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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Mud, Snow, Darkness Goreme, Turkey, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 2:09am

I did a fun tour today.

We started with a hike down into the Rose Valley. The valley was beautiful, but the light wasn't very good for photography because it was overcast. The tour guide said he expected the hike to take about an hour and ten minutes, but that he was trying to hurry a little bit because it looked like it might rain. Sure enough, halfway through the hike it started drizzling, and it gradually became a steady rain. The dirt path we were following got muddier and muddier as we went, to the consternation of the rest of the tour, Australians who wore clubbing boots rather than hiking boots. We reached the endpoint of the hike at 1:10 precisely, according to my GPS. Unfortunately, the tour bus wasn't waiting for us there. So we waited in an old mill (once powered by a mule), while the guide went to look for the minibus. It turns out it had taken a shortcut and had been waiting for us at a point we'd already passed.

When we piled into the bus, we were ready for warm drinks, so the itinerary got shifted around a little and we went to a pottery workshop where they served us tea and demonstrated the kick-wheel potting that has been done in this region for thousands of years. They do reproductions of ancient Hittite designs, including some neat libation jugs shaped like the letter Φ, but with the center of the hole empty. The libator would put his arm through the central hole so that the jug fit over his shoulder. Usually, when I'm taken to a craft shop as part of a tour, I'm underwhelmed, but the pottery they were producing was quite beautiful. I was tempted to buy some, but the good pieces were quite expensive, and I didn't want to carry fragile items around with me.

The rain turned to sleet and then to snow. We did a brief stop at Paşabağ, where there are mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys formed when a layer of harder rock partially protects a softer layer which erodes out from under it. Half of the group went straight to the warm cafe to have some tea, so we didn't stay too long.

After lunch, we headed to Kaymakli, an underground city. This area has been populated for the last 10,000 years or so, and when agriculture became established here, the inhabitants of the area were frequent targets of attackers. Once they had bronze tools, they started digging secret passages under their homes. Then they joined their tunnels to their neighbors, and then later to those of neighboring villages. It's estimated that Kaymakli could have housed 4,000 people underground while they waited for invaders to leave. The tunnels had clever security features (like rolling stone doors with holes in the middle of them for spearing an invader through, and cramped corridors that would force invaders to come through bent over, and stop them from using weapons. There were deep shafts for allowing air into the lower levels (the city goes down about 8 stories), and kitchens and food storage rooms. We got to go into a section of the tunnels that doesn't have electrical lighting, to get a feel for what it might have been like with candles or no light at all.

We had one last stop for local wine-tasting. Our guide claimed that this region has the oldest documented records of wine and beer-making in the world. I'm not a wine connoisseur, so I can't tell you if they've made the most of their head start.

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