Turkey, September 2010

As I sat outside a carpet store this evening sipping tea and listening to a man play a Turkish Saz, a traditional stringed instrument of the Middle East, enjoying conversation with local people and surrounded by homes carved out of stone fairy chimneys, I decided that Goreme, Turkey is the one of the coolest places on earth.

Tom and I took an overnight bus from Istanbul to Goreme, in the heart of Cappadocia in the center of Turkey. We awoke to the sun rising over the white waves of stone canyon that ripple across the landscape here. The canyons walls of Cappadocia are white, pink, and red and they radiate out in all directions from Goreme. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the unique stone structures that Christian settlers built homes and churches out of starting 1500 years ago. Settlers carved into the stone chimneys or into cliffs and created buildings with arched rooms complete with windows and doors. Today, many of the buildings have been turned into hotels, restaurants, and family homes.

We went out for a morning hike before the heat of the day set in, then enjoyed a meal at a cafe in town. It was the same place we had dinner last night but the meal I ordered was so good that we had to have it again. It was a dry flaky pastry with spinach and cheese with spiced yogurt and tomato sauce to dip it in. After spending the summer trying to avoid eating the same rice and beans every meal, we’ve been savoring every bite of Turkish food; the spices, the yogurt, the sauces, the fresh vegetables and spiced meats. After the heat of the day had passed, we rented mountain bikes and headed up one of the canyons. As the light of the day faded, we watched the sun dip below the horizon setting the rock formations aglow. Afterwards, we enjoyed dinner at a 450 year old restaurant where the clay pot meal we’d ordered earlier in the afternoon was cracked open at our table. Food here is served on a short table and you sit on a cushion on a carpet on the floor and lean against another cushion behind you.

The people are talkative and friendly and every store owner invites you in to sit and enjoy tea with them while you discuss business, even if that business involves buying a 75 cent souvenir. I try to imagine if things worked this way in America. You walk into Sears looking for a power drill and the store owner says “Before I sell you drill bits, why you sit down and have some tea together?” Somehow, I can’t picture it happening.