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New Europe

Day Forty-three: Göreme, Cappadocia

The Göreme Open-Air Museum 
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With Andus Emge at one of the rock-carved Christian churches at the Göreme Open-Air Museum, many of which are over a thousand years old.
Michael Palin - New EuropeThe most interesting of these is a complex near Göreme where thirty rock churches, out of an estimated thousand throughout Cappadocia, are clustered in a comparatively small area, now an open-air museum. These date back to anywhere between the sixth and eleventh centuries and one of them, the Dark Church, has an almost self-contained interior, with a set of mock architectural features, non-supporting columns and faux arched vaulting carved from the rock. The advantage of being the Dark Church, so called because this amazing place was lit by one small window, is that the rich and complex frescoes that cover the walls have been well preserved. The only damage to the robed figures and the biblical characters is that the eyes, and in some cases the mouths, have been scratched out. This is believed to have been done by Muslim Turks who took refuge in these caves after they'd been abandoned by the Christians, and who believed that the eyes carried some sort of curse.

Hasan's hotel in among the rocks is called the Anatolian Houses and every room is carved in a different shape and decorated with carefully chosen local artefacts. It's out of season at the moment and we have the place almost to ourselves. Hasan was born, the son of a carpet-weaver, in these caves he's converted. Starting out with just a donkey and an English dictionary, he began to show tourists around.

I ask him how much physical closeness to the Middle East (Syria is little more than 200 miles to the south) affects this part of Turkey.

'Of course we are believing in the same religion,' and here his brow furrows, 'but the mentality of our life is totally, totally different with Easterns than with Europeans. West has always been more exciting for the Turkish people.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Forty-three: Göreme, Cappadocia
  • Country/sea: Turkey
  • Place: Göreme
  • Book page no: 109

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