It was a crisp day in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, and my husband and I were out walking through the town of Guzelyurt– a small town set outside of the larger and more tourist-populated areas of Cappadocia. (“Guzelyurt” means beautiful valley.)
We would often visit and stay in Otel Karballa there: a lovely structure that
had once been a Greek monastery, but was now converted to a small hotel with a fantastic chef and the ability to give its guests an authentic taste of life and history in this enchanting region.
This area of Turkey is fascinating– so well known for its natural beauty and unusual landscape, as well as its long and illustrious history. In fact, the two things go hand in hand. The famous “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia housed the cave dwellers of the Bronze Age, and later housed early Christian refugees and gave rise to the thousands of cave churches that dot the region.
Once inside these churches, you are often met with once-beautiful frescoes that (while still beautiful) are severely weathered by both age and ordeal. Age, because most of the churches here date to between the 6th and 11th centuries; ordeal, as they were intentionally defaced because of religious aniconic sentiments.
If the cave dwellings and the colorful history weren’t enough to make Cappadocia a fantastic destination, it has this going for it: it’s no artifact, it’s still living. The potteries of the region are thriving, the people are hospitable, and many locals still live in the hollowed out cave dwellings (and have wired them for electricity!).
Walking down one ancient road in Guzelyurt, you might look up to see this:
only to believe that you are passing by empty, ancient buildings (but note the electrical wires that run the length of the road). Then the next thing you stumble upon, two doors down, is the family from the lead photo on this post, huddled in the doorway of another ancient structure and adjoining cave and making their daily flatbread over a simple fire and dome of hot metal.
The ancient meets the everyday in the streets and valleys of Cappadocia, the modern meets the miraculous. For my husband and me, who grew up in the tidy convenience of suburban America and were more likely to take dinner from a casserole dish hot out of a Kenmore oven, or even from a drive-through fast food window, this family, hard at work to make their daily bread, kneaded and rolled on a board on the ground and cooked over an open fire on a humble metal dome, this moment was extraordinary. And so very ordinary too.
We stopped and spoke to the family. We shared what little language we knew, and they shared some of their bread , warm and crisp from the fire. I don’t think anything has ever been more delicious than those few bites shared on an ancient road. What an incredible way to eat local.