June 17

Haven’t posted in a few days so I have a bit of catch up to do here…

Wednesday I took a series of buses to go to the little riverside town of Avanos, a village known for its pottery that is created from deep red and white colored clay gathered nearby. The town itself is not very distinctive, it looks similar to many of the towns of the area, except that it is located along the banks of the KizilirmakRiver. I spent the afternoon there browsing the potteries among crowds of people on various bus tours. The merchants hawk at you while leading you into endless cave rooms stacked full of various clay objects, some rather beautiful, being painstakingly decorated with detailed patterns. I am not a shopper, but I like to look around and ask questions. The merchants soon realize that I am not a serious buyer and, thankfully, shift their attention to other shoppers. In general, I do not like to be pressured or stood over while I am browsing, it makes me feel hurried and nervous until I flee, moving onto the next store. Most of the merchants here ask a scripted set of questions..’Where are you from? Are you married? Are you traveling alone..?, then shoving an item at me saying, ‘I make you good price..” The first day or two  I would tell the truth, but as time has gone by I have started to embellish my story, changing my nationality, history and marital status while speaking in broken English to complete my disguise… ‘I Sweden, yah.. husband with 6 kids next shop there, pretty tour bus, yah..’ etc.. Curiously, I have not encountered one female shopkeeper.. and it somehow bugs me that these men feel entitled to fire off these personal, aggressive questions towards me, as if they think that this behavior will convince me into buying something. Of course, this is not the first time while traveling that I have came across this sort of hawking, but for some reason it surprises me here in this traditional, religious climate. I realize that these men are just trying to make a living, and seeing me enter with my khaki pants, backpack and tennis shoes makes them see dollar (or lira) signs as it were, it still rubs me the wrong way. I, admittedly stereotyping here, imagine their scarved headed, young wives at home keeping house and children clean and fed while these men approach female tourists in a disrespectful manner. After a short coffee stop at the cafe on the village square, I retraced my steps via series of buses home, leaving empty handed.. and as I am realizing now, without taking any pictures of the day.

On Thursday Mary-Ellen (the new artist in residence here) and I again, boarded the series of buses to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum and Imagination Valley, and having an hour or so in between buses, we enjoyed lattes (a rare, expensive treat!) in Urgup. Zelve is said to be is among the earliest-settled and last-abandoned monastic valleys in the region. The cave dwellings were used by local villagers up until 1952, when the structures were determined to be unsafe and the villagers were moved en masse over to nearby Aktepe, or New Zelve. We walked around the pathways and stairs to visit all of the little dwellings and rooms in the blaring sun… it was amazing.

Next we walked down the road for a bit to visit Imagination Valley or Dervent Valley, named such because of the particular shaped fairy chimney tops, which are said to look like different animals and people, one even like the Virgin Mary.. use you imagination. The last picture below, the formation with the plaque and flag out front, is apparently a police station.

Alain De Botton, in his book, The Art of Travel, spoke of a phenomena called ‘spots of time’ that my mind keeps chewing on today. In Bottons writing he is describing the 18th century poet, William Whitworth, a naturalist and a man who continued to follow his curiosity.  Whitworth, argued that he had experienced short glimpses, or moments of such visual serenity, in particular of his walks in the Alps, that would stay with him for the duration of his life and, every time these moments enter his consciousness, offer a relief from present difficulties. This concept is very similar to ones ‘happy place’ or serene visual used in meditation or in flash back movie sequences. The idea that a few moments overlooking a canyon or a visual snap shot of a certain sway of a tree can number as one of the most significant in ones lifetime really affects me. I think of the ‘spots of time’ that I have collected in my memory and call upon.. sometimes these moments are connected to an emotional situation of a person that I was with or a time in my life, both joyful and painful.. sometimes its unclear to me whether I actually experienced these times or if I remember it from a dream. In regards to travel, I wonder if one of the reasons that I have such ‘itchy feet’ could be to refill this bank of images, these brief, critical moments of simple clarity or beauty… I prefer to think of it this way instead of dismissing the call as ‘running away from’… both, I’m sure a form of healthy, if not fleeting, escapism. I’m curious about this idea..perhaps I sense that some spots of time in my mind have become painful or used up, over used.. so I feel a need to update them with new images of who I have become or strive to be. Similarly, my boyfriend, Greg, uses a phrase, ‘taking the poison off’ when revisiting a place that holds bad memories in order to make good memories in their place, neutralizing them as you would an upset stomach with warm milk. In any case, I am sure that many of my experiences here in Cappadocia will stay with me for a long time to come and influence my visual language in unforeseeable ways. The surreal landscape here is so unique and unlike anything that I have experienced, the physicality difficult to describe in words or photographs. Much of the ‘spots of time’ will be lost and pushed back into the depth of memory, while the highlights, I imagine, will float to the top of consciousness at random moments to be reframed and inserted into future overlapping collages.

I find that I am running out of new places to visit in the region.. I have been here now for over two weeks and, having taken a majority of those days for full days of exploring, am starting to sense that I am reaching a state of being visually ‘full’. I have gathered much material and have accomplished more in these two weeks than I anticipated in completing in four. I have photographed 6 houses, 1 caravanerai and 1 modern cave hotel, all thanks to Mehmet serving as liason and interpreter.. I have not been able to gain access to any of the villagers here in Ibrahimpasa as anticipated.. they are very devout muslims and wary of foreigners. I have plenty of material to work with and am very happy with what I have gathered. Now, it will just take many hours of working with the photos, drawings and writings to bring it all together into the final book format. I feel like I may be better able to see it all once I get home and have a little bit of distance and perspective. For the next week I plan to visit the remaining few areas that I have yet to explore, Ortahisar and Love Valley, and try to finish up what I can.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | Leave a comment

June 14

Today was a rainy – stay at home – read and draw – kinda day. One of the great things about traveling is reading… I find that I get so much more reading done in airports, airplanes, cars, trains, buses and while away from home in general. I’m also a huge fan of listening to audio books while in the studio. Accordingly, I realized today that I have clocked many hours on this trip reading and listening to books. I started off devouring Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond on the planes to London.. a perfect way to start off the trip and this project by reminding me to look at my process and art making practice through different lenses. When I arrived in London I bought The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton, an interesting investigation on why we travel.. an appropriate and timely topic.  At the same time I started Fall of Giants, Ken Folletts new historical epic about the events surrounding WWI, written in his classic fashion of overlapping stories and historic detail. I downloaded this ebook on my reader since at around 700 pages, its hefty and bulky for travel. This book is the one that I curl up with at night before I go to sleep, an indulgence at the end of the day. I’ve read Folletts Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both of which I have enjoyed very much. While I draw, I have been listening to The Greater Journey; Americans in Paris by David McCullough.. a story of the journeys of American intellectuals to Paris in the 1800s and how it affected their lives and work. The book so far has spoke of people such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse (I didn’t know he was a painter before the invention of the electric telegraph!), and Harriet Beecher Stowe.. just to name a few. The book is full of interesting tid bits while weaving a tale of history that is mesmerizing. I’ve listened to something like 9 hours so far and am still really into it. Next on the audio queue is Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged.. we’ll see how that goes.

The drawings today are a continuation of the geometric patterned pieces.. here are a few in process shots-

A bit of bizarre and sad news.. this morning the 2 kittens have gone missing! Paul checked in on them last night to feed them and the family was all intact..then, when we went again this morning at around 10am the kittens were not in their little box nest. We looked for them for an hour or so, all the while the Momma Cat meowed. The cats were not able to walk on their own yet, so they must have been carried off.. it’s just unclear if the Momma moved them for some unknown reason or if another animal got to them.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | Leave a comment

June 13

The village of Uchisar rises above Cappadocia as a dramatic centerpiece, the houses embedded in a large volcanic mesa riddled with windows and doorways. Today I set out to summit this mesa and visit the Uchisar castle, which can be seen for miles around. I have heard that the view from the top of this outcropping is the best panorama available. I got a late start to my morning, having checked the weather online, I was a bit conflicted about whether today would be the best day to be out and about. The forecast for the next 5 days states ‘chance of thunderstorms’.. this, I have come to find out in Cappadocia, is unpredictable.. sometimes ‘chance of thunderstorms’ means that there will be a dark cloud that will roll through with no rain for 10 minutes, then clear skies for the rest of the day.. or it could mean that it will downpour for hours. I have also seen ‘chance of thunderstorm’ days that were hot and sunny with a few puffy clouds in the sky, and every source that I look to for advice is, at best, non committal. So, in response, I took my chances and headed out walking towards the highway in hopes of catching a bus. I was in luck.. after the 30 minute walk from Ibrahimpasa to the highway, I only had to wait 15 minutes to flag down the right bus to Uchisar. The bus dropped me at the turn off, and I walked the road headed for the mesa while keeping a watchful eye on the dark clouds forming on the horizon. The town of Uchisar I found to be quiet and less touristy than Goreme, the houses and streets still very traditional and mostly well kept. Following a strange sign of a yellow arrow on a half collapsed stone wall saying simply ‘<–CASTLE’ I wound through stone streets and stairs going up, up and up to the entrance to the castle. At its entrance were the expected tourist shops and terrace cafes, that somehow I had thankfully missed on my walk into town around the little residential streets.

Inside the castle entrance was a vague sign in english giving broken backstory of the castle as a Byzantine tomb, a few grave like carvings being visible at the top of the castle. The fairy chimneys to the North, West and East as visible from the top were also apparently tombs used by the Romans. The sign described tunnels that run from the citidel to the valley floors, used for ‘defense and escape purposes’.. but who was escaping and defending and when this was all happening was not described. Up the stairs I climbed to the summit, which I must admit, was worth the effort because the view was breathtaking. I could clearly see the Pigeon Valley, which was the days next conquest, and the end of the hike at Goreme. You could also see what I believed to be the towns of Nevsehir and Ankara from the summit. I tried to find the road to Ibrahimpasa.. where, about an hour before, I had taken the first picture of the day framing the far off looking Uchisar mesa, which I was now standing upon, as the goal.

Satisfied at my efforts, I descended the mesa and headed down the road to hike the along the bottom of the canyon, Pigeon Valley, towards Goreme. Down the main road of the village was the entrance to the hiking trail.. this, a scene all of its own. In a dirt parking lot was a stand advertising ‘Turkish Naturel Kappadokien Viagra Market’, I couldn’t help but take a photo at this..I will post it below. In the dirt lot there was the expected tourist stands with trinkets for sale, but there was also a tree filled with evil eyes that I found really quite striking. So, I headed down the hill on the hiking path despite the ominous black clouds hanging over head. Not 10 mintues into my hike I realized that this path would not necessarily be as simple as the maps described. The foot path would often branch off in 3 or 4 different directions.. in these occasions I would follow the path which looked the widest and most traveled.. sometimes this strategy would work well, but other times the path would suddenly end on a cliffs edge with no obvious way down or loop back upon itself. I was getting lost and found continually, all the while trying to logically follow the ravine headed towards Goreme with thunder started to rumble and echo through the canyon. At one point I past a man with a small puppy tending to his random field in the canyon.. then soon after I came to a point on the path that disappeared along the cliffs edge with no clear away around or down the canyon. Admitting to myself that I was a bit lost and not exactly liking the impending thunderstorm that it looked like I was about to be stuck in, I backtracked to ask the farmer directions. The farmer motioned for me to follow him after I grunted ‘Goreme?’, then proceeded to stealthfully maneuver down a broken path, complete with little foot holds he motioned that he had cut out of the slippery tufa, and a rope anchored in a cliff face that we repelled down. His sweet, gangly puppy followed us. ‘Where in the hell is this old man taking me? Should I be worried at this point?’ were my thoughts coupled with images of me trying to explain how I ended up chained to a cave wall to my boyfriend and father.. my reasoning of ‘I thought it was a safe hiking trail.. I am an experienced hiker and the old man seemed nice’ met with crossed arms and disapproving looks. Every couple of minutes while I was following the farmer, we would approach a beautiful overlook and he would shout gleefully in english, ‘pan-o-rama!!’.. which made us both laugh while I whipped out the iphone for photos.
In the end, he definitely played the hero rescuing a damsel in distress, showing me where the path to Goreme reappeared and cheerfully wishing me well. I walked the next 20 minutes in the pouring rain towards Goreme, happy that it all worked out.

I reached Goreme soaking wet.. the rain not looking like it was a passing phase, I ducked under a overhang in a strip of tourist restaurants. Unknowkingly, I had ducked into a hookah lounge/internet cafe where a middle aged South African couple sat on carpeted cushions under the covered patio who shouted to me from inside, ‘Come in! The beer is cheap!.’ I felt like I was in a stereotypical adventure move.. ‘Blonde tourist then enters Turkish hookah lounge..’. Sounds good, so I sat next to them and ordered a coffee while we shared travel stories… I told them of my little adventure in Pigeon Valley and they told me of Cape Town. The rain was not letting up so I decided that drastic measures of paying for a taxi back to Ibrahimpasa were in order, where I happily paid the 25 Lira to get home to my cozy little house.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | Leave a comment

June 12

Today I struck out on my own to go play tourist around Goreme. First, I hung out with Michele Beck this morning to help her since her computer crashed. She packed up her things and headed back to New York today.. it was sad to see her go.. she was a great walking and exploring partner in crime. She did a performance and installation a few days ago here in an old abandoned cave house close by.. check out her blog about the project – http://michelebeckart.blogspot.com/

I hitched a ride to visit the Open Air Museum, the main tourist site of Goreme. First an important Byzantine monastic settlement then a pilgrimage site in the 17th century, the museum includes rock cut churches, chapels and monasteries. As expected, there were busloads of tourists and groups swarming the area. There were a few, different rock churches, Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church) and Tokali Kilise (Buckle Church) that were covered in brightly colored frescoes that were in the best condition that I have seen yet, so the visit was definitely worth while. Pictures are not allowed, even without flash, but I managed to sneak in a few pics of the frescoes unknowingly before the attendant yelled at me.

From the Museum, I walked down the road to  Zemi Valley, stopping at El Nakar Ilise (Church of the Evil Eye) on the way. While walking back from the church, heading towards Zemi Valley for a hike, I met a nice Brazilian woman, Aurea, who was also traveling by herself. We walked and chatted for a while together, down the hill. I decided to walk down the valley with her, both of us figuring we would follow the trail which was, according to the maps a circular trail, ending back at the road. So we walked and walked until the trail seemed to peter out, leaving us tromping down a stream most of the time. The surrounding rocks of the canyon were eroded in beautiful striation patterns. We were expecting to see more chimney, column like formations so we bush wacked it a bit up the side of the rocks, scrambling and stumbling since the tufa is very crumbly and slippery… our logic here that we must have taken a wrong turn and if we got over the ridge we may see more column formations in the next valley. In the end, we were just simply lost and decided to turn back. It was a fun adventure with good company, nonetheless. We walked to Goreme together then parted company, she had just arrived this morning, and after our strenuous hike was heading back to the hotel for a nap. I continued to walk aimlessly around Goreme, stopping for lunch and browsing in the tourist shops. I got a ride back to Ibrahimpasa on a four wheel ATV which was fun, just in time to watch a beautiful, cloud filled sunset on the patio with some coffee and cookies. Tomorrow I think I will try to hike in Pigeon Valley and visit the castle in Uchisar, the highest point in the region.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | 1 Comment

June 11

Today was another busy tour day with Mehmet.. this time Michele came along as we drove Southwest to the area of Guzelyurt. First we stopped at the underground city of Derinkuyu, a complex web of rooms and narrow stairways. Derinkuyu has a total of eight underground floors, reaching a depth of 180 ft. Michele and I went only 3 or 4 floors down. There were many, many people.. making the already claustrophobic spaces crowded and unbearable. Groups run into one another, some trying to backtrack on the lines and crowds of people, making the narrow stairways unbearable. We turned back and headed towards daylight, sensing a panic about to hit the large number of tourists.

We took to the road, driving through lush, mountainous scenery to the Red Church, a beautiful church in the middle of a wheat field, solitary within a bright field of green. The stones that make up this church are rather large and a deep red color. Mehmet estimated this church was built in the 4th century, and built in a remote location in order to hide itself.

Around the bend from the Red Church was the village of Belisirma where we visited the Linseed House, a complex carved into the rock including what Mehmet called the ‘worlds biggest corkscrew’.. which is a gigantic wooden linseed press, adjacent to other large rooms that housed a bakery with an impressive grinding wheel for wheat and a cathedral with darkened frescoes inside.. quite pretty. Across the road from the Linseed House there was a picturesque view back on the village of Belisirma and  gorge below.

We headed to a sweet lunch spot in Belisirma on the river.. and I mean ON the river. We ate in a hut floating in the river a delicious lunch of bread, homemade yogurt, fish, soup and salad. There are tables literally in the river and a handful of huts and walkways to  wooden platforms with pillowed benches, a very peaceful spot.

After lunch we explored Selime Cathedral, believed to be carved out of the rock sometime in between the 8th and 13th century, depending on who you talk to. Touted as the largest  rock-cut monastery of Cappadocia with a cathedral sized church, Selime monastery was carved by the monks and apart from the church has monks quarters, a large kitchen, and stables for animals. Apparently, after it was a monastery it was used as whats called here a caravanserai, a roadside inn, where travelers could rest on their journey across the Silk Road… an early form of a cave hotel. Since my project is about cave dwellers, then and now, and since so many of the caves have become upscale hotels and resorts within the last 10 years or so, I thought it important draw a line of continuum from caravanserai to modern cave hotel… so, to follow suit we headed to Goreme to photograph one of the most modern cave hotels in the area, the Miras Hotel. The drive back to Goreme was amazing.. huge storm clouds alternating with sunshine, a very bright green landscape of mountains, fields and wildflowers.

The staff at the Miras Hotel were very open and generous.. allowing me a few rooms to choose from and serving us some coffee on the patio. The rooms are very nice, including hot tubs and wall carvings of fair wine maidens along with decorated, european furniture. There is a beautiful wading pool on the veranda with a spectacular view of Goreme.. quite the contrast to the Selime caravanserai. I tried to imagine travelers of the Silk Road stopping for such accomodations with their camels.


To top off the long day we looped around Goreme towards Ibrahimpasa for a mini wine tasting at Kocabag winery. They offer a wide selection..Cappadokya dry red and Cappadokya dry white were my favorites.. of which Mehmet, despite my protests, bought me as a gift. Thanks Mehmet! I vow to find him a really nice bottle of Raki to return the favor for his time and generosity. Now, as I sit writing this in my house late in the evening, I enjoy a glass of red and settle in for the night.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | 1 Comment

3D Interactive panoramas!


YAY! I’m finally figuring out how to make the panoramas interactive.. click on the image above to see the outside of Mehmet’s house in 3D interactive!!

web site panorama test

Also made a test page on my web site .. click on the image above to visit the test page.

Still some kinks to be ironed out and work to do on the photos but excited about the possibilities! I have a ton of panoramic material of interiors and exteriors of the cave houses as well as landscapes to play with..(and making more daily!) this format is perfect for this project! I love the images 3D and flattened out! SO EXCITED!


Posted in ailischmeltz.com | 1 Comment

Quick Storm

Last night there was a beautiful lightning storm on the ridge. There was also come drumming coming from somewhere and the call to prayer sounded two times within an hour.. it was an ominous night. The storm then hit Ibrahimpasa quickly and dramatically with thunder, lightning and much rain for 10 minutes, then disappeared as fast as it appeared.

Posted in ailischmeltz.com | Leave a comment