Monday, April 30, 2012
The second day in Seville we walked to the Espacio Metropol Parasol which is a large structure that the locals call "the mushroom" and which has caused a bit of a stir. You are meant to be able to take a lift up on top to see the city but it all seemed to be closed. Took some good photos though. We then went to the Real Alcazar de Sevilla (the royal palace of Seville) which, again, is lavish, enormous, impressive and showing the moorish heritage of southern Spain (took some more good photos).
Incidentally, the BBC program had a panel discussing Rupert Murdoch's appearance before the Leveson inquiry. It was brilliant! (not his appearance - the panel discussion).
Our next stop is Cordoba, and we are looking forward to it, but we are thinking that three cities in quick succession in Andalusia with its moorish heritage might be a bit of overkill. We'll let you know...
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Oh yes, the photo below is another WTF!!? moment. We saw these boomerangs in one of the trashy market stalls that line the laneways behind the main streets. Spanish boomerangs!! Who would have thought? And coincidentally Spain's indigenous people use the same painting techniques and motifs as ours!
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Barcelona the city, like the people who live there, seems to be an elegant and stylish place. I spent some time looking at the shops getting a preview of next summer's fashions.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Today we took a day tour around Cappodocia. There were only ten of us (four Argentinians, two Koreans, a couple from India and us) and our tour guide and a driver. We drove quite a few kilometres and didn't finish until about 6 pm, so we had enough time to get to know each other. We all got on very well and this made the day a special one for us.
Our first stop was a large canyon that a river had carved into the soft local stone. This canyon is the Ihlara Valley and we walked the 360 steps down into the valley and then walked along the river for three or four kilometers. It was an excellent walk with great scenery and a good view of the many caves carved into the steep cliffs.
We then went on to the underground city of Derinkuyu. This is the largest and deepest of the underground cities discovered so far and we walked down to the fifth level, 55 metres underground. We saw where they pressed grapes for wine, where they prepared bodies for burial, a chapel, a large common area which it is thought they used for religious education, and where they stabled their livestock. The grey hole below is the ventilation shaft looking down from the fifth level!
The history of these cities is complex, but they were carved out over thousands of years, each successive settlement of peoples carving, modifying and enlarging for their own purposes. In the early centuries after the death of Christ, Christians settled here and used the underground tunnels and caves for refuge from raiding tribes.
After Derinkuyu we returned to Goreme (where we are staying) via a jewellery emporium specializing in onyx and a store specialising in Turkish delight, nuts and dried fruit.
After all that climbing and walking Judith and I were, in the vernacular, knackered so we packed our cases and had an early night. Tomorrow we fly to Barcelona via Istanbul.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Well, today was the day of the balloon flight. We got up before dawn and were picked up from our hotel and taken to a local restaurant for breakfast (along with about 200 other tourists). Now, I say "breakfast", but actually that's the term given it by the tour company. I had a cup of instant coffee and two chocolate wafery things - they seemed the most innoffensive objects on the table.
Anyway, after a half an hour we were all bundled off in buses to the various launching sites on the edge of town. Judith estimated that over 100 balloons went up that morning - each of them with a basket carrying 24 people paying 150 euro each ($175 AUD). That's an approximate value of $AUD 420,000 floating through the air - and this is the low season!!
Anyway (moving right along), the balloon flight went off without a hitch and Judith and I had a great time. It was our first balloon flight and the views were spectacular. The landscape itself was fascinating to see, but then add to that the spectacle of over 100 hot air balloons up at the same time and you get a breathtaking spectacle. It is one thing to see the erosion up close and personal, but the ballon flight enables one to see the big picture and the grand scale of the landscpape.
Yes, it was expensive and they obviously overcharge, but it was indeed fantastic and we have no regrets. Oh yes, there was one regret: the views were so great I took millions of photos and then had to cull masses of them.
The tour company dropped us back to our hotel room where we had a couple of hours of sleep to compensate for the early morning rising. In the afternoon we both had a Turkish bath which was a nice bit of pampering mixed with a bit of a sudsy massage. Judith and I compared notes afterward and it sounds as if I got the better deal as I had the same guy leading me and washing me through the whole process. Judith enjoyed hers but thought the experience might be enhanced by doing it with a small group of friends.
In the evening we went to a Turkish night of food, music and entertainment which was at a specially designed venue about 15 km away from our hotel. We were not sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised. The food was OK, the wine was Turkish (!??) but the dancing (traditional Turkish from various regions) was very professional and well done. The belly dancer was excellent and represented the highlight of the evening.
We were whisked back to our hotel by 11.20 and so ended our day as fully-fledged package tourists.
Tomorrow we are going on a day tour of Cappodocia which will include one of the underground cities. We are both looking forward to it, especially as we don't have to get up at the crack of dawn.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
We returned from the island of Samos on a ferry trip that was as smooth as the one over was rough. You just can't plan these things - even Judith took a travel sickness tablet beforehand this time. Still, we were grateful that the trip back was a pleasant and uneventful one. The evening we returned there were three cruise ships in the harbour. Within 24 hours they were all gone. Yes folks, it's seven wonders of the ancient world in seven days!
We stayed in Kusadasi at the same hotel for two nights and got the washing done and generally just took it easy. The next day we took an hour's drive to Izmir airport (where the flight was delayed for an hour and a half), flew to kayseri experiencing one of the roughest take-offs and landings we have ever experienced, and then took a shuttle bus to a town called Goreme which took another hour. There's no doubt about it, jet-setting sure is glamorous and sophisticated!
We are now staying in a part of central Turkey called Cappodocia which is a world heritage site. Many millennia ago two volcanoes erupted and left a massive layer of volcanic ash over the area. This ash subsequently was eroded away, except where harder rock forms resisted erosion and preserved the volcanic rock supporting them. The result is a plethora of phallic shaped rocky towers and a rugged moonscape.
Now, fast-forward to the centuries after Christ's crucifixion and we find that the early Christians (particularly the anchorites) settled in this area partly because of the harshness of the landscape and the climate. The ascetic life was one of hardship, which the Anchorites thought would bring them closer to God. (!!?) The advent of Arab raiding parties in the 7th and 8th centuries drove the monks underground taking their communities with them. Here, they built large underground cities housing thousands of people.
With the arrival of the Turks into Asia Minor, the Christian communities gradually dwindled and local Inhabitants moved into the more accessible underground dwellings. This area only came to the attention of the world outside this immediate region when it was discovered by a French Jesuit priest in 1907. It has now become a prime tourist destination which is itself changing the landscape yet again.
On our first day here we settled into the town and visited the Open Air Museum. This museum contains the ruins of an ancient monastic community, and includes quite a few underground churches with varying degrees of preserved frescoes. Apparently there are still a number of churches and underground structures as yet undiscovererd.
Quite rightly, photography is forbidden inside the churches so we will be unable to provide any pictures in this blog. If you would like to see them, you will have to come here yourself - something we would recommend anyway.
This also served as an introduction to the local eroded landscape. Tomorrow we are going on an early morning balloon flight over the area and on Wednesday we are taking a day tour which will include one or two of the underground cities. Can't wait...