Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Promised Post

If anyone was wondering, here finally is the last of the posts of my week in Turkey. One filled with observations on the kind of things I notice - apart from all the usual things that one sees in a foreign country & around its tourist attractions.

Firstly, on one of my back-street wanders between attractions (in this case the Golden Horn & Galata Tower) through reasonably normal city shops I stumbled across dozens of little shops. Each shop seemingly devoted to an individual aspect of, all things, engineering - covering process, mechanical, manufacturing & more.

Want a fan or blower?  There's a shop for that:

How about an electric pump? There's a shop for that too. Actually, I was keen to investigate replacement soap initials pumps for work - but I don't think they would have fitted in my baggage allowance & I don't know the Turkish for flowrate, head or impellor.

Pallet trolley?

Petrol-driven pump? Compressor?

Traffic management items?

A very bizarre little shopping area to wander around. Air-tools, welders, power tools, hand tools - there were shops for each of those too & many more.

Once I was in Cappadocia, it was a much more rural area - which meant tractors. I was most pleased to see that ninety percent of the tractors used on the many fields were of one type. Classic Massey Fergusons - for some reason my father has a particular liking of these small tractors. Consequently, I'm quite fond of these little red workhorses as they remind me of Dad & my childhood growing up on the orchard in Papamoa.

Most of the Massey Fergusons I saw were 135s, - such as the one below in the main street of Goreme - which were built between 1964 and 1975. I'd always been under the impression that Massey Ferguson was an English company - probably because ours was built in England; but as it turns out Massey-Harris and Ferguson were two Canadian companies that merged in 1953.

The Massey Ferguson 35 is probably the most recognisable model, it was the largest selling tractor in the world. It was made from 1957 through to 1964 in various countries - this is the model that we had when I was still small enough that driving it was a bit of stretch. There were a few around town - this was the best looking example. I must have looked rather strange - a tourist wandering back through town after dinner out, spending an inordinate amount of time peering at all the details in the dark.

As well as old tractors, there were scores of old Renault 12s.  These were discontinued by Renault thirty-odd years ago, but there were so many still around I was bewildered.  Apparently, they still sell for six thousand lira (just under £2000) - which is astounding as my ten year old car only cost me half that.  It turns out that variations of the 12 were made in Turkey until 2000 - so not quite as strange as first thought.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Last day in Istanbul - Kariye Muzesi

One attraction of Istanbul that I hadn't managed to see previously & was apparently worth visiting was Kariye Muzesi (Chora Museum).  In rather the opposite direction to the main attractions, I vaguely followed my nose walking west & after half an hour or so picked up the tourist signs.  Up sprung the usual shops selling the usual guff to tourists, but they as usual were of no consequence to the fantastic building next door.  With an unusual lack of symmetry, this building is supposedly one of the best-looking examples of a Byzantine church left.  Like Hagia Sophia, this church was converted to a mosque and later a museum.

However, much of the Christian art remain & is most spectacular - in the form of mosiacs & frescos.  The mosiacs really are the highlight though - such vivid colouring & fine detail.  The audioguide is well above average & did a great job of explaining so many different scenes from Mary & Christ's lives. Once a coach-load or two had passed through, it was nice enjoying the intimacy of a building much smaller than most of the other big sights in the city.

Much of the rest of the day was spent walking randomly around town towards the Golden Horn, stopping to read when I found an appropriate shady bench or patch of grass to lie (nap) on. More excellent seafood harbourside before walking back up the hill home - did get the best & cheapest Turkish delight (baklava) I've ever had (7 lira/kg! - that's less than three quid), that was a hit back in England.

So that's my week in Turkey - what a great place, I was continually surprised and fascinated. A strange mix of first world and third world, not to mention being on two continent - those factors may or may not be related. Another five o'clock start for the flight back to London, I'm still getting over that facet of the vacation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cappadocia day tours

Emerging from my little nap in time to catch the minibus, I headed on the larger (geopgraphically) of the day tours offered by Andromeda.  First stop was a view point to get a good look at the valleys surrounding the town.

Around the area there are numerous underground cities that the locals used to hide from invaders.  We went to one of the biggest at Derinkuyu - crazy that hundreds of people lived fifty metres underground for up to six months at a time.  It was great fun walking stooped through some very small tunnels - the tunnels were small to slow down any enemies & make it easy to pick them off.  There were plenty of big disc-shaped rocks propped up near strategic doorways that could be easily rolled in to place & only opened from the defenders' side.

With the driving inbetween, it was about one o'clock before we began what was misrepresented as a hike. There were a lot of stairs down in to Ihlara Valley, before we found yet another cave church near the river.  It was a nice hour-long walk down the tranquil path looking up at more man-made caves. For motivation, lunch was waiting for us at the end - the dining room was on a pontoon floating on the river. Very nice trout was enjoyed by many.

The highlight of the day for me was Selime Monastery.  More of the same in some respects, but much rawer as a tourist attraction. Plenty of caves, churches, tunnels, dead-ends and ladders to explore - with very few people around.  It was like being eight years old again - at least what I remember of the wonder of exploring such interesting places.

There's a good chance after such a long day, I had yet another nap (holidays are great) before heading out for dinner - in a cave. All good fun sitting in the dark, on the floor, writing postcards eating all manner of Turkish foods with a nice local wine to wash it down.

The more local tour on Friday had a fair bit of the time looking at fairy chimneys - what the area is most famous for.  They come in three types - as I heard more than once while in town - cylindrical, cone & mushroom.  Naturally, they're also a good place to build your house or church.

We had a brief visit to Cauvsin Old Village, which is mostly in ruins & deserted. This was interesting as we had flown right on top of it the previous day & the pilot had pointed out the features & where someone with too much money was restoring part of it to form a hotel.  We popped inside a very small mosque, that like many in the country, used to be a church before the Ottomans came along.

There was a bit of time watching master-craftmen at work at a local pottery studio - conveniently located next to the largest buffet restaurant I've ever seen, to cater for the bus loads of tourists.  Nonetheless, it was very impressive, intricate work & I managed to walk out with a small souvenir of my Turkish stay.

The mushroom type of fairy chimneys:

A short stop at a government facility that supports local traditional carpet makers where we got the hard sell on carpets - they unrolled dozens in front of us.  All of them very nice, big & expensive. If I had a home to furnish, I may have had a harder time not spending hundreds of pounds on a carpet.  As it was, I got a small rug - much needed in my room.
Well, I was working with luminous fish and I thought... hey - loom.

This time we drove into the Valley of Imagination, instead of floating in.  So-called because it only takes a little imagination to see all sorts of things in the rock structures.

That's me - that doesn't take so much imagination

There was a photographer with this couple

Back to the hotel in just enough time to collect my bags & get a shuttle to Neveshir & my flight back to Istanbul. An excellent three full days in Goreme & Cappadocia - ballooning obviously the highlight & a great way to see the extraordinary scenery, but the museums & cave dwellings not to be sniffed at either.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ballooning in Cappadocia

On the advice of Ben & Gina and to mark three years since I left NZ, I shelled out a few more lira for what I was sure was going to be a very memorable experience & upgraded to a longer flight on a smaller balloon. This turned out to be very good advice as there were only three of us trying to see the views - not twenty in a giant basket.

After a great buffet Turkish breakfast - I tried to do it justice considering it was five o'clock in the morning - we bundled in to a small Kangoo & drove the short distance to the landing site. Our pilot was an experienced Aussie, David, from the Gold Coast & he'd chosen a place to take off (influenced by wind conditions) from well away from most of the other balloons - this was good as we could see all the others easily, instead of being in the middle of it all.

As we arrived, the ground crew had the balloon & basket laying on their sides, and were using a fan & burners to help inflate the balloon. Naturally, as the balloon rose the basket was eventually righted & we clambered in. The take off was ever so gradual & smooth & all of a sudden we were floating over & into various valleys with David's expert control - a few times we all but landed on top of the various rock formations.

I'll try not to say too much more & just leave the photos to speak - it was a most pleasant hundred minutes & with spectacular scenery & definitely one of the activities on my travels that will stay with me for a long time.

David (Gold Coast), Sheldon (Vancouver Is), me (NZ of course), Christopher (LA)

Floating past some of the formations we pretty much landed on

Honeymoon Valley

Some of the seventy-odd balloons up

Goreme is the biggest commercial ballooning venue in the world - in the middle of summer there will be over a hundred balloons up each morning.

Valley of Imagination

Another balloon inspecting vines & fruit trees - in summer, with a good pilot, you can pick apricots off the tree tops

A gentle landing, after extending our flight to miss the reminder of man's ability to generate electricity, we had the traditional celebratory champagne before heading back to various hotels.  An unexpected bonus was part of our drive back home was on the Silk Road - past one of the camel staging areas.  What a morning & it was only eight o'clock - just enough time for second breakfast and a nap before a day tour.