This past weekend was a long one due to Youth and Sports Day in Turkey, and I took the opportunity to visit Gabby in Kapadokya (Cappadocia) at her artist residency at the Babayan Culture House in the small and lovely town of Ibrahimpaşa. The last time I'd been to Kapadokya was in the summer of 2011, so it was quite a treat to revisit some of the places I'd visited then and explore some new ones.
The highlight of the trip was spending time in the village of Ibrahimpaşa with Gabby- a tiny town with small streets lined with stone houses, adorned with carved patterns- circular swirls and seashell-like recesses. She had stayed at the artist residency a few times before and built connections with many people in the village. It was beautiful to watch her interact in Turkish and to see the relationships she has cultivated in her time there. It was a nice peek into the exchange between a traveling artist and the location in which she works. The people we encountered were curious about her work and clearly loved having her there. She had drawn several portraits of people from the village in the past and given them prints of her work, which they were excited to receive. Staying there with her was also a unique glimpse into the inner workings of a small Turkish town with its characters and customs and Gabby as my cultural guide.
|Corn vendor at the Saturday market|
|Cotton candy parasol- Pamuk helva|
|Garden strawberries, fresh daily|
|Dried okra tresses|
|Ibrahimpaşa at dusk|
|Old house in Ibrahimpaşa with beautiful stone work|
|Old house in Ibrahimpaşa|
|Arfan the retired donkey from Babayan Culture House|
We made some time to sketch while I was there- found a pool of shade to sit in each morning to avoid the harsh desert sun and set out to capture the ornate architecture. On our first day out, moments into our sketch, some of the women and their children who lived on that street came out to say hello and catch up with Gabby, since she'd only been back a few days. We were treated to ice- cold, home-made ayran by a woman whose patterned-headscarf framed face, made beautiful by kindness, brought out on a tray. Minutes later, a young boy biked towards us in a slow teeter, balancing a plate with two grapefruits and a small knife in one hand- another kind gift from one of the village women and friend of Gabby. The kindness and generosity, like I've experienced in many places in Turkey, was overwhelming and heartwarming.
|Morning sokakta sketching|
|Beautiful architectural details|
|Old Greek house and the site of the Cappadox contemporary art exhibition|
Over the next few days, we visited some of the neighborhing villages- Ürgüp for the Saturday market, Uçhisar for the Cappadox Festival, and Mustafapaşa for a walk around another small town. The Saturday market was stunning, permeated with smells of sweet strawberries and spices from the multicolored dunes arrayed on the spice vendor's table. Leeches were sold in plastic water bottles and strings of dried okra hung like locks of hair. We stocked up for the next few days on fresh strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. I couldn't resist getting a golden jar of honey and a large bag of dut- dried mulberries, a snack that I haven't seen outside of Turkey. They look like tiny bunches of grapes and pack a lot of sweetness, making them one of my favorite snacks here.
On my last day, we headed to Soğanlı Valley, a conglomeration of cave houses and churches from the 5th and 6th centuries. It is similar to the open air museum in Göreme, but not as highly frequented and much more peaceful as a result. On our way, we stopped by the Keşlik Monastery, carved from stone, where we ducked in and out of the monastery's rooms and sacred spaces, amazingly refreshing in contrast to the scorching midday sun. We stopped right outside of the Soğanlı open air museum to have lunch in a beautiful, lush garden space whose friendly owner made sure our bellies were content by starting us off with freshly baked bread, butter, honey, and cheese, while waiting for the rest of our meal. The meal was also capped with honey (my kind of place...) as we were treated to a bowl of yogurt topped with a halo of the golden liquid.
Although we could have easily spread out in the shade of the garden's plentiful trees to digest the meal, we continued on our course to explore the ancient cave churches. The sky soon turned gray and threatened rain. We stopped at the first church- Yılanlı Kilise (Snake Church) and found shelter in one of its recesses just as the sky released a steady spring rain. After visiting the church, we sat on its steps and watched the rain turn the fairytale landscape emerald. Once the rain died down, we went on to visit the remaining churches at the site- Kubbeli Kilise (Church with a Dome), Saklı Kilesi (Hidden Church), Geyikli Kilise (Church with Deer), Tahtali Kilise (Church with Doves), and Tokalı Kilise (Church with Buckle). The churches were like geodes- rough rock exteriors and surprising colorful paintings on the inside. Unfortunately, most of the frescoes are in a bad state of disrepair and have been ruined by years of carved tags by visitors.
Still, it is possible to imagine these spaces in use, which is the magic of a place like Kapadokya. We can skip up stone stairs, duck under rock doorways, run our fingers along chiseled out shelves, and peek out of windows all made and used by humans centuries before us. They are preserved well enough to picture the possibility of a full life there with little added imagination and link us to the past as if we'd been tipped, while on a journey, and landed centuries earlier.
The weekend went by in a flash and before I could say "fairy chimneys", it was time to go back to busy city life. When I'd first arrived, I noticed that the vastness of the land had made me slightly uncomfortable- perhaps a reaction to the transition from the fast pace and close proximity of everything in the city that I've gotten accustomed to. The openness was quiet and disconcerting in its immensity. Over my three days there, I quickly settled into the seemingly endless stretch of land and sky, and the peacefulness and slowed pace of life that came with it. I left with a small pang in my heart, knowing that a much faster speech of life awaited on the other side.
|Did I mention I like the stone-carved details on the architecture?|
|Heart-shaped cloud over Uçhisar|
|Church in the Keşlik Monastery|
|Ornate ceiling in a cave church- Keşlik Monastery|
|Cave homes are a cool break from the hot sun|
|Enclave and old frescoes|
|Gabby, Keşlik Monastery|
|Waiting out the rain in a cave hideaway|
|These are a few of my favorite things...|
|St. George, dragon slayer|
|Would have been more aptly named, "The Church with Tiny Steep Steps"|
|Butt sliding, anyone?|