Our Christmas gift this year was a visit from our daughters. We spent the first four days together doing the things one must do in Istanbul and then toured Turkey’s famous tourist destinations in Cappadocia and Selçuk. Our travels led us into some amazing scenery, dramatic sights and deep historical exploration. In Cappadocia, we hiked the famous Rose Valley, climbed down through five levels of the underground city, watched Whirling Dervishes and wandered through the open-air museum in Goreme National Park.
We then flew to Izmir and stayed in the incredible historic town of Sirince that we have written about in this blog before. In nearby Selçuk, we visited the archeological city of Ephesus, the Ephesus Museum, the burial place of St. John and a very interesting weaving school. Rich had posted a few of his photos that capture a part of the magnificence of the landscape and experience.
We have frequently remarked in this blog upon the generous hospitality of the Turks we have met. In this trip, we were struck by another facet: a deep-rooted pride in a rich cultural heritage, a respect for that tradition and a delight in sharing it. Here are a few examples we offer up as our gift to you as 2014 gives way to 2015.
This pride in sharing a piece of their culture could be evidenced by something as small as the wide smile on the bronze faced farmer as he pressed YET another set of glasses of fresh pomegranate juice at his roadside stand. This was our second visit in 24 hours, and we just couldn’t seem to get enough of this tart but delicious beverage. Our farmer may not have spoken any English, but he was so very pleased with our delight in his juice. We definitely believed we got our years worth of healthy antioxidants in one tall glass. The other part of this miracle is that the fresh squeezed juice was but 1.5 TL, or about 60 cents per glass. We tried to give the farmer more but he wouldn’t take it.
It could be evoked by something amazingly complex and near priceless. We were shown a room with silk cocoons and five looms, and were able to watch as one woman hand-crafted the complex designs for the rugs while another worked a wool and then silk loom so that we could see how it was done. Later, the curator of the national rug museum and his two assistants opened a locked vault for us and unrolled a hand-woven silk on silk rug that had more than 10,000 knots per square inch, took two people 4 years to weave, and which seemed to capture the shimmer of starlight in its intricate pattern and weave. Our gasps were met by prideful nods. They had expected as much and it pleased them that we awed by what we saw.
It was clear to us in the solicitousness of a grey haired artist complete with fashionable neck scarf, who pulled us in out of a rainy midday shower to show off his colleague’s marble reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis. The colleague stood silently by, smiling self consciously as his friend gushed over his creation, and then asked to take a photo of us with the artist, sign in the guest book, and of course, share some tea.
We felt it when we stopped to stockpile some treats for a private New Year’s Celebration and happened upon a gregarious Selçuk baker who made sure we had his best chocolate cake, wrapping it carefully so that it would be perfect when it gets home. Later, as 2014 was drawing to a close, we found an open wine shop in Siringe where we were treated to a tasting of wine and olive oil and several glasses of mulled wine.
We marveled at the way our Sirince host greeted an elderly village woman, dressed in traditional head scarf, flowered pantalons, and hand crocheted sweater, looking like an ordinary local resident. When they met, he bowed, kissed her hands and pressed them to his forehead and heart, following it by a kiss on both cheeks. His respect for what she represented showed us that she was far more than ordinary.
We were pleased that our own two daughters soaked up as much Turkish experience as they could in the ten days that bridged Christmas and New Years, despite flight delays, jet lag and internet blackouts. Traveling on many modes of transportation, coping with amazing new sites and stories, they still took time to pet and cuddle with nearly all the street cats and dogs they met. While it is certainly true that their parents will miss them, we have a feeling the feline and canine population will be in deep mourning after their departure.