved it. We even bought more carpets there.

During the trip, although our guide was knowledgeable, she did have a unique way of announcing our stops, “the facilities are excellent here,” clean toilets was what that meant. The custom was that you tipped the lady that sat outside of the “facilities” or you didn’t get any toilet paper.

We also ate at some terrific restaurants on the road, and since most of us were Greeks, wine was consumed in large quantities. The wine was extra and everybody fought to treat the wine for the group, I did say we were mostly Greeks. This went on for the whole trip; I was looking for something to treat, other than wine or ice cream. I found it, at one of the “facility” stops, I ran ahead and gave the woman twenty dollars, and told the group the “facilities” were my treat.

I bet nobody has ever treated “facilities” before. I got more thanks and praise for that then if I had treated the wine. The lady in charge of the “facilities” was happy and so was the group as they laughed their way into the toilets.

Memorable Cappadocia, with it’s unique architecture, and great “facilities”, what a trip.


  1. Wonderful story. I loved it. Only Greg Birbil would say "The toilet paper is on me".

    What a faculty for "facilities".

  2. For me one of the most memorable parts of our trip was our visit to the "Dark Church" in Goreme. A series of buildings and pillared churches in what is now an open air museum and includes the Elmali and Carikli churches, built they say by the same person but the paintings in the Dark Church are unforgettable, primarily because they are not only exquisite in execution but so well preserved since so little sunlight can filter into the church and ruin the frescoes. Minimum graffiti damage is present compared to many of the other churches in the area, except for the defacing of the eyes, mouth and obscuring parts of the faces of the Saints, Virgin Mary and the figure of Christ. It took my breath away and saddened me to see even that little damage to such beautiful iconography. A pity really that the greatest number of these very early Eastern Orthodox churches were so horribly defaced by the spears or swords that the Ottoman armies used to pockmark and chip away at the surface of the frescoes...still it is wonderful thing that one can still visit this vast historical treasure. In many instances earth tremors loosened the natural rock formations revealing these cleverly hidden churches.

  3. again a beautyful story, greg.i enjoy your stories.! pleas don't stop it.