July 28, Sunday
The Ottomans will not leave me alone as I continue my post Institute travel. Now in central Anatolia. Exhausted after our grueling 12 hour bus ride from Istanbul, we gratefully visited the hamam and in the lobby there is a copy of Sultan Mehmet’s declaration guaranteeing the Greek Orthodox Christians in this area the right to continue the practice of their religion. This area has been inhabited for thousands of years but in the 10th century the followers of St. Basil made it their own and carved hundreds of monastic chruches from the soft tufa rock. Cave churches, cemetaries and living quarters abound in rock chimneys and cliffs all over this region. Today we visited the Open Air Museum and the Dark Church full of medieval religious paintings done directly on the chiseled rock celings and walls. It remained Christian throughout the Ottoman Empire until 1923 when Ataturk moved all the locals back to Greece. This is why the Ottomans succeeded in ruling their empire–tolerance as long as everyone paid their taxes.
The local hamam not in the domed historical style but it was still wonderful–a more relaxing experience with a facial and sauna before you were washed and massaged. There was a tepid pool you floated around in at the end and then some lounge chairs where you were served apple tea. Our hotel is backed into a cave with natural stone ceilings and the bathroom is especially nice. My window looks out on to the terrace with a swimming pool which is at the top of steep stairs.
After we toured the 11th century religious caves and churches, we hiked the Rose Valley for more amazing landscapes full of pinnacles with carved out niches for apartments and churches. The landscape is a mix of Bandolier National Park in New Mexico and Canyonlands in Utah. It’s very foreign planet-like and the colors are muted. The Rose Valley looked like the area around Abique, New Mexico but not nearly as colorful. It reminds me of how beautiful my own neck of the woods is and how lucky I am to live in the western United States.
Many Asian tourists here on big group tours in the Open Air Museum which I was happy to leave behind when we left the Open Air Museum for more private, self directed explorations. Some hikers, mostly young Europeans. Overall we walked about 3 hours up and down the hills and will probably continue to hike on our own. We bought a museum card for about $25 which will allow us to go to most of the paid sites including the undeground cities.