Today was a dry, warmish day and thus the program was a mountain bike ride to Urgup. I rode through the village, over the renovated bridge and partway up the hill on the far side until the rutted dried mud tracks in the path defeated me. I pushed the bike up the rest of the little winding path up the hill to the main sandy roadway along the top of the valley opposite Ibrahimpasa. Up there the sirocco wind was fierce. Paul and Willemijn had told me about the three winds that come through this part of the world; the third wind apparently heralds a change in the weather from winter to spring. This third wind, today’s wind, is a warm one from Africa, strong enough to push past the Taurus Mountains along the coast to the country’s interior and warm up Cappadocia. It was howling and practically pushed me off the bike at times! But I persevered nevertheless, stopping periodically to shed layers of clothing. It was actually a pleasure to feel hot for a change.

Paul had printed out a map of the area from Google earth which showed the main path, as well as the subsidiary paths and even the churches; this was enormously helpful in that there are few road markers on this road. I found the restored Sarica church but unfortunately it is not open until April 1; this rock church is a heritage site and has won several restoration awards so I was sorry not to be able to see it. However, the other two churches in the valley below, called straightforwardly enough the “Valley of the Churches,” were worth a visit. These two, quite close to one another in a beautiful setting, have exteriors that are more or less conical; they look like something out of the Lord of the Rings. The locals call these formations Fairy Chimneys. The wall frescoes on the smaller of the two are badly damaged; some figures can still be made out but all the faces are defaced …

After some time enjoying the valley, which again I had all to myself, I headed off down the road to Urgup, one of the larger towns in the area. Part of the reason for visiting the town today is that Urgup’s market is on Saturday and I wanted to buy “pamuk”, cotton headscarf material with which I am going to make rubbings. I managed to communicate what I wanted with sign language and a few miserable words in Turkish and bought several fairly large pieces of cloth. I also bought a pair of jeans, enlarging my meager winter wardrobe. After a phone call to Idris, a friend of Willemijn and Paul’s who is an aspiring artist and photographer who has a shop selling candles and world music, I was picked up and escorted to the shop where we had coffee. After, I climbed Urgup’s stone fortress, just for a change of pace … my knees are going to be punishing me for all this climbing later, no doubt. At the top, two guys drinking beer saluted me and three giggly girls agreed to have their picture taken. Coming down the other side, I saw many old, decrepit houses and former hotels, several of which had For Sale signs on them. I enjoyed some dried apricots and an orange while contemplating the general decrepitude.

The ride back was more painful than the ride in; more and longer hills and the same screaming wind pushing me off the bike. I had to pause several times and consume bits of the loaf of bread I’d bought to give me strength for the hills. It looked like it might rain so that put some juice in the ol’ body and, like a horse heading for the barn, I stepped on it and booted it along the path back to Ibrahimpasa. All and all a tiring, but successful, day.

See pictures here.

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