Tag Archive: Turkey


Cappadocia

Directly after the EU Negotiations Team Briefing we piled back onto the bus to head to Cappadocia. Cappadocia is in central-ish Turkey and has some of the most amazing land formations in the world. I definitely put it in the top 10 and it is one of those places you must see before you die. Note to self- make a top 10 scenery list.

During our drive to Cappadocia we had to decide whether or not we wanted to take a hot air balloon ride through the valleys the next morning. I chose not to go for it for a couple of reasons. 1. It costs around $300US. 2. You have to get up really bloody early. 3. I want to wait and do it with someone special. I may be waiting for awhile.

Anyway, our day in Cappadocia was pretty wonderful. On our way to some of the valleys and Goreme we stopped at this little roadside area where there were a few locals selling their goods. It also had an amazing view of one of the valleys. It was at this point that I had my first conversation entirely in Turkish! I decided to buy some postcards (which some of you will have received) and when I went up to the counter to purchase our conversation could be translated into the following:

Me: “Hello” Salesperson: “Hello”, Me: “How much”, Salesperson: “something I didn’t understand”, Me: *hands over money* “Thank you”.  Don’t give me that look. It was very exciting.

Before we went to Goreme Open Air Museum we went stopped at the head of a walking trail that led through a valley full of fairy chimneys. Due to the fact that I was in a group and we had time constraints we were only able to spend about an hour walking up the trail and back again. Along the trail we came upon 2 very poor vendors. One was a man who was selling cheap souvenirs and the other was a woman selling the most beautiful handmade jewelry I have ever seen. She crocheted necklaces, earrings and bracelets with beads. As far as Turkey goes, they were fairly expensive ($25), but considering how much they would sell for in the Western World…completely worth it.

After our little jaunt through the fairy chimneys (insert appropriate drug related joke here) we went to Goreme Open Air Museum. The museum is a bunch of cave churches (carved into the fairy chimneys). Due to the fact that they don’t allow flash photography in the caves, there is no direct sunlight and most of the frescos (cave drawings) are on the walls and ceiling the fresco’s are insanely well preserved. The Christians lived in this area to avoid persecution. They lived in cave dwellings in the cliffs and that included the churches. We actually saw slow destruction of some of the frescos in action, which is exciting, but awful at the same time. One of the fairy chimneys  had a section that broke away (due to erosion) and some of the fresco’s were exposed.

There were three fresco’s all in a row. One of them was fully exposed to the elements, one was partially exposed and the other was sheltered under an overhang of rock. Needless to say the 1st fresco was nearly completely faded. The 2nd fresco was fading, but not as badly as the 1st and the 3rd was barely faded at all. Bit scary to think that with erosion and exposure to the elements, these fresco’s may not be here at all one day.

We also stopped by the aptly named “Love Valley”. Take a look at the facebook album at the bottom of the page and the fairly phallic rock formations will explain how it received its nickname.

Goreme is also famous for its pottery, as is evidenced by all the ceramic pots decorating the town. After lunch we made a brief stop at an old pottery house. When I say ‘old’, I mean that this family has been in the pottery business for generations. We were given a demonstration (which I participated in) of how pottery was once made (manual spinning wheel, which I’d actually used in my ceramics class in high school). We were then taken to one of the workrooms to see the painting process. We saw both novice painters who still use patterns (including the family “crest) and we saw an expert who was able to paint the family “crest” (see pictures) without using a pattern at all.

The family crest for this particulary family consisted of rows and rows of flowers in varying colours as can be seen in the album “Turkey 4” pictures 176. Each row signifies a generation of potters in the family. Needless to say, this family business goes back a long way.

Albums with photos from this part of the trip can be seen at Turkey 4 and the beginning of Turkey 5.

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Our very last briefing of the trip was with the EU Accession Negotiation Team for Turkey. Yes, you read correctly. We got to meet the actual team that is directly involved in negotiations with bringing Turkey into the European Union.

It was interesting to hear their perspective on it. Obviously we went directly to the negotiations room and were briefed about the different criterion for entry into the EU. I always figured it was just basic civil rights that was blocking Turkey’s entry, such as a distinct lack of freedom of speech. Being as Turkey has a very strong and growing economy at the moment one would think that the EU would be glad to bring Turkey in. However, countries such as Greece and France (mainly Greece), have been blocking Turkey’s accession.

Traditionally there has always been a bit of cross-Meditteranean rivalry between the two countries. They don’t really get along all that well for whatever reason. Anyway, the point is that Turkey is having issues getting into the EU, mainly due to the fact that Greece has a beef with them. This being said, with the state of the EU at the moment, does Turkey really want to join now anyway?

One of our final briefings was with an NGO called Çağdaş Yaşami Destekleme Derneği, which in English literally translates to “Association for Support of Contemporary Living”. The main objective is to provide education to those who may otherwise go uneducated (young girls in Eastern Turkey mainly) to provide them an opportunity to progress and to build a more modern society.

They have numerous scholarship programs that provide for secondary and tertiary education for girls. In Turkey schooling is compulsory up to the age of 14. Eastern Turkey is still extremely conservative in comparison to Western Turkey (Western Turks will often call them conservatives and sometimes even terrorists due to significant presence of Kurds) and it is not uncommon for young girls to be pulled out of educational institutions in favour of married life.

We all know that in many cultures it is the mother who raises the children. It is generally the mother who stays home, the mother who takes them to school or activities and the mother who spends the most time with them. In cultures like that in bilingual households the children are most likely to speak the language that the mother speaks fluently.

It is extremely important for social progress that children have an educated mother and it is even more important for social progress that children have female role models to look up to and respect.

Apparently, a common outcome is that the women that they help to educate often become teachers and move back to their villages to teach. Needless to say, this generally leads to positive outcomes as it gives children a female authority figure, gives an educated adult woman as a role model and can be inspiring for the girls of the community.

It was very interesting to hear the perspective of a woman from Ankara about the treatment of women in Turkey. Obviously Turkey has issues with human rights, civil rights and women’s rights, but it seems to be particularly bad in Eastern Turkey due to the conservativism of the region. You will hear many Turks say how they are a modern nation and equal rights allegedly apply and all that lovely stuff, but to hear a woman who experiences the plight of females in Eastern Turkey on a regular basis it makes you realise just how divided the country is and how little development has seemed to happen to Eastern Turkey since Ataturk changed the country.