Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Turkey - Kayseri and Goreme

Bugger - this bloody cafe just chewed up a great post. Took almost half an hour too.

I'm annoyed but I'll rewrite the whole thing now.

Dedicated to Friendly Museum Staff Worldwide

Kayseri was a good place to spend a quiet day. Lots of ancient Seljuk tombs scatteredabout the inner city, like concreted-in gazebos. Also plenty of beautiful mosques wedged between new highrise apartments - the early morning muezzin must be a real eye-opener at ear level!

Also had a good chat over cay with the museum staff at Kayseri - none of whom spoke English. This story was longer before so I won't redo the whole thing, but the short version ends with a commendation of their knowledge of Australian colonial history, an inventive use of museum exhibits, an Austrian conspiracy, and an exchange of addresses and even a photograph of one of the guards (Ahmed) as a gift for my journal.

Many people seem to think I look Turkish and don't sound Australian. That's another short version of a couple of amusing vignettes - talk to me in Australia for them!

I'm in Goreme now, which is by far the most well-planned place for tourists I have yet encountered on the Grand Tour. Parts of it retain the sense of rural Turkish village - there are even skanky chickens running about tiny alleyways with interesting doors, nearly missing colourful trucks loaded with watermelons. (Because everyone knows that's the real Turkey...). Other parts are loaded with hostels, travel agencies, English-language menus, and purveyors of handicrafts. There are also many gorgeous young backpackers with cute accents. The most distinctive thing about the town (and the region generally) are the massive stone formations called "fairy chimneys". These are spectacular geological phenomena that jut from the ground like diabolic monstrosities heaving from some kind of subterreanean inferno. Or gaze around like so many stuptified revellers confused by the sudden lack of a ceiling. Bit of both really.

I spent the afternoon wandering the Open Air Museum, a collection of Byzantine-era churches carved into those chimneys. It was truly a world-heritagesite, without question. Beautiful painted walls, carved inscriptions, signs of iconoclasm and social upheaval, and some tremendously well-preserved sites amongst them. Also heaps of tour groups - which was useful from time to time as I could listen in on the more interesting stuff, but was not anywhere near as hurried as they were.

Another ticket seller befriended me at the entrance to the Dark Church (the best of the churches). After another cup of cay, he insisted I visit a very special room - the balcony overlooking the entire museum complex. He gave me the key and a torch, and after a darkened cave rom, a locked iron gate, and a pitch-black spiraling stone staircase (all hidden away form the public), I emerged to a most sensational view of the Cappadocian horizon. I felt very honoured indeed - we GAs have clearly formed a secret world network of like-minded museum staff!

After the museum I wandered back to Goreme via the Valley of the Swords. This was a series of beautiful little valleys containing secretive terraced gardens. They were growing aubergine, apricots, peaches, zucchinni, chillies, grapes, figs, apples, mint, and scented white flowers. Plenty of ripening pumpkins too, stretched out over many metres. I was the only person there, and was able to explore deep into the valleys using handmade bridges, tunnels requiring knee-crawling, and crevices so narrow I had to wedge myself through sideways. It was a great walk, and I finally maxed out my 512MB memory card.

Off to find some backpackers to join me for dinner now. I'm here for three days, soI'll write again tommorow night.


  • At Thursday, September 15, 2005 5:22:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wonderful Sam. Museum workers of the world unite!

    Now - download that memory card onto CD!

    A tip too. I copy my blog entries every few minutes onto the clipboard of the computer so if I lose the entry I can retrieve it. No prizes for guessing why I do this.

    Parent, feminine


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