Shell Middens

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Clam rakes catch on blackberry briars and full buckets bang about our knees on the way back from picking rock oysters and collecting cockles off the tide flats.

Crossing the cow pasture, our boots imprint earth where moles have pushed up dark history in the grass.  Small midden pile tells, studded with fragments…mussels, clams, oysters… from Tillamook camps.

With driftwood, we heat rocks and at sunset we steam clams and oysters, pick out sweet meat and feast on shellfish. Tossing the shells aside on middens of our own.

Cappadocia Today

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The Eastern Church and the Catholic Church

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The call to prayer floats over ancient ruins and down a cobbled street, past a shop where we are looking at an array of local wines.  We are constantly reminded in subtle ways, that we are in a country that is the product of many violent political and religious shifts.

During the Christian revolution, there were many “kinds” of Christians.  Disparate interpretations took root in local Christian communities until more powerful centralized Christian churches exorcised them as pagan cults.  Christians persecuted Christians as bigger churches imposed a common liturgy. In Cappadocia, groups that did not submit to mainstream liturgies were driven into hiding and the caves became refuges again.

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Large Christian communities centered in Rome, Byzantium, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Byzantium at that time was the center of art, science, commerce and culture.  The Byzantine Empire was richer and thrived longer than any in history including those in China.  In 330, the Roman Emperor Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Byzantium and renamed the city Constantinople. In 324 he embraced Christianity and it became the popular religion.

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Nevertheless, the leaders of the church in Rome claimed authority over the Christian church. The idea of a universal doctrine from a powerful centralized church was called Catholicism (meaning universal).  As the Bishop of Rome amassed power, he called himself the Catholic Pope (father). The Catholic Popes built alliances with emerging northern and western strongmen. By 800, Pope Leo III aligned his religious power with political power by crowning Charlemagne, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

ImageAs the Byzantine Empire shrank, Syrian Emperor Leon III, came to power and held Cappadocia. He was influenced by the new Islamic convictions edging in from the east, and banned icons.  These beautiful paintings were central to teaching the illiterate in the Christian church. Leon’s rule resulted in torture and murder of dissenters. It was the darkest hour for Cappadocia’s Christian and Jewish communities.  As Islamic tribes moved west, Christianity and Judaism were eventually crushed in Cappadocia.

In another upheaval in 1054, the Roman Pope excommunicated the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Constantinople, at that time head of the eastern church. The Metropolitan returned the favor in a protracted power struggle called the East-West Schism.

The Christian church in northern Africa founded by Saint Peter, supported the Catholic Pope. In a further grab for power, the Roman Pope adopted the doctrine of original sin put forth by Father Augustine of Hippo in Algeria.  In this shrewd move the Pope ensured that the Catholic Church became the only way to salvation.  Further stirring the separation of western and eastern Christianity, Pope Urban II manipulated the European nobility with promises of rewards in heaven and booty on earth and sent them off on Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land.

ImageBy 1182 the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Constantinople were massacred by the Eastern Orthadox population of the city and the Schism escalated. Christians once again set upon Christians.  In eventual retaliation and thirst for power Constantinople was sacked in 1204 in the Fourth Crusade.  This sack left Constantinople vulnerable to later takeover by the Seljuk Turks who brought Islam.

Cappadocia is peaceful today, an island among warring nations. Sandwiched between the East and the West, Turkey borders Syria, Iraq and Iran. Even so, most of the outside fighters coming into Syria, pass through Turkey.

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On our last evening, we have supper with local businessmen…hoteliers, wine shop owners, shop owners.  They worry about their geographic location and the threat of fundamentalist religious shifts in Turkey.  They believe the middle class economies that keep Turkey prosperous depend on tolerance, tourism, trade and they hope for admission into the European Union. While Turkey is nonsectarian, its population is predominantly Muslim. As the clash of beliefs rages in neighboring countries, Turkey finds it necessary to absorb refugees and is pressured to take sides. As we finish our meal, everyone around the table wonders how long Turkey can stay neutral.

Christian Dispersal

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Keshlik Monastary

Wine flows like a river through human history.  Where water was polluted, the alcohol in wine made it a safe beverage to drink.  And of course, humans enjoy the side benefits.  We are surprised with the quality of the wines we are discovering and our Turkish hosts laugh and remind us that they are skilled.  They have been making wine since long before Christ’s followers came into this land.

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Kiliclar Church Painting

I was raised in the Methodist Church; one that frowned on wine and one that still serves grape juice at Communion.  I discovered the real thing in my early twenties, and since then, my life has been pretty much immersed in it.  We lived in Greece way back then and I came to view wine in a whole different light.  The Greek Orthodox Church celebrated with it, my neighbors made it and I helped with my first harvest in a Greek vineyard.  It was in Greece that I also began exploring Christian history.  And it was trips to Turkey that brought Christianity’s connection with wine and Christian history to life.

In Sunday school, I thought all those hard-to-pronounce Biblical names were imaginary places in an imaginary story. I was young, but even as an adult it was a surprise to run smack into Hittites and Galatians and get another lesson on the ancient peoples of Asia Minor.

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Kaya Kiliseleri Church Interior

After Rome conquered Israel, the Emperor Tiberius annexed Cappadocia.  The Jews resented Roman occupation. Roman laws and taxes were oppressive. In addition, the polytheistic Romans were often at odds with the Jews. Torture and murder were used to control the people. To add to the disruption, a man named Jesus of Nazareth was attracting followers. In the face of widespread oppression and violence, many were eager to embrace Jesus’ message that God was not punishing as the Jews taught, but loving and merciful.

In cruel times, revolutionary thoughts caught on and spread. After Jesus was crucified his disciples carried on. Holy men fled the turmoil to ponder his teachings as hermits.

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On our hikes, we think how life must have been as Christians looked for a safe home for their practices and began building liturgy. We wonder at the size of the cave cathedrals and admire the beauty of their religious paintings.

Early Christians, including St. Paul, travelled through Asia Minor preaching the word.  Christianity caught on and it is probable that Paul traveled through Cappadocia on his way to preach to the Galatians. Religious hermits sought isolation in Cappadocia. Christ’s 40 days in the desert inspired many to live in tiny caves and in some zealous cases to be walled up in the conical rooms they dug, to live a life of contemplation. The hermits attracted followers and eventually religious and monastic communities formed.

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Kiliclar Church Painting

Christian separatists sought refuge in Cappadocia where they could practice in peace.  There was fertile land, an eroded landscape easy to hide in and soft rock where they could carve shelter and fortifications. These small isolated groups brought their own interpretation of Christian teaching and the communities developed their own rites and practices. My guidebook says some Christians believed in scourging, fasting and freezing.  “Others had themselves killed after being baptized in order to go straight to heaven.”  In rites similar to those of older religions, some had their remains left in open graves high in the rocks so the birds might feed on them and others “sought salvation and God’s blessing in permanent sexual ecstasy.”

By the 4th century Caesarea (the Turkish city of Kayseri) was a flourishing religious center. Led by St. Basil, it centered on an orthodoxy called the “true faith”. Different questions of Christianity were debated and varied interpretations arose. Was Jesus God or a messenger of God? Was the trinity three or one? Was there only one God or many? There were disputes about what constituted the “true faith” and groups broke away to practice their variations in different areas of Cappadocia.

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Soganli Dome Church

Then in Asia Minor in a grab for power, Constantine declared Christianity the state religion. It was a defining moment in the face of Greek and Roman polytheism. What began as a liberation movement became politicized into a world religion.

Underground Cities

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Image If single caves are not enough to delight the imagination, how about an underground city?  Ed loves poking around in them while I am not keen on bending double and bonking my head.

Through centuries and continuous power shifts, the beleaguered locals dug hideaways and fortifications in the soft tufa. Some are only cave shelters reached by retractable ladders and toe holds.  Others are so elaborate as to be called underground cities.  The largest open to the public is at Derinkuyu and is eleven stories deep.  There are supposedly hundreds in Cappadocia, most unexplored and unavailable to tourists. Image

We creep through one at Ozkonak. After entering a small door and passage we find ourselves in a stable carved in the rock.  The troughs and cribs are hewn in the stone walls.  A narrow corridor leads to a winery. Archaeologists surmise that these rooms were used to shelter animals and to make wine in the daily life of the villagers, who likely lived outside the cave. We are intrigued with the winery and are able to envision the process, as making wine has not changed that much through the centuries.

Beyond the winery are storage rooms with clay vessels for storing the wine. Image There are additional rooms for storing olive oil and grain.  Low tunnels connect a warren of rooms.  There are shafts for air and an underground well.  Again, we are reminded of the persistence of war.  Huge millstone doors rolled across the openings.  Weighing up to 2000 pounds, they could only be opened from the inside…perfect for defense. These are surrounded with tiny openings for spear and arrow attacks.  Over some doors are oriels for pouring hot oil on the enemy. Along the passages there are traps in the floor. Image Back in the light, we reflect on life that required such defenses.  And while it is quiet today, war still rages in the lands that neighbor Turkey…Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

War, always war… It is definitely time for love, so we journey on and hike up Baglidere or Love Valley.  The land is eroded into asparagus spears.  That must be why they call it Love Valley! Image

Camel Caravans

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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.

ImageOriginally 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.

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Sultanham restoration

Wandering among the arcades and galleries, it is easy to imagine haggling and trading, the sound of animals, and the smell of cooking fires.

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The only camels in Cappadocia today are the ones saddled up for tourists to ride.

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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.

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Sarihan

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.

Cappadocia

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Vineyard in Spring

Like an exotic tapestry, the history of Turkish wine is interwoven with fairy chimneys, spice markets, underground cities, love, hate, religion and war.

We set out to discover the wine of Turkey, grappling with new varietal names like Emir, Narince, Öküzgözü and Bo€azkere.  Along the way we experience the romance of the Silk Road, its caravansaries and the mystic ritual of whirling dervishes. OurImage geographic focus, an area called Cappadocia in the wine region of Anatolia.

It is May, our second trip to Turkey, and we pass into another reality.  The most otherworldly towers, tufts, hoodoos and goblin shapes, surround us. The interspersed vineyards become secondary to this “other-world”. Welcome to the incredible geology and geography of Anatolia. We have decided against guided tours and will miss some of the best examples of church art because we are staying away from the crowds.  Instead we choose to find those spots off the beaten track and to do a lot of hiking…something industrial tourism isn’t into.

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Whole cliff sides are pocked with niches, holes and caves.  To our delight, each towering “fairy chimney”, as the guidebook calls them, seems to be hollowed out. Like children drawn to secret places, we peek in to see what is hidden. We are staring at and into caves where men hid and lived over the centuries.  Wondering at thousands of stone chapels, monasteries and cathedrals where later men meditated, taught and prayed as Christianity took root.

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Old Vines

Our first evening in Guzelyurt, we study maps and consult a local guide named Ahmed.  Turkey is part of Asia Minor, a rich and beautiful area of mountains, fertile plains and watered valleys. Cappadocia lies in central Turkey on the Anatolian Plain. Ahmed suggests a hike along the Melendiz River in the Ihlara Canyon where we will find cave churches. The next morning, he drives us to the entry point and we look over the side into a deep valley. It is about 300 feet into a narrow cleft in the plain we have just crossed.  Ahmed leads us to a stairway and sends us on our way and back in time.

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We descend more than 350 steps into a cool river valley and onto a footpath worn deep in the soil. On both sides, tiny hand-tilled fields, vineyards and orchards are tucked among the rocks. High on the canyon walls erosion has exposed rooms carved in the stone.  They are the remains of ancient refuges. The builders used vertical shafts and retractable ladders to reach them. My guidebook says there are hundreds of caves here. Only an experienced climber could manage the toe and hand holds to explore them.

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ImageThe valley must have attracted inhabitants because it has water, fertile soil and because it was defensible.  In places the canyon walls are more than 600 feet high.  Giant old birches line the riverbanks and screen cave entrances. In places rockslides have exposed large rooms and opened hidden chapels.  The oldest cave churches in the valley date back to the fourth century. We peek in; shine our light on the walls. To our astonishment, they are filled with beautiful frescoes.

Both Saint Basil and Saint Gregory founded churches here. Protected by the geography and geology, their churches were able to grow in peace. Looking at the hundreds of openings, it is apparent many peoples have sheltered and prayed here.  As my feet stir the dust, I think of them.  How they walked here, drove their animals along this river, bathed in it and drank its water. The twisted old vines make me wonder if these are descendants of the wine grapes used in the first communions shared here. In the dwelling caves I touch the tiny shelves that held linseed oil lamps. In the highest caves, I imagine families fleeing from invaders and hiding from persecution.  There is both a feeling of beauty and terror in this lush valley.

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