Some of the people in the tour group went for a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. Pickup time was 0500, no thank you. I decided to laze around my hotel room and order room service. The menu promised a big Turkish breakfast.
That is not my idea of a big breakfast. A big breakfast is sinangag, beef tapa or longganisa, two eggs sunny side up, atchara, orange juice and a pot of coffee. Or a stack of pancakes with maple syrup, crispy bacon, two eggs, orange juice and a pot of coffee. Not this with one little cup of coffee that I finished even before the tray hit the table. And no water. I had to send for another cup of coffee, and a liter of water.
“You shall not pass.” The hotel cat demanded the toll. I gave him the white cheese from breakfast.
We stopped to take pictures in front of the strange rock formations called “fairy chimneys”. A vendor had ornamented this tree with evil eyes, amulets to ward off bad luck.
I had warned the trip organizers that I cannot be counted on for group photos, or photos in general. Lucky I did, because I was traveling with extremely enthusiastic takers of pictures. The trick is to vanish before they pick a view.
Next: a cooperative that produces beautiful Turkish carpets. I know a little about carpets, having attended the carpet auctions of my friend’s NGO In Touch. The In Touch auctions feature carpets from Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey. The manager of this coop said Persian and Turkish carpets were the finest in the world. He took us on a tour of the facilities,
and showed us the process by which the pupae of the silkworms are turned into silk thread. See those white things in the container? Those are cocoons. The room smelled like food.
Before they brought out the carpets in the showroom they offered us drinks. I had Turkish coffee and raki, the local alcoholic spirit they call lion’s milk. It’s clear like vodka, with a 45 percent alcohol content. When water is added it turns milky white. Alternate sips of thick Turkish coffee (no sugar) with raki, and you can feel sobriety and intoxication dueling in your head.
According to the jocular manager, these carpets fly. To activate, sit in the center of the carpet, close your eyes and say the magic words: “American Express Visa Mastercard.”
Important information for people who live with cats: To dissuade your cat from destroying your beautiful, expensive carpet, sprinkle a bit of black pepper on the surface.
If you buy a carpet at this coop, they’ll take care of all freight charges, including whatever taxes are imposed at the destination. Delivery takes 4 to 6 weeks. Prices depend on materials (wool, silk) and size (mousepad to massive).
At Goreme we saw more fairy chimneys, and churches hollowed out of the soft volcanic rock.
Inside the rock churches are Byzantine frescoes, many of them undergoing restoration. The churches are tiny and dark. Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the paintings, as I discovered after I’d already snapped these. (This Xperia phone is brilliant, best camera I’ve ever had.)
Painting of a hermaphrodite saint. Medieval Christian tradition is full of wacky legends of saints. There’s Uncumber, a girl whose father planned to marry her off to a pagan. She had no intention of marrying, as she had already taken a vow of virginity. So she prayed that she be made ugly, and the next day she woke up with a full beard. Her betrothed ended their engagement instantly—apparently they’d never heard of shaving. Uncumber’s furious father had her crucified. They went for overreaction in those days. After her death she became a patron saint of women who wished to be disencumbered of their lousy husbands.
Simpler to get a divorce, no?
We had lunch in the town of Avanos, which is famous for its earthenware pottery. The residents of Avanos have been making ceramics out of the silt of the Red River since the Hittite period.
This is the Guray pottery workshop, literally a cave. Check out the dish. The one he’s holding up to show how their ceramics are produced. Everything in this factory is handmade and hand-painted, and it’s an exacting process. One mistake and the piece is ruined.
The master potter at work on the most difficult form, a Hittite wine jug. He’s smiling, but it’s intense. It has to be perfectly round and hollow, like a big doughnut.
I wanted to post a sign: Anyone who reenacts that scene from Ghost will be shot. (See the Community episode.)
Hittite drinking vessels. Your arm goes into the round section so you wear it like a shoulder bag. Easier to pour. Hard to make.
This I coveted: a plate with an Ottoman design. The designs are raised; you can read them like Braille. And it glows in the dark. Price:
About 1,000 Turkish lira, or Php22,540. Oops, not sure about the price, their website says $2700.
The factory also produces contemporary designs, such as these pieces by a modern artist. Too beautiful to eat or drink from.
Last shopping stop (for the day): a jewelry workshop and showroom. Gorgeous, and affordable enough if you’re into real gems (which I’m not).
Back at the hotel, the cat demanded his evening toll. I don’t know what his official name is, but I’ve taken to calling him Gyges.