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Ethiopian Rock Church
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Turkey - Goreme

I'm writing this from fabulous Istanbul, lapping up the cosmopolitan atmosphere, but as usual Im several days behind in my blog updates what with needing to edit photos as well as find enough time somewhere with a decent internet connection to upload.

Turkey has been a great place to travel to and I will definately be returning at some point. Its a breath of fresh air after shiny suited Syria and its slightly backward ways in terms of ease of travel. This trip has not allowed time for seeing too much of it, it is definately kind of tagged on the end with some long travel days to hoon on up to Istanbul all the way from the Syrian border. The only stop of note that we made was Goreme in Cappadocia. Here we spent 2 and a half days and it proved to contain a couple of real highlights.

The area is famous for its unusual rock formations and 'fairy chimneys' with cave dwellings in them. I was well aware of the rock formations and to be honest, after a bit of a look around, its a bit like 'OK nice rocks, whats next then', in the wrong light it can look like a big slag heap rather that a spot of scenic beauty. What I wasnt prepared for, however, and what our tour leader managed to almost forget to tell us, was that the area is rammed full of rock cut churches and monastic cells dating from the 9th and 10th Centuries covered with beautifully painted frescoes. These were really stunning and Nat and I spent a good few hours wandering round the open air museum with our audio guides on taking it all in. To my mind it was an experience that easily rivals the Valley of the Kings for colourful rock painting and a much more pleasant experience. We were a bit stunned that we could almost have left the area without knowing what was a 20 minute walk from the hotel because the guide was too busy trying to push his carpet shop enterprise. Ah well..

On the travel day arriving into Goreme from Nidge, we saw another monastary and also spent some time exploring an underground city which stretched to 8 levels deep and 70 metres of tunnels rooms and passageways. Not much photographic potential down there but an interesting stop. Apparently used for local villagers to dissapear down into for months on end when invading hoardes would periodicaly come through the area. Thousands of people could live down there undetected.

We also took an easy hike through a river valley and had a great riverside lunch lounging in a cushioned pavillion.

Goreme was a really pleasant town in itself - we spied some great looking rock cut boutiquey hotels on our walk up to the sunset point, including This one. Wouldnt have minded an upgrade there!.

When photo browsing perhaps ponder over the question - was Southparks Jesus inspired by early Byzantine Christian art or is this just a bizarre coincidence!
Again, even from an agnostics point of view its impossible not to be awed by the stories depicted on these walls which have been passed down since the death of Jesus to the present time, you can imagine priests with followers sat around them as they pointed to the niches in the walls and ceilings and passed on the stories contained in them. As someone who has had no in depth religious study other than RE at school that I barely paid attention too, I was actually quite amazed at just how much of what was depicted had been drummed into me just from growing up in a Christian country. Once again, Im going to be on a mission to find some kind of Biblical mythbusters to find out more of whats historicaly documented of what actualy happened in these lands, how it affected people and how it spread from the holy land. It was interesting to be in an area where you really could see that disciples of Jesus could have spread the word up in this direction, its no further that we have travelled ourselves in the course of this trip. Other religious observations on this trip which for the last week or two has been through outposts of the Ottoman empire is the shared Old testament stories between Islam and Christianity.

One thing though... Mathew, Mark, Luke and John - what were their real names? Surely these are made up for the latin speaking mass market, these people lived in Palestine and Judea for goodness sake, where the King was called Herod etc etc, facts.... I need facts!

Its certainly the greatest story ever told. And that's not said with a note of sarcasm. I dont dispute that something of truly epic historical significance happened, and I find the spread of its message and its effect on world civilisation truly fascinating regardless of what you choose to believe as its true meaning. I have no judgements about peoples belief sytems even though I have not personaly been touched in the same way. Perhaps I will have an epiphany. One thing though - I dont think that its possible for there to be just one 'God' or true Religion. Surely it could not be right that you have the true faith just because you were lucky enough to grow up in the right part of the world in a Christain culture as opposed to in the East raised as a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim, could they not all just be different paths to the same end? Hmmm...deep head scratchy moment, time to head out!


Fiona said...

I love this blog post Jon, really thoughtful (not that your others haven't been) but really good. Makes me want to learn more about the history of religion and the history of the people who did live in this time as well. If you find any good books let me know!

Jon-Bear said...

Thanks Fi - I ll let you know! maybe you can have a GR trawl for me and we will get it together :)

ps. reading second Millenium book now


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