Thursday 28 November 2013

Subterranean Cities and Cave Dwellings

After several hours of travelling across the central Anatolian plains along the Silk Road to Cappadocia, evening was fast approaching. It was then that we had our first experience of the unique geology in the area by climbing down into a subterranean city. Along with its attractions above ground, Cappadocia is also world famous for its underground structures. There are many underground cities in the region, and almost all of them are interconnected through tunnels and passageways. One such city call Derinkuyu is made up of 12 layers, 8 of which are open to visitors. They are not places that are suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia or who do not like to crouch low in small narrow tunnels.
According to some archaeologists it is thought that the soft stone was first hollowed out by the Bronze Age Hittites c.1200 BC, others date them back even further in time. It is known that many of the levels were dug out by early Christians to use as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. They have a vast defence network of traps throughout the many levels which are very creative. Many of the entrances have large round stones to block the entrance doors and holes which were mainly used as protection against the Romans.
Moving through the passageways and tunnels you come across rooms that were used for cooking, holding wine presses, oil and wine storage, and livestock pens. The inhabitants could live for weeks or months underground until it was safe to emerge.
One of the protective stones that could be rolled across the passageway to prevent invaders.
It is interesting to reflect on how many people have lived in these subterranean cities over thousands of years.
For the following three evening we stayed at a cave hotel - an attractive and very comfortable residence. 
A welcoming sitting room which had a large roaring fire in the evenings
All set up for breakfast 
A wall in the Dining Room
Corner of the Bedroom
Our next experience of cave living came when we were taken to the cave home of a local family. The parents were away with their son at the hospital, and had left their teenage daughter to show us around.
Speaking generally, gardens tend not to be a feature of Turkish homes. They will have some fruit trees, a vegetable patch, and may be somewhere to sit out of the sun. However, the owners of this Cave house had made a very unusual sculpture feature in front of their home which I thought was fun.
In the living room a carpet was being made which would probably take about 6 more months to complete. The floor was covered all over in several layers of carpets made by different generations of the family. It was a very cosy but decent sized room. The temperature inside remains fairly constant during both the very hot summers and the mild winters, but there was a stove which could be lit if it became really cold and snowed. Whilst we were there the temperatures were in the mid 20s but as soon as the sun went down it became cooler.
Doorway leading to the kitchen
The outside of the cave house and its....
interesting sculpture feature again

Monday 25 November 2013

Konya and Whirling Dervishes

Konya, the cradle of Sufism, sits within the mighty plains of the ancient region of Anatolia. In biblical times it was known as Iconium, one of the greatest Christian communities of its time. It was here that the Apostle Paul and St.Barnabas headed in AD 46 - 48 when they were driven out of Antioch.
Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi 1207-1273
Mevlana, born in Persia was a poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic. As a young man he travelled to Konya and met the Dervish religious leader, Shams-e Tabrizi. A strong friendship and spiritual understanding linked the two men, and under Shams influence Mevlana became an ascetic. Mysteriously Shams disappeared, leaving Mevlana inconsolable. He expressed his emotions through writing poetry, one of which, 'spiritual couplets' is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry. He also began performing the whirling sema dance.
If you are like me, and do not understand the sema dance, perhaps my explanation, learnt as a result of my visit, will help to clarify it. Like most people I was aware that it was a meditative state with a religious significance.
Mevlana's seven principles
1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.
2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.
3. In concealing others faults, be like the night.
4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.
5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.
6. In tolerance, be like the sea.
7. Either exist as you are, or be as you look.
The beautiful cylindrical drum of the Green Mausoleum, Konya.
Beneath these domes lies the 13th century sanctuary of the Dervishes. It houses the tombs of Mevlana, his family and his disciples. 
Mevlana's tomb 
The above two pictures do offer, in part, an explanation surrounding the sema dance.
Contrary to Islamic orthodoxy, poetry, music, and dance are central to the faith of the Dervishes. Serenely reconciled with the notion of death, the Dervishes cast aside a black cape symbolising the tomb to dance in a long white tunic (the shroud) and wear a camel hair turban representing the tomb's headstone (as photos above). The music is celestial and the dancers spin round and round like heavenly spheres. As they dance the right arm and hand is gradually turned upwards to receive God's grace and the left arm and hand turned down to pass it on immediately to mankind. Musicians chant mystic hymns as the dancers whirl into a trance for almost an hour. There are seven parts to the sema each symbolising a stage on the mystic journey to perfection, called ascension.
Removing the black cape symbolising the tomb and revealing the white gown symbolising the shroud.
We were not allowed to take photos during the sema and in fact it would have been totally inappropriate to do so. However, five minutes after they had finished the seven stages of the ceremony and had left the room, they kindly returned and whirled for us so that we could photograph them.
The dance creates a very moving, mystical, and unforgettable experience for the viewer, which we felt was a great privilege to witness.
When I returned home from Kent, it was so lovely to read all of your very kind comments on the previous post - thank you very much.

Friday 22 November 2013

Autumn's Last Gasp

I totally neglected to take any autumn photos in the garden this year. Last Tuesday was a wonderful sunny day so I had a quick dash around to capture what was left.
I have picked some of these luscious red Rowan berries to make jelly which can go with roast lamb, game and cold meats. There are still plenty left for the birds. 
Hydrangea leaves
Beech Tree
We are heading off for the weekend to Kent. My brother-in-law is holding a special birthday lunch for the family

Monday 18 November 2013

The Romans in Aspendos near Antalya

Impressions from around the old town of Antalya 
No need for umbrellas in Antalya - it appears to be wall to wall blue skies and sunshine most of the time.
The ancient town of Aspendos and its Roman theatre count amongst the most important places to visit on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The ancient theatre is one of the best preserved of its kind and is still used for cultural events. Nearby there is a Roman aqueduct system and a Roman bridge. The bridge was rebuilt using the original Roman foundations during the medieval Seljuqs Empire (1037-1194) - today it is receiving some restoration work which is now nearing completion.
The bridge (Eurymedon Bridge) is thought to have been constructed by the Romans at the same time as the Aqueduct.
The aqueduct transported water from the hills over a distance of 19 km. The main importance of this aqueduct lies in its construction. It had three consecutive inverted siphons demonstrating the Roman's sophisticated knowledge of hydraulic engineering.
Lately we keep bumping into Roman soldiers. 
Aspendos is the best preserved Greco-Roman theatre from antiquity. It has a diameter of 315 feet, and can hold up to 20,000 people. Built by the Greek architect Zenon, who was a native of Aspendos, during 161 - 180 AD. Aspendos was also one of the earliest cities to mint coins which it began issuing around 500 BC. The theatre is undergoing considerable restoration work during this winter season.