Today’s first stop was Imagination Valley. Here we scrabbled all over the eroded rock formations and looked for shapes in the rocks. The first huge obvious rock formation was in the shape of a camel. There were penguins, seals, an eagle here and cat there. The rocks were just fun to climb all over. Of course Martin was off like a shot, before we knew it, we saw him across the ravine. How he gets so far so fast away from us at every site we visit is a mystery to me as I leisurely stroll and languidly drape myself over the rocks.
Lunch was at a restaurant that happened to be in, you guessed it, a cave. It started with a lentil soup, followed by a bean dish, the main course was a meat dish. The meat is cooked in a ceramic pot that has been sealed with bread dough over the top. (It does have a special name but I’m having a hard time finding it).
Down the road we stopped at another carved out hide out that belonged to St. Simon. Here he lived a simple life, eating little and having little to no personal possessions, living in isolation, in his sacrifice trying to get closer to god. The bed and pillow were even carved out of stone. Mark shimmied up the chimney like stairs with foot holds in the wall.
We visited another open air museum at Zelve. There are two valleys here that are connected by carved out stairs and tunnels which we clambered through the dark. Fortunately we came prepared, we actually packed our headlamp. This valley was inhabited by a large population of Greeks until the 1922 “population exchange” when Greeks and Turks were “repatriated” to their own countries. This is all a nice way of saying the Christians were kicked out and the Muslims were brought back home. It was later inhabited by Muslims, and there is a small stone Mosque carved out near the entrance.
We made a quick stop at a jewelers that gave a demonstration of carving local onyx. The difference between marble, alabaster and onyx was explained, onyx is opaque whereas no light passes through the marble. Locally acquired onyx is carved into boxes and keepsakes. The craftsman quickly used a diamond tipped lathe to carve out and polish an egg shape within seconds before our eyes. Mark admired the machining skill done with such precision in two dimensions at once. We were corralled into the shop, where we were harangued a bit. It was amusing watching Mark try to explain the concept of “bling bling” to a woman who spoke little English but had asked about a word that describes jewelery she asked, “you know, two words together, like ‘tickle tickle’ or ‘giggle giggle’?”
In the early evening we went on a long hike in the “Red Valley” to watch the sunset as we descended into the “Rose Valley” Here we saw the brightly colored multi layered strata. A thick band of yellow blazed across the vibrant pinks that dominated this valley. All this contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and fluffy white clouds, the dark greens of the scrub vegetation. At the far end of the hike we encountered the largest cave church carved out of the soft tuff yet. On the way down we watched a few dung beetles doing their thing outside the holes they’ve dug. On our way out, the wind was whipping through the valley, pushing against us as we walked the the higher ridges.
That night a few of us needed to make a supply run, either to an eczane or market. It had been pouring down rain, torrential rain. As soon as it let up a little we ventured out. It turned out to be more of a brisk run in the rain. The sound track playing in my mind was, “run lola run” music as we went from place to place looking for directions to an eczane, then eczane to eczane trying to find one that was open, then on to a super market. There was a bit of mad giggling as we ran. It was a bit ridiculous. As we started back up the hill to the hotel, it turns out there was a market just a block or two away that we could have gone to. But, a run in the rain after days of walking and hiking about is just what we needed.