ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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GOREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

Cappadocia is not just all about rocks.  Since prehistorical times, humans had established cave dwelling and even underground communities in the area.  Kingdoms rose and fell; trade routes came by and moved away; religions flourished and replaced by other religions as new settlers arrived.  The Hatti community emerged in 2500 BC, then came the Hittites, Assyrians, Phrygians, and Persians.  In AD 17, the Roman arrived and Cappadocia became a province of the empire.  The Christians came in the 3rd century AD, and Cappadocia soon became the dominant culture in the region where uncounted chapels and churches were carved out from the rocks.  In the Medieval Ages, monastic communities flourished and so as caravanserais where trade routes connected Cappadocia with the world along the Silk Road.  In the late Middle Ages, invasions from Turkmenistan, Mongolians, Seljuks and finally Ottomans wrapped up the ever changing story of Cappadocia.

Only 15 minutes from the town centre of Goreme, the Open Air Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Cappadocia.  Despite the crowds, the UNESCO world heritage site is the best place to understand the a part of the history of Cappadocia.

near open air museumIn the midst of fairy chimneys, different kingdoms and communities left their marks in Cappadocia throughout history.

06ME17-17All communities in Cappadocia began in one of the many valleys.  As soon as the first settlers discovered the unique properties of the volcanic rocks, cave communities emerged.

open air museum 1Small cave dwellings and pigeon holes were carved from the rock cliffs.

06ME17-05Small caves led to larger rock cut spaces as the communities evolved, such as the rock cut chapels constructed in the Middle Ages.

open air museum 4Goreme Open Air Museum hosts a number of the rock cut chapels and cave dwellings, mainly from the Byzantine era.

open air museum 5Despite the caves at the Open Air Museum have been abandoned for a long time, visitors today can still imagine how these cave communities might have operated centuries ago.

06ME17-10Many caves are only accessible via a flight of stairs.

06ME17-13What lies inside the caves are the real gem.  The Karanlık Kilise or Dark Church contains some of the best preserved frescoes in the museum.  It presents some great examples of Byzantine art.

 

 

 

 

LOVE VALLEY, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

A short hike to the east from Goreme brought us to the Love Valley, a little valley with  bizarre fairy chimneys – rock pillars capped with dark basalt.  Compared to the ones in Goreme, the fairy chimneys in the valley are much slenderer.  We pretty much had the valley all by ourselves, except a few occasional hikers.  There wasn’t much signage so we had to find our way on our own.  Back then, there weren’t any smartphone with us too.  We ended up reaching the White Valley and the village of Uchisar towards the end of our walk.

love valley 1It was impressive to see all these fairy chimneys in the Love Valley.

love valley 2The trail first took us to a higher ground to appreciate the rock pillars.

love valley 3It isn’t hard to figure out why the place is called Love Valley.

love valley 4Despite the somehow arid climate in the area, the valley was quite green at certain places.

love valley 5It was hard to imagine from the first glance that the pillars were carved out from eroding the surrounding ground, instead of extruding out from earth.

near love valley 2As we walked to other areas, rock formations changed gradually.

near love valley 3There are actually numerous valleys around Goreme that we could visit: Love Valley, Rose Valley, White Valley, Red Valley, Pigeon Valley, etc.

near love valley 4Thick clouds gathered in the valley as we approached the village of Uchisar.

06ME17-29Equally stunning, the rock formations of the White Valley resemble a sea of white waves.

 

NATURE’S SCULPTURE PARK, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

Our bus arrived in Goreme at around 08:00.  Surprisingly the bus went all the way to the village centre, instead of the otogar at Nevsehir.  Arriving at Cappadocia in early morning felt like waking up in another world: minimal traffic, occasional herds of sheep, stone houses and cave dwellings.  But it was the bizarre rock formations, some of which towering straight up the sky known as fairy chimneys that captured our imagination.  The unique rock formations of Cappadocia began 2.6 million years ago when eruption of the ancient volcano Mount Erciyes covered the area (about 20,000 square kilometres) with lava and ash.  The ash later solidified into soft rocks exposed to erosion from wind and water.  As most of the soft rocks were eroded away, the remaining hard rocks appeared like stone chimneys towering towards the sky.

We checked in at Hotel Elif Star to begin our temporary stay in a cave.  The owner Jacky and her cat welcomed us.  Jacky pulled out a map and recommended to us a number of hiking trails around the area, and a few lookouts for sunset watching.

1In the midst of fairy chimney rock formations, unique valleys and the open air museum, Goreme is the main tourist hub in Cappadocia.

2Inhabited since the Hittite era (1800-1200 BC), cave dwellings had been constructed in the era for thousands of years.

3Throughout history, cave dwellings and underground structures have been carved out from the volcanic tuff.  These rock-cut houses of Cappadocia provided homes and hideouts for people escaping from wars and persecutions from close and afar.

4This world famous UNESCO world heritage town receives significant amount of tourists, reaching a record high of 3.8 million in 2019.  When we visited in 2006, Goreme still maintained a relatively peaceful ambience.

5Souvenir shops lined up the main street of Goreme.

6Remnants from the past were still visible on the fairy chimneys in the side streets of Goreme.

7Other than cave dwellings, other buildings in Goreme are also constructed with the local stones.

8We stayed at Elif Star, one of the many cave hotels in Goreme.

9This people-friendly cat approached us during our breakfast time at Elif Star.

10Late afternoon offers the best moment to photograph the unique rock formations.

11There are several popular spots to watch the sunset in and around Goreme.

12Everyday, if weather is fine, tourists should be able to appreciate the scenery of fairy chimneys blanketed in the orange glow.

13Around Goreme, there are a number of hiking trails to explore the interesting rock formations.

14Even without exploring the surrounding valleys, visitors at Goreme can still get close to the fairy chimneys.

15Cappadocia offered one of the best sunset scenery we have ever experienced.

16We watched the sunset everyday while we were in Cappadocia.

17At night, Goreme returns to its former tranquility after tourists make their way back to their hotels.

HIERAPOLIS, Pamukkale, Turkey

2006.05.06

Communal baths and gymnasiums were essential components in the ancient Roman society.  Records show that 952 baths of different sizes could be found in Rome in 354 AD.  Apart from building up the body and engaging on social gossip, a bath and gymnasium complex might also house a library, a theatre, food shops and reading rooms. Erected right at the hot spring of Pamukkale, Hierapolis was a prominent Roman spa resort.  Other than the usual bathing rituals, bathing in Hierapolis was also a form of medical treatment.  Founded in the 2nd century BC as a thermal spa town, where doctors used the hot springs to treat patients.  In its heyday, Hierapolis had bath houses, gymnasiums, temples, fountains, theatre.  Thousands would come to visit the hot spring, including the Roman emperors.  The city of 100,000 became a wealthy city prominent for art, philosophy and trade.  Outside the city wall, the enormous necropolis suggests that many ancient Romans who came to Hierapolis for medical treatment actually died in the spa city.  The recently discovered Tomb of Philip the Apostle and a number of historical sites in Hierapolis suggest Christianity had taken a strong hold in the city from Late Antiquity to the Byzantine era.

06ME15-09Many tourists come to Hierapolis to take a dip in a pool among ruined marble columns.  The pool is, in fact, doing a disservice to the archaeological conservation.  We just spent time wandering around the ruins leisurely and aimlessly.

necropolis 1Red poppy and yellow wild flowers covered large parts of the ground among the ruins of Hierapolis.

06ME15-25Built in 2nd century AD under Emperor Hadrian, the theatre at Hierapolis has 45 rows of seats that could accommodate about 15,000 spectators.

necropolis 2Tombs and sarcophagus of different sizes could be found in the necropolis.  Some sarcophagus were elevated by a post and beam structure.

06ME15-15The extensive necropolis stretches kilometers and contains thousands of tombs from different era.

06ME15-29We once again passed by the travertine terraces of Pamukkale as we left Hierapolis.

narrow pathInstead of walking down the travertine terraces in barefoot once again, we opted for another winding path to descend.  The path is not for people who scares of height.

 

COTTON CASTLE, Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

2006.05.06

Three hours of bus ride took us from Selcuk to Pamukkale.  Like everyone else, we came to Pamukkale for the spectacular travertine terraces.  As we hopped off the bus, we were immediately approached by bus companies selling us tickets onward from Pamukkale.  Along the path to the pools, we stopped by a small shop for a bowl of spicy Korean noodles.  The first glance of the white travertine pools cascading up the slope under the blue sky was a truly spectacular sight.  Pamukkale in Turkish literally means “cotton castle”.  To many, the otherworldly scenery of the white and reflective travertine pools is one of the two most iconic natural wonders of Turkey (the other being the rock formations of Cappadocia).  The travertine terraces at Pamukkale is made from continuous mineral deposit of hot spring accumulated for thousands of years.  Calcium carbonate from the hot spring is deposited as a soft gel and gradually crystallizes into travertine.  Pamukkale has been a popular tourist attraction for over two thousand years.  Hieropolis, the spa resort town at Pamukkale, was founded in the 2nd century BC and flourished for centuries as a hot spring and healing resort in the Roman and Byzantine Empire.  Today, Pamukkale continues to see large number of visitors from all over the world.

We entered the gate and soon found ourselves arriving at the remarkable travertine area.  Shoes were not allowed, and visitor circulation was restricted to a designated path going uphill to the top.  The only way to truly experience the pools up close was to take off our shoes and hiked up the travertine path in barefoot.  Covered with layers of calcium deposit, walking uphill on the travertine was quite a torture for our feet.  Along the way, we were disappointed to see that most pools had been dried up.  Moreover, this site was just full of visitors jammed one after another on the path.  Unless visiting at 8am during low season, it was next to impossible to enjoy the natural beauty without getting frustrated from overcrowding and misbehaving tourists.  According to the UNESCO, this world heritage is threatened by over-tourism, hotel constructions near the pools, water pollution by bathers, illegal diversion of thermal water, etc.  In recent years, hotels near the pools were removed, vehicular access banned, and pool access for tourists has been restricted, but overcrowding remains as an issue for the management to tackle.

travertine pools 1The sheer scale of the white travertine terraces is quite spectacular.

travertine pools 3We were lucky to have perfect blue sky during our visit.

travertine pools 2The travertine terraces are as white as snow, but as hard as rocks.

travertine pools 4The lower section of the terraces look fairy-tale like from a distance.

travertine pools 5We were disappointed to see many terraces were dried up.

travertine pools 6The scene would be quite different if the hot spring remained flowing down the terraces.

travertine pools 7Other than Pamukkale, similar terraces and pools can be found elsewhere in the world, such as Hierve el Agua in Mexico and Huanglong in China.  Each site has its own unique qualities.

travertine pools 9The weather didn’t look too promising when we reached the top of the terraces.

06ME15-06Before the weather get any worse, we headed over to Hieropolis for a brief visit of the Roman ruins.

PERFECT SUNSET, Selcuk, Turkey

2006.05.05

Sleepy town of Selcuk welcomes one of Turkey’s biggest concentrations of tourists.  Home to the mighty Ephesus, as well as the ruined Basilica of St John (where some believed was the final resting place of St John the Apostle) and House of the Virgin Mary (a stone house where some said was the final home of the Virgin Mary), Selcuk has its unique power to attract visitors from around the world while maintaining the tranquility as a small town in the Aegean Region.  After visiting Ephesus, we strolled around the town for a short while and completed the day by enjoying a glass of wine and a moment of perfect sunset on the rooftop of Homeros Pension.

streetscape 2Away from the Classical ruins, Selcuk is still dotted with historical buildings from the Middle Ages.

06ME14-06Alpaslan Mesciti is a 14th century building.  Today, the building continues to serve as a mosque.

man in selcukThe Turkish way to chill out: to smoke Turkish tobacco with a water pipe or nargile in the front porch of their home or shop and watch the world goes by.  The tradition started 500 years ago in the Ottoman Empire. Its popularity declined as cigarettes entered the Turkish market after World War II.  In recent two decades, water pipes have made a solid comeback for the younger generations.

06ME14-02Other than smoking nargiles, some locals we met chose to play music to celebrate the last hour of sunlight.

06ME14-08Many of the elder generation preferred to socialize at the outdoor area of a cafe.

streetscape 3Near Homeros Pension, the beautiful sunset made everything to appear under a tint of orange.

streetscape 4Walking under the last bit of sunlight on the hill was a sublime experience.

06ME14-13For our short stay in Selcuk, we picked Homeros Pension, a family run guesthouse full of character.

06ME14-14The common areas of Homeros Pension are richly decorated.

06ME14-15Local handicrafts fit perfectly well with the interior.

homeros pension 4Apart from local handicrafts, we could also find gifts left by previous travelers, such as these koalas from an Australian traveler.

06ME12-08The delicious food at Homeros was prepared by the experienced hands of the elderly staff.

06ME14-22The rooftop patio was a fantastic spot to enjoy the sunset.  We were invited by the friendly staff to have a glass of wine during sunset.

homeros' roof patio 2With the clean air and relatively low buildings, we had no trouble watching the sun setting below the far horizon.

06ME14-27Watching the marvelous sunset and mingling with the other guests at the guesthouse on the rooftop patio was the perfect way to end our day.

 

 

 

 

RUINS OF EPHESUS, Selcuk, Turkey

2006.05.05

After breakfast, a staff of Homeros Pension drove us to a bank for money exchange before dropping us at the world renowned archaeological ruins of Ephesus (Efes).  Ephesus is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, thanks to its close proximity to the cruise port and airport in the resort town of Kusadasi.  The magnificent facade of Ephesus’ Library of Celsus is the signature image of Classical ruins in Turkey.  Two thousand years ago, Ephesus was one of the greatest Greek and Roman cities in Asia Minor.  Founded in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greeks, Ephesus reached its peak after the Roman takeover in 129 BC.  From 52-54 AD, Paul the Apostle stayed in Ephesus and probably wrote his Gospel in the city.  Ephesus was named as one of the seven churches of Asia in the Book Revelation, indicating Christianity was quite popular back then.  In the Byzantine era, major earthquakes, shifting of trade routes, and sacking by the Arabs all contributed to the downfall of Ephesus.  Its glorious past was eventually forgotten, and Ephesus was eventually abandoned in the 15th century.  Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the magnificent Library of Celsus and the 25,000 seat theatre exemplify the former grandeur of the city.  Already in ruins since 401 AD, the Temple of Artemis has little remained except a restored column.  The restored facade of Library of Celsus remains as the biggest draw for visitors.

06ME12-10Seats for up to 24,000 spectators, the splendid great theatre of Ephesus was the first impressive building that we encountered in the site.

ephesus 1It was the time in the year where poppies flourished.

06ME12-21Right by Celsus Library, the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates was a arch of triumph built in 40 AD during the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor and the great nephew of Julius Caesar.

06ME12-24Popular with tourist advertisements, the facade of the Library of Celsus is the most famous image of Ephesus.  Named after Celsus, a Roman consul in Rome and later the provincial governor of Asia, the library was built by Celsus’ son Aquila and filled with over 12,000 scrolls of reading materials acquired by the money of Celsus left behind.

ephesus 3From 117 to 262 AD, the Library of Celsus served as an important public space in Ephesus for 145 years, where people came to read the rare scrolls under natural light at the main floor.  In 262 AD, the library was destroyed by fire caused by earthquake or Gothic invasion.

ephesus 2The statues at the library facade symbolize wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and valor.

ephesus 5Episteme, the Greek philosophical term of “knowledge”, was depicted as one of the statues at Library of Celsus.

06ME13-11The imposing Library of Celsus is the most popular photo spot in Ephesus.

06ME13-07After the destruction in 262 AD, the facade survived for another 800 years or so until the tenth or eleventh century.  Lying in ruins for about a thousand years, the facade of Library of Celsus was restored in the 1970s.

06ME13-10As an important Roman city, Latin inscriptions can be found all over Ephesus.

06ME13-04Beyond Mazeus & Mithridates Gate, a Corinthian colonnade marks the Agora, the former commercial heart of the ancient city.

06ME13-20Paved with marble stone and flanked by colonnade, Curetes Street was one of the main treets in Ephesus.

06ME13-30Along the street, there are lots of interesting architectural details for all visitors to discover.

06ME13-25The Odeon was used for political meetings, concerts and theatrical performances.

06ME13-26Roman relief of the Memmius Monument

06ME13-28Nike, the goddess of victory, was depicted on a marble relief.

06ME13-16Arch with relief sculpture at the Temple of Hadrian.

06ME13-18Headless Roman statue at Curetes Street.

06ME13-22The Hercules Gate at Curetes Street marked the separation between uptown and downtown.

06ME13-32Beautiful frieze at Hadrian Temple revealed the high craftsmanship of the Roman  builders.