Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ripped From The Archives: Stumbling Into A Memory

This post first appeared in October of 2014. 

Here's the final post from the Creatavita Birthday Party Contest.  Jackie Lacinski asked for a travel story, and I believe I have a winner.  Travel with me back to June of 2006 and to the wonderful land of Turkey.

The sun rose on Day #2 of our Turkish Adventure and so did we, with a hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia region. This was my first ride in a balloon. The world looks so different from that vantage point, especially the world of Cappadocia.

How can I describe Cappadocia? I'll start with some history. Humans have been living here since 1800 BCE. Which means they've been fighting and conquering and hiding out here as well. The hiding out started around 400 AD, initially by Christians escaping persecution. Those early folk were clever. Because of the unusual geography of Cappadocia, extensive underground cities were developed, as well as some way up in the tops of the striking geological formations.

Yes, those squares are windows, and yes, that was someone's house.  Might still be someone's house.  Talk about getting away from it all.

One really gets a sense of how small and inconsequential we are when riding in a hot air balloon. The immense beauty of nature stands out, at least to me.

Back on the ground, the clouds rolled in. Our planned visit to the Ihlara Valley was cut short by heavy showers. No, let's make that a rainstorm. We ate lunch in a charmingly rustic restaurant next to a river swollen with the fresh rain.  Disappointed, we began to make our way back to our very cool cave hotel in Urgup.

And that's when the adventure really began. On a back road in the middle of Turkey. I noticed a number of women walking along the side of the road, all wearing shalvar made out of the same fabric. Then we passed a one-story cement-block building, constructed into the side of a hill, with at least one hundred people milling around, and even on top of the building.

In unision, we all shouted.“What's that?” to our excellent guide, Yunus Ozdemir.

“I don't know”, came the reply, “but I'm going to find out”.

And that's how we ended up stumbling into a memory. We had happened onto a traditional Turkish bride's party.  Think bridal shower on steroids.  

Like wedding celebrations everywhere, we could figure out that family and friends had gathered for a big celebration.  Some wore traditional clothing.  

Some wore Western clothing (which was most of what we saw people wearing in Turkey). There was ice cream for the kids and huge doses of happiness, laughter, joy and dancing.

Being concerned that I might commit a cultural offense, I turned to Yunus to ask if I could take a photo. “No, he sternly replied, “because you're going to dance!” and then with a big laugh, pushed me into the middle of the crowd.

As you can see, a couple of the guys were extremely inviting. Yunnus assumed these gentlemen had spent some time living in Europe, possibly Germany, hence their ease around foreigners.

The children were delightful, proudly posing for photos while eating as much ice cream as they could stuff into their faces.

I have always loved this photo. What a face. What a smile.

My lifelong fascination with textiles was indulged as I started to notice the beaded edges on the womens' headscarves.  I'll only make you look at one.  But each scarf had a different edging.  Rather creatavita, don't you think?

Midway through our crash, I remembered being told by a Canadian we had met in Ankara that it is a tradition to pin money on the bride in Turkey. The couple uses this money to start their lives together. I enlisted Yunus to help me find a pin.

I can vividly recall that moment. The wonderment in that young bride's eyes, her stunned looked at me as I pinned what was about $20 US dollars to her. My joy at being able to cross all the ridiculous political and cultural barriers to give another woman a gift, a gift from five Americans who love to travel the world, meeting real people and having real experiences.

Our crash lasted no more than an hour.  We drove away, totally thrilled by the spontaneity, by the experience, the ability to show a different side of Americans.

The next day, Yunus and Ayhan (our excellent driver) paused for this photo with Nick. It has always been one of my favorite photos. When I look at it, I see the face of the world. Three men, all young, all different in temperament and life experiences, all a part of the vast, wonderful sea of humanity.

I've surprised myself in writing this post.  I'm not one to pour over the photos and memorabilia I keep from my travels.  Yet, when I pulled out these photos and looked at our very sparse travel journal, I could feel that day come pouring back into my blood and soul.  It felt great.

Thanks Jackie.