July 3

My last night in Turkey!

After wrapping things up at the residency, Mehmet and I went to his friends cave house to have farewell raki and snacks to watch the sunset. I ended up getting some great photos of the inside and outside of the cave house, so it was a perfect encap to the trip, a last little addition to the project. Mehmet told me some great stories that he was told by his family of spirits that inhabit these lands.. ghost stories to accompany a rather spectacular sunset.

It was sad to see my trip come to a close.. I will definitely be back Cappadoccia, but good bye for now. Onwards to Venice to see the Biennale. I will be writing about it my general art blog – http://ailischmeltz.blogspot.com/

The next phase in The Lives of Cappadoccia Project will be developed over the next few months. Upon return to Los Angeles, I will compile this immense amount of information that I have gathered, the photographs, writings and drawings into a book and will be using the wood, carpet scraps and tassles to make sculptural frame/ assemblage forms. With the gathering of information stage complete, now my challenge will be to interpret, clarify and sift through all of it to figure out its final incarnate form. I will keep you all informed of my progress here on this blog so stay tuned!!

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July 1

I just got back from spending two days at the Meditteranean coast wandering around Kizkalesi… how beautiful. The water was oh so very blue and warm, but man, was it hot. We drove down there through large granite mountains with tall pine trees and stopped first at the Heaven and Hell caves. The Hell cave was fenced off so you end up just looking down at a large, well.. cave while standing on a cement platform that hangs over the edge. The Heaven cave was down 400 some odd stairs, about 100 of which were muddy and slippery, people were falling all over the place. Upon entering the end of the stairs, you are in an immense, dark cave with some stalactites hanging form the celing, but that is about it. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was hoping for some sort of reward for my journey.. a cave drawing, something carved out of the walls, anything.. this was supposed to be heaven after all? So, in a bit of disappointment, I headed back up the stairs for the long haul up to the top.. it was really hot and quite the workout.

Which led us to make the executive decision to find us a shandy (the beer and sprite combo that I spoke of earlier, although this time it ended up as beer mixed with Fanta orange soda- a ‘Fandy’ we coined it) and head to the beach! We found a great hotel a little west of Kizkalesi, called the Mediterranean Resort and hit the beach. The water was the perfect temperature and the people watching was interesting. I was especially impressed by the pastry vendors who walked the beach with these huge trays on their heads, piled high. There were also many women on the beach that were wearing what I’ve heard called a burkini, which is swimwear (?) that looks like a rain jacket and pants, worn by religious muslim women to cover themselves. The burkini covers everything, and I mean everything, except for the womans face and feet. I marveled how these women could sit in the blazing sun with their kids in such attire without passing out from heat exhaustion. I was so hot, comparatively, in the shade with my swim suit on. I couldn’t help myself, I had to take some photos of them.. I will post one below. I ordered the essential beach margarita and asked for an umbrella to be put inside, just to be festive and officially be on vacation. What we actually received was more like a vodka/cranberry with straws inside.. oh well, the thought was there.

After a long hard day of sunning and swimming we went to eat some fish in a most tranquil bay, the sunset was incredible and fish caught that morning was hard to beat.. yum! So delicious!

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June 28

Went for a balloon ride today! It was so beautiful! Besides getting up at 3:30 am, the rest of the experience was amazing.. nice breakfast before the flight, amazing views, great crew and captain.. even post flight champagne and cake! I was surprised at how many balloons were out today, I’d guestimate around 30, which I’m told is not very many. We were able to drop down into White Valley to see the rock formations from the top while the the sun came up over the landscape. The view from the sky really shows how the land formed and continues to erode.. breathtaking.



After the flight, Christine, Dorian and I went to Goreme to poke around. I got a few more pics of the rug shop and acquired some rug scraps to bring home with me for some sculptural ideas I want to work on. Ran into Mehmet in Goreme, had some Turkish coffee, and he offered to give a ride back to the village to avoid the bus transfers and long walk. When I got back to the village, I stopped into Mehmet Ali’s shop to try to figure out how to bring some carved wooden pieces (architectural trim and small pieces) home with me.. I’m trying to avoid shipping stuff, so I may buy another suitcase, since I only had a backpack coming here, to bring with me full of materials on the plane. Now, after a long nap and yummy dinner, I’m settled in for the evening to draw and work.

 

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June 26

Today Mehmet taught Marie-Ellen and I how to make Turkish coffee.. and man, it is delicious. After our little coffee time we read fortunes in the coffee grounds, which entails a very scientific method of swirling the last of your coffee around while covering the cup with a saucer, then flipping the cup upside down onto the saucer, waiting for it to cool, then making images of the grinds on the inside wall of your cup. Here is what I came up with-

To me it looks like a squirrel or rat and a bird in profile looking at each other, not sure what to make of that. Mehmet is sure that it means that there is or will be a quarrel about something that stands in between me and another…huh. I’ll be careful to not quarrel or let things get in between my relationships, especially with birds, rats or squirrels, ha.

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June 25

Yesterday Paul took all of us on a hike to explore a hidden church and valley full of pigeon houses near our village. The hidden cave church that we visited had some nice earth toned frescoes, many of women which led Paul and others to think that this was perhaps a womens church. Next to the church was another rock formation with a series of rooms carved out of it, perhaps a monastery or nunnery.

The valley we walked through was chock full of pigeon houses, more than I have seen in one area in the region. As I mentioned before, the farmers used the pigeon droppings as fertilizer for their fields, so they constructed these complicated houses with tunnels within the rock for collection. Some of the houses will have aluminum flashing on the outside to prevent the animals from getting to the birds. It is also common for the pigeon houses to have drawings or patterns painted on the outside.. the meaning of the gliphs seem unclear, I have been looking it up but have not yet found too much writing about the drawings.

This morning we work up early and headed to Urgup to visit the hamam, the ‘Turkish bath’, which was completely worth the trip. Hamams have been popular in Turkey for thousands of years, many of them surviving from Hellenic and Roman times, apparently though, it was the Ottomans that perfected the hamam somewhere around the 16th century.

Upon arrival at the hamam you are given a pair of water shoes and a cotton cloth, similar to that of a table cloth or drapery. You are then lead into a large warm room with a center area with a high domed ceiling with small circular windows that let in light. There are marble water basins along the perimeter of the room with faucets and a heated marble flatform in the middle. I didn’t take any pictures while inside but I found a few images online that have similar features-


So, you first wash yourself off in the water basin and then go inside the sauna (a small, wooden enclosed room with one long bench)  for 10 minutes or so. Following the steam, you lay on the hot marble platform in the middle of the larger space. Then one by one, we were led by a man with a towel around his waist into another smaller room and onto a message looking table, where a full body scrub and massage ensued. Instead of using oil for the message they use this very foamy soap, similar to bubble bath. It felt great and was very relaxing.. and at the reasonable price of 25 Lira (about $18 USD), I may just have to go back again before I leave.

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June 24

Another handful of days..

Tuesday (?), Mary- Ellen and I hiked Love Valley.. we took a bus to Uchisar and, after a little bit of confusion, finally found the trail head. The trail starts up high on the edge of the canyon, then drops down to the ravine and follows the stream through some amazing rock formations with eroded strata. At the end of the trail, the grand finale, are these series of phallic rock towers that are quite beautiful and strange.

We caught a bus to Goreme to have a delicious lunch and do a little retail therapy at the tourist shops. I fell in love with this large carpet shop that was maze like and so very visually overwhelming.. patterns and colors everywhere in room after room. Next week I will make sure to go back there to take more photographs.. some of the interior rooms (which I didn’t take photos of) are covered in layers of carpets on the walls, floor and ceiling. I ended up buying another gods eye, this one very different than the others.. a vertical piece made out of wrapped silk with tassles at the end, this one supposedly a piece from a womans dowry… I love it.

On Wednesday Paul took me to photograph a few places here in the village of Ibrahimpasa that utilize caves in different ways. First we went to the neighbors house, who is in the middle of renovating a cave house. He is a Canadian who married a Turkish woman and is quite a skilled wood worker. Its interesting to see how well modern, clean elements (such as the glass bathroom doors and glass panoramic wall/window) mix with the carved cave walls, I like the contrast.

We then went to the new boutique hotel down the road, Babayan Evi, as it is called, which is actually very nice and well done. It seems to be the first of its kind here in the village, although Paul seems to think that it is only a matter of time until this village will go through a major shift into a more tourist based climate.

Down the road a bit we visited another house that is being renovated, this house rather large and complex. This house includes a rather strange feature.. behind a locked gate and door there is a spiral staircase, cut out of the stone, that descends deep into the earth.. something around 80 stairs! The foreman of the construction site graciously took us down the narrow stairs where it is easy to loose your footing due to the loose rock, so you descend slowly while holding onto the walls (which also crumble under your touch) for support. It is a very strange experience to descend down, down, down into the earth through this  stairwell.. and at the end.. nothing! The stairs just stop and there is a little area around 3 feet square. Paul thinks that this was once a private well that was filled with water. I was happy to turn around and head back up the stairs (it is true that it is much easier going up) to reach fresh air and sunlight.

After a little lunch and rest, Paul took me to meet Mehmet Ali.. who owns an antique shop down the street, to see another use of some of the caves in the village. The back rooms of his shop are caves, that were once used as food storage and a grape press. Those of you that know me, know that I am a devout lover of antique shops, junk stores, thrift shops, architectural salvage, garage sales and junk piles. Not only are these places where I get most of my art materials from, they are also a great reflection on how objects are used in a culture, and the many faceted history that lay behind such objects. Mehmet Alis shop is an interesting mix of small objects such as doornobs and architectural details, as well as large carved wooden doors and old farm equipment. Man, if this shop were in Los Angeles.. I would love to have some of the carved wooden architectural parts to make sculpture out of.  There were also some paintings hung high up on the stairs that Mehmet Ali had painted that I enjoyed.. two that were of replicas of doctors office illustrations showing skin diseases and one of a pattern that he reproduced from a wall of a cave ( i think?) in the village. There was one room in particular that struck me visually that houses many intricately carved and decorated wooden chests. Apparently, these chests housed the collection of fine linens and handicrafts that women would make or be given, that served as her dowry chest. I bet those chests housed some amazing objects that at one point were pretty important to someone.. to see all of these chests piled up in a cave room unused was kind of sad in a way, or more nostalgically poetic really. I took a few panoramic photos of this room and of his shop that I am really excited about-

Yesterday, the whole gaggle of us artists from the Cultural House, Mary-Ellen, Dorian, Kristina (these two are new arrivals) and I went out for the day with Mehmet. First, we headed to Avanos to see the Hair Museum in a cave, apparently in the Guiness Book of World Records, which was started in 1979 by potter, Galip Korukcu, with over 16,000 hair examples given by women from around the world. And, of course (!), I donated a little bit of my locks to be included in the collection. The caves are huge, so much hair.. its pretty impressive and creepy at the same time… especially the hair hanging from the ceiling.

From the Hair Museum we went to visit the land art of Andrew Rogers, on a mountianside near Avanos. There are two types of works on the site.. the first is a series of vertical stone pillars, that are on top of the mountain and visible around the region. On the pillars are etched words like Kindness and Beauty in both English, Rogers native tongue I assume since he is Australian, and Turkish. The second type of work are these large images made out of short stone walls that, when seen from a distance, form images of a horse, a grinding stone and a goddess form, among others. These pieces I feel are best photographed from the air to really see them well so the last two photos here I stole off of the internet.. hopefully it will better show the scale.

 

 

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June 18

Today was another full day of walking and exploring. In the morning Marie-Ellen and I took the bus to the weekly Urgup open air market, a large bustling labrinth of stands selling everything from shoes, to fresh vegetables to cheese. We stocked up on groceries for the week and headed back to Ibrahimpasa, laden with many bags of goodies.

After lunch and an afternoon siesta, we walked to the next village over, Ortihisar, about an hours walk down a dirt road headed East. The name, Ortihisar, means ‘middle castle’ and geographically is pretty central in the Cappadocia region. It is characterized by the rock tower castle in the center of the village. On top of this mesa formation is the Ortahisar castle, which unfortunately is closed to the public at the moment.

We headed to the Cappadocia Cultural Museum on the main square, which you enter strangely through a rather upscale restaurant. The museum itself is a series of about 10 dioramas depicting life sized, stiff looking figures illustrating aspects of village life in the region including rug making and the marriage customs.

After the museum we went to hunt down a man named ‘Crazy Ali’, who Paul told us is an interesting character that owns an antique shop in the village. ‘Crazy Ali’ is a poet and lets say visionary, who invited us in for Turkish coffee and recited one of his poems for us in a rather animated fashion. When asked how he acquired the name, he told us a stories of his frequent ‘moon visits’ in a chariot… as to whether these ‘trips’ were meant to be figurative or literal, it was hard to tell. After a look around at the beautiful objects in his shop, he drew us a map of how to get to the Hallacdere monastic complex, a place that I had heard about and was hoping to find, that houses a mysterious figure that appears to be emerging from the walls. As a parting gift, he gave me a postcard on which was written, ‘Dear Friend, Even short time makes good friendship! With my best wishes forever!!’

We walked for quite a while beyond the edge of town and through a large graveyard on a dirt path until we saw what looked to be a mountain/rock formation with vans out front that we guessed were tour buses. When we reached the monastery we realized that the vans were catering vans alongside large white tents that were erected outside, housing tables set with wine glasses and tableware… a strange sight, given the remote setting. The workers explained that there was a ‘Catholic picnic’ being set up but motioned us to go inside and look around. Inside there was a series of rooms and a church with beautiful arches and a vaulted ceiling. After poking around for a while, alas, I found the man in the wall.

The dark clouds were again looming, signaling rain, so we decided to walk back to town to catch a taxi back to Ibrahimpasa. We managed to dodge the rain today, which we were thankful for, and headed off to our respective caves for dinner and relaxation.

 

 

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