It’s crisp outside this morning; it snowed two days ago and more is forecast for later this week. I draw my scarf closer and sip on my glass of hot çay.
Victory is sweeping the pavement outside his shop. He finishes and begins placing ceramic tiles on a shelf beside the door. Fatih is standing on a ladder, hanging carpets over his shop windows. The earthy reds, yellows, blues and browns add warmth to this chilly day.
“Günaydın,” I call as Mustafa walks past. A lit cigarette dangling from his fingers, he stops for a chat, asking if I slept well. I did. The carpet shop is warm and quiet, and Hector, the ginger cat, makes good company.
I finish my tea and collect the other glasses from the men in the renting agency. They have bicycles and four wheelers for hire for easier sightseeing around the area.
Hector winds himself around my legs as I set out cutlery and napkins on the chest in Fatih’s shop. I suppose he’s ready for his breakfast too. Mustafa has prepared menemen – scrambled eggs cooked with green and red peppers and tomatoes – and five of us scoop up delicious mouthfuls with fresh bread. Meals in the carpet shop are a communal affair I learn, often with someone jumping up mid-mouthful if a customer walks by.
Goreme is a touristic place, but at this time of year there are fewer visitors to Cappadocia in central Turkey. The region’s fairy chimneys, unique rock formations, cave dwellings and underground cities are otherworldly; I feel like I’ve landed on another planet.
I am in Cappadocia, this legendary geographical anomaly, sleeping in Fatih’s “magic carpet shop”. How I ended up here is another of those travel stories full of synchronicities and saying yes and letting the magic happen. Truth be told, I enjoyed hanging out among the intricately patterned carpets, drinking endless glasses of çay and chatting to the men who ran in and out of the shop, far more than visiting the valleys and underground cities.
Fatih, Mustafa and I enjoy the warmth of the new wood-burning stove in the carpet shop. Fatih’s baked potatoes went down a treat.
One day I hitched to two nearby villages and spent most of the day just speaking to shop owners about their ceramic work and antique pieces, and drinking yet another glass of sugary sweet apple tea. At a small underground city I met the old man who discovered the site in the 1970s. He now runs a souvenir shop there. I learnt about the different painting techniques and patterns used in the local pottery work. I visited my first Turkish hammam for a much-needed scrub down and later wandered into a treasure chest of antique silver jewellery and glittery ceremonial dresses.
Özkonak Underground City.
Ceramic plates and bowls in a studio/shop in Avanos.
This antique dealer gave me a full tour of his collection in Ürgüp.
I set out for a small walk around the town. Along the way I meet Olka and Ashkan and we head up the road to the Goreme Open Air Museum together. We stop to watch some horses gallop into a valley and admire a tree decorated with blue evil eyes – raindrops cling to the glass charms. At the museum my new friends discover they’ve left their wallet behind so we decide to continue walking to one of the nearby valleys. We disregard the falling snow, digging our fingers deeper into our pockets and burying our noses in our scarves.
By the time we make it to the start of Rose Valley we are wet and cold and we take comfort around the fire a stall keeper has got going. Steam rises off my jacket. We continue into the valley; we’re here after all and our cold toes can be thawed out later. The path is muddy and treacherously slippery and we slip and slide down and along, marvelling at the snowy scene around us. We are the only people in the valley, but if it wasn’t for Olka and Ashkan I would have lost my sense of humour and headed back to town.
Olka and I laughing despite the falling snow and freezing temperature at the start of the Rose Valley (I think, we weren’t quite sure which route we actually walked).
We are all soaked through and our shoes – none of them waterproof – are covered in mud, but we’ve enjoyed the stillness of the Rose and Red valleys. We make a date to walk through another valley the next day.