Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keşlik Monastery, Cappadocia

By Chuck and Claire
December 27-28

One of the highlights of our day trip to southeastern Cappadocia was our stop at the Keşlik Monastery. It had been raining and the path was muddy; but, we decided that we would check it out. It was a very simple place and we were the only ones there—not even the ticket taker was present. This rock-cut Byzantine complex housed hundreds of monks. There are 16 houses with chimneys, fireplaces, bookshelves and vandalized frescoes—actually they are “drycoes”: they don't use a true fresco technique. And, you can see the grey nicks left on the rocks by metal chisels.

We enjoyed being able to roam at will around the rooms and to move from chamber to chamber, even up and down levels. Most other rock-cut sites we have visited have quite prescribed inner paths to follow or are simply rooms that overlook other off-limits areas.

Note our friend the cat at Chuck's feet

It sprinkled and rained off and on so we decided to take a driving tour of the area with a stop at several villages and the Keşlik Monastery.

We drove through Mustafapașa, a nice village that has an Ottoman Greek legacy and used to be called Sinasos. We wandered around for awhile with our main goal the Old Greek House, a good choice for lunch, according to Sergio. I also knew that Diane and David had stayed there and we wanted to check it out. We loved the building and decided to head to the Monastery and come back later.

Old Greek House

What a beautiful place! We had another wonderful meal, 5 courses including lentil soup, a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, some chick pea balls (delicious, especially if you like falafel), a main course of vegetables, pilaf, and lamb followed by homemade Helva for dessert. The Helva was very different from what we had tried in Bergama and delicious in its own right. I’m sorry I didn’t get any photos! We staggered out and decided to head back to Göreme and our room to relax. The power went out while we were reading—no problem, we had our book lights—and soon a knock came at the door and there was Sergio with a candle for us. It wasn’t long before the lights were back on.

Much later, we wandered out into town and returned to the first restaurant we had tried. I wasn’t hungry but Chuck can apparently eat at any time. I ordered a bowl of soup, hoping for that green minty kind that was supposed to be lentil; alas, they only had tomato. It was good and it came with the hot bread. Chuck ordered a pide (the Turkish pizza) to go with his soup.

This was the last night of our Christmas getaway (from what?). We are really going to miss this place. The Pashahan Hotel and Sergio have made this a really memorable time for us. I can’t say enough about him. He was attentive, polite, fun, interesting, intelligent and kind. We felt like we were staying with a friend. He put in long days, arriving at 7 am to prepare breakfast for us and staying late into the evening. At our last breakfast we talked a lot about Islam and the Koran. I have so many questions and thought of many more after we left.

Our plan was to drive beyond Konya on the way back and hope to find a hotel closer to home so we could do most of the drive on a Sunday, the best day to drive. It was raining pretty heavily at times and we were so glad we weren’t driving Homer over the mountains and that we had very little traffic except in the cities. Out of nowhere, we saw another police check and were waved over to the side of the road. The cop came over to the window and Chuck told him he was American, assuming they would wave us on as before. Not this time. We were 10 km. over the speed limit. Oops. After 15 minutes of difficult communication, Chuck was handed a ticket for 128 TL (€58.96). We thought the speed limit was 120 km. when in fact, it was 90. That's 62 miles per hour. We felt like we were crawling along, which is what we did for the rest of the trip.

Getting hungry and trying to find a decent place to eat when what we mostly saw was gas station fast food, we finally pulled in to a place next to a gas station that definitely had other people eating and a few cars in front. Walking in I was again the only woman. This was clearly a working man's eatery. There was a huge brick grill in the center of the room with a guy cooking up various cuts of meat. Huge plastic containers loaded with bread were set at each of the tables where the men sat. We felt a little awkward but decided to just grab a seat. Not much happened until a man with very good English started talking to us and asked us what we would like, explaining that we needed to go up to the glass counter and choose what kind of meat we would like grilled. He took care of ordering for us after we told him what we wanted. He wanted to know where we were from and when we told him California, he told us he was a Geologist and had been to Nevada 5 times. The lunch was simply amazing and the grill guy was very nice and even gave us extra pieces. We also received a basket of bread rather than the big plastic container. For 8 TL (€3.60) each we had this lunch, including two cups of tea and a bottle of water each!

We managed to make it to Side (See-duh), a smallish town on the sea. It was getting dark and we were slightly frantic to find the place that Lonely Planet recommended and said was open year round. It took some missed turns and frustration before we finally came to a place that had a "no enter" sign. We pulled over, Chuck got out and went to ask someone where the hotel was. Are we lucky or what? He found a cop who not only knew where it was, he moved a barricade so we could drive through what we now saw was an ancient theatre. The “road” appeared to be a walking lane. We did find the place but the guy told me they were closed. He was kind enough to give me directions to where other pensions could be found. Just a few blocks later, feeling a bit anxious in the dark with nowhere to stay, we pulled up to the Hotel Sevil. I was about to go in when a man appeared on the balcony in his bathrobe with wet hair, clearly having just stepped out of the shower. I asked if he had a room, we negotiated a price and he said, give me 5 minutes. He let us choose among 3 rooms and assured us that everything was very clean. It was and it was a great place to stay. Only 50 TL, including breakfast (€22.50).

We decided to walk around and find a place for dinner. We were in tight, narrow alleyways but found a place where the guy came out and talked us into coming in. After dinner we decided to take a walk down the lane by the sea and came upon more ruins. What a romantic surprise! I mean, it's not like we haven't seen this stuff before, but never at night, overlooking the Mediterranean with the sound of the water slapping against the rocks.

Temples of Apollo and Athena

We began to walk around, mostly to figure out how to get out of this place in the morning, and stumbled upon an incredible amount of ruins all over the town, all lit up and beautiful.

The man made us a lovely breakfast the next morning and we were on the road by 8:45. It was great to see Homer again and the weather was at least 20 degrees warmer that when we left Cappadocia. How will we ever leave Kaș?

I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself. ~ James Baldwin

1 comment:

Pat in Santa Cruz said...

I have been anxiously awaiting your post about your Christmas "vacation." I am breathless from taking it all in. The cave homes, the Whirling Dervishes, the food, the amazing hotel room, incredible people along the way...wow! Again, I just love your descriptions and observations. Turkey is so interesting. Thanks again for sharing.