Ortahisar

Today’s project was a walk to the nearest village, Ortahisar. I went down through the valley, up the other side and along the usually sandy but now very muddy road along the top of the valley opposite Ibrahimpasa. While walking, I was on the lookout for a pack of wild dogs that are somewhere in the area. Paul told me yesterday that a friend of his had been walking in the hills and encountered a 40-strong pack of wild dogs two days ago near Mustaphapasa, about 5 km from Ibrahimpasa. Luckily, I did not see them, nor did I hear them.

Coming down the path into Ortahisar after about an hour of walking, I encountered a local woman who was picking greens in a field above the town. In sign-language she asked me to come with her to her home for a cup of tea. Obedient as ever, I walked with her down into the village and into her cave home. Opening the door into her living room, she woke her son who had been sleeping on the couch – he did not seem to fazed to see me, though (perhaps she makes a habit of this sort of thing). While she was brewing the tea, I chatted with the son who did speak a bit of English. After 10 or so minutes, a granddaughter came home from school – Dilek – whose reddish hair, which they referred to as “yellow”, seemed to be a source of pride to granny. Granny showed me pictures of her family, three daughters, one son and several grandchildren; she seemed especially proud of one daughter, a doctor in Nevsehir.

After I had consumed two cups of tea and some homemade bread, Granny brought out a pink and purple knitted shawl, which I admired but made clear I did not want. Then she brought out a pair of crocheted brown wool socks with knitted flowers and, tipped off by yesterday’s encounter with Fatma, I asked her “How much?” She replied that, because I was a friend, she would sell them to me for 10 lira; unfortunately, I didn’t have 10 lira. I gave her a twenty and asked for change, at which she lifted up the carpet and produced a 5 … sigh. So, my socks cost me 15. (I purchased another pair of knitted socks from one of Willemijn’s neighbours yesterday, as well, for 15 lira). I’m going to have to figure out a way to gracefully decline cups of tea from old Turkish women or I’m going to be broke and come home with hundreds of pairs of knitted socks.

After that, I made my way up into the town proper and, in the town square across from the mosque, found Crazy Ali’s antique shop. Ali is a friend of Paul and Willemijn and Paul had said that I should pay him a visit. He offered me Turkish coffee and told me about the “Do unto others” philosophy of his grandfather the Sufi. While we drank coffee, he recited three poems for me with a great deal of gusto. I explained to him that I was looking for small pieces of wood to paint on; he produced some for me and then offered to show me the Hospital Monastery on the outskirts of town on property that had formerly belonged to his grandfather. This monastery is only remnants now, consisting of carvings and frescoes on the hill’s exterior rocks, and two rock-cut churches inside the cliffs. These have domes and pillars and tombs, many of which are quite eroded. In one, a strange figure with arms and legs outstretched has been carved into the top corner of the ceiling.

After poking around the monastery for a bit, I then climbed up the fortress of Ortahisar. Although it is officially closed for restoration, it is still possible to get up the rock stronghold by climbing through a window. Then one can mount metal stairs that go all the way to the tip. I climbed up half-way and had a great view of the town and valley from there. After I clambered down, Ali kindly offered to give me a lift part way back to Imbrahimpasa on his vespa; however, the path was so muddy that it could not really get much traction and so I walked most of the way. Tonight I’m looking forward to another meal cooked in the big lounge, hopefully with a fire in the fireplace – it’s still cold here. Apparently, it’s supposed to warm up in a couple of days – yippee!

See pictures here.

Here’s more info:

Ortahisar means “middle castle,” and as its name implies, it is central among the Cappadocian towns of Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar (“outer castle”) and Nevsehir, and only a few kilometers from Goreme Open Air Museum. While entering the town, you will notice doors on the rock surface on both sides. These doors are the best example of cool-air storages in Cappadocia. In these natural air-conditioned rooms, lemons and oranges from the Mediterranean region, apples from Nigde, local potatoes, quinces and onions are stored. Green lemons slowly turn yellow in these store-rooms. The natural fortress, 90 m high, a prominent landmark in the region, honeycombed with caves and tunnels, camouflaged by nature without the slightest indication of human presence inside, has partly crumbled away, revealing some of its interior.

Many settlements in Cappadocia were established primarily as monastic communities. The Hallacdere (Wool Fluffers) monastic complex (also known as Hospital Monastery) 1 km northeast of Ortahisar is one of the best examples of the courtyard monasteries. It has vestibule, a kitchen, a large tomb chamber, five rooms of different sizes and a church with an inscribed-cross plan with four columns. The animal-head decoration on some of the column capitals and the sculpture of a human figure on the wall of one of the rooms are unique in Cappadocia. The ground level inside the complex is more than one meter below that of the courtyard level because of the silting.

When Christians left Cappadocia, local people turned this complex into a pigeon house. Today there are also some of the most interesting examples of Anatolian Islamic Decoration Art to be seen on the walls of the monastery.

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