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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About Lives of Cappadocia Project

Aili Schmeltz is a contemporary visual artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA.
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