I am smitten with the romantic idea of the Silk Road and we seek out caravansaries. Our wine company imports wine from all over the world, but the history of ancient trade routes and the logistical hardship of transporting goods fascinate both my husband and me.
Originally the Silk Road was many routes that began in China and went as far west as Genoa. A major route ran through Anatolia. The Romans, who occupied Asia Minor, were customers for the products transported to Cappadocia. During the Seljuk reign, merchants built caravansaries as safe houses every 20 kilometers, the distance of a day’s journey, along the important routes. They were the hotels of the time and offered protection from bandits, a place to rest and a place to exchange news and goods. There was usually a veterinarian and a doctor located at each caravansary as well as cobblers, cooks, stable hands and an imam.
We visit a Seljuk caravansary at Sultanham that is being restored. In the shadows, I imagine camels in long, dusty lines entering under the high stone arches.
Wandering among the arcades and galleries, it is easy to imagine haggling and trading, the sound of animals, and the smell of cooking fires.
The only camels in Cappadocia today are the ones saddled up for tourists to ride.
At Sarihan, the 12th century caravansary has been restored to its original graceful beauty. We saw it first in the rain. The huge cut stones were reflective and the courtyard peaceful in contrast to what it must have been like at the height of the Silk Road trade.
In the evening Sarihan hosts a group of whirling dervishes. These holy men present traditional dances and chants to tour groups. Despite the commercial aspect, we watched their trance-like ceremony with respect. It was one more way to observe the history, culture and religion of this fascinating region.