アンドリュー・ハーパーのHideaway reportによって世界で二番目にユニークなホテルに選ばれ

FINANCIAL TIMES




November 2005

How To Spend It Magazine

SECRETS AND HIGHS

Cappadocia’s magical landscape, underground cities and forbidden ceremonies are opening up to luxury travellers at last, says Julian Allason.

Not Many outside turkey have heard of it and fewer yet can point to it on a map. Yet Cappadocia looks set to repaginate the atlas of luxury cultural and adventure travel. High on the central Anatolian plain, close to the country’s geographic centre, is a landscape unlike any other on earth. Mysterious pillars of rock rise out of it – “fairy chimneys” capped with basalt to resemble giant mushrooms. Others formations have been carved by
wind, sand and rain into the shape of mythological beasts. Nearby stand cones hundreds of feet high. It has taken aeons to fashion these structures and now something stranger yet is occurring. “Nature, the greatest archaeologist of all, is doing our work for us, laying bare secrets kept for centuries,” says Sami Yilmaz, a keen student of such phenomena who was born into this alien terrain. Before us, commanding the little town of Göreme, a citadel of rock scrapes the cobalt sky. But erosion has revealed it to be hollow, its interior riddled with passages and chambers now starting to give up their secrets to Yilmaz and the legion of anthropologists
and historians who have descended upon the region Mystery pervades this wild country, unvisited even by most Turks. At ancient caravanserais on the old camel route from Persia, whirling dervishes still perform the forbidden Sema ceremony. The accidental discovery of an underground city eight-storeys deep at Kaymakli has led to the opening up of seven more, complete with churches, wells and kitchens. Archaeologists now posit the existence of no fewer than 200 secret cities as they puzzle over their history. It is now possible to visit several of these, although, as the Footprint guide drily observes, those prone to claustrophobia should stay away. The emergence of such curiosities in a land of spare beauty has led to the opening of the first luxury hotels and to Turkish Airlines’ introduction of twice-daily flights, via Istanbul, from London and other European capitals. Hot-air balloons and river rafts offer spectacular ways to explore the Cappadocian topography, as does the inauguration of an open-air museum at Göreme following its declaration by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. For Turkey, the consequences could hardly be more critical. “On average some calamity has befallen our country every three years since 1990,” reflects Aydin Ayhan Güney of the tourist agency Argeus. "Each time visitor numbers have plummeted.” From political flare-ups in the general region to the Istanbul earthquake of 1999, Turkey’s tourism has had to rebuild. It has done so on a narrow base, unduly reliant on the appeal of Bodrum and the beaches of the south, and the treasure house of Istanbul to the north-west. With the future looking brighter, Cappadocia’s emergence as a third major centre promises much. The government is investing trillions of Turkish lira on new highways through the province. Unspoken is the hope that such thoughtful development may assist Turkey’s candidature for the European Union. It is certainly likely to deliver visitors to an area approached until recently only with difficulty. In a cave high above Göreme an aged man falls to his knees before an icon believed to be unique: exquisitely executed in rich colours, the fresco depicts Jesus as a haloed teenager. We are in an almost perfectly preserved Byzantine church of the 13th century, the walls, pillars, arches and ceiling of which are decorated with scenes from the life of Christ. It is one of thousands that survive in Turkey. What is unusual here is that the interior of Karanlik
Kilise, the Dark Church, has been carved inside the soft tufa rock of the hillside. The only natural light is that reflected from a small window into the vestibule, thereby conserving the frescoes within. Eight hundred years ago the chapel formed the heart of an underground monastic community whose size can be adduced from the refectory below: around tables sculpted out of the rock are seats for 80 monks. A large cone 100 yards away had been hollowed out to construct a convent for a smaller number of nuns. On this site alone are the remains of more such monasteries, their rock-hewn churches still decorated with angels, evangelists and saints, among them St George vanquishing a dragon of unreliable aspect. Today, they are the subject of astonishment by archaeologist and casual visitor alike, and of veneration by pilgrims from the small Christian community remaining in Anatolia since the Greek-Turkish population exchanges of 1924.

Yunak Evleri, a handsome Ottoman mansion at nearby Urgüp, was once the residence of a prosperous Turkish family. Now it has become a small luxury hotel of Oriental charm. The majority of the 27 guestrooms occupy restored stone village houses, each differing in architecture and character. But several are in fifthseventh century cave houses burrowed deep into the cliff that embraces the small market town. The experience of inhabiting one is surprisingly serene – and dry – although erosion and reconstruction have supplied windows and doors where originally there was a blank rock face with a concealed underground entrance. Now there are bathrooms with modern plumbing and sanitation, and even room service, (although it would be a pity to miss the view – and local menu – at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant). For enough of the surrounding cliffside has eroded to reveal the pattern of troglodyte houses, from stables at the lowest level to living rooms above and at the highest level kitchens, from which smoke filtered up through the porous rock to escape invisibly from the hilltop.

Other cave hotels have opened, some with accommodation entirely underground. Meanwhile towns such as Göreme support good restaurants such as Sömine. There are even nightclubs in caverns that were once the retreat of ancient peoples. What, then, was the purpose of these subterranean dwellings? The answer, as Sámi Yilmaz suggests, lies in the soil. Volcanic eruptions 30m years ago coated the land with ash, which over millennia compacted into the soft tufa rock. This the Hittites, who occupied the country in the third millennium BC, found easy to excavate into caves for storage at a constant cool temperature. As the Anatolian region was fought over by successive empires, the inhabitants found it politic to disappear, digging out secret cities in which to survive for months at a time. By the first century AD early Christians were using them to hide from Roman persecution. Some of the Cappadocian cave villages remained in occupation until recent times. Only in 1962, when a rock collapse revealed the interior of their houses to onlookers, did the inhabitants of Cavusin abandon their subterranean existence – and then on orders from government officials fearful of further disintegration. At the time of “the great exposure” one comely villager is said to have been revealed in her tin bath. Today, the settlement has a melancholy air, intensified by electricity poles and other signs of comparatively recent occupation. It is best dispelled by the purchase of a goat-hair pashmina or kelim from one of the ramshackle stalls erected at the approach by former inhabitants. As dusk falls over the steppe, haunting music steals across its emptiness. The origin is the ancient caravanserai near Avanos. Within its thick curtain walls, six dervishes of the Mevlana order of Sufis begin to whirl. As the tempo of drums, ud (lute) and ney (flute) rises, the dervishes enter an ecstatic trance as they reach for the divine. Their right hands raised to heaven, the left hands channel celestial energy to earth. One of the observers breaks the injunction and steals a secret photograph. The image shows lightning flashing downward from the lower hand. To overcome the prohibition of Turkey’s secular state, the ceremony has been billed as a cultural event. Yet this is no reenactment, but an authentic ritual by dervishes following a secret mystical path within Islam unbroken in 750 years. Sheikh Murat Yaman is the dervish master. He is a tall, fit man of about 40 who smilingly gives his age as 20, adepts counting only the years of spiritual advance. His eldest son, Abdullah, is one of the 12 dervishes performing tonight’s ritual in the darkened Semahana ceremonial hall of the caravanserai. It commences with a bow to salute the soul, flows into the spinning dance, ebbs to a slow circumambulation of
the floor, moving again into a rapid whirl. Throughout, conical hats that represent “gravestones of the ego” remain in place, while skirts fly out in a mesmerising blur. Few major tour operators yet offer Cappadocia. One that does is the sophisticated adventure specialist Original Travel, whose Alastair Poulain counsels: “Go soon.
“When the dervishes permit photography it will be too late and mystery will have dissipated with the arrival of the crowds.” Istanbul is already preparing for more visitors. The city has its first minimalist chic boutique hotel, A’jia, a stylish jumping-off point for expeditions into the interior. The 18th century yali, or wooden pasha villa, dazzles inside and out with light refracting from the Bosphorus. All 16 bedrooms overlook it, five having sunny balconies from which to watch the liners and tankers, warships and fishing vessels making passage just a few cables distant. That the Mediterranean restaurant on the quay should rapidly have become one of Istanbul’s hippest rendezvous is hardly surprising given A’jia’s provenance as the first hotel venture of those switchedon restaurateurs, the Doors brothers. On return from Cappadocia, travellers might choose the restrained luxury of the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul within the walls of the former political prison, by the Topkapi Palace at the heart of the old city. Or perhaps the nostalgic charm of the Hotel Pera Palas, unchanged since Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express there (she stayed in room number 411). But for a taste of imperial opulence there is no substitute for the residence of the last sultans. Kempinski’s modern five-star Ciragan Palace Hotel stands in the tranquil grounds of the original Ottoman palace. The latter contains not only the romantic Tugra dining room but the great hamamor Turkish bath that is considered one of the most beautiful interiors of the Levant. The sultan’s private quarters have been converted into 11 sumptuous suites, five of which overlook the Bosphorus. The palatial Sultan Suite, in which the Caliph laid his head (and, legend has it, 1001 harem girls) is reckoned the largest in Europe. Outside, at the water’s edge, a tent has been pitched and a masseur awaits, ready to restore muscles sore from cave exploration. Far to the east, eight hot-air balloonists are bracing themselves for the descent into a mystical landscape of fairy chimneys and hidden cities. On the ground, anticipating their bump down, is a man in a tracksuit opening a magnum of champagne. As Yilmaz remarks, “Venture deserves its reward.”

ONE FOOT IN THE CAVE
The best time to visit Cappadocia is mid-May through June or September through October, when the days are sunny and warm (23°C), but nights cool. December and January are cold (-2°C), but the area looks exceptionally beautiful in the snow. Julian Allason travelled as a guest of Original Travel (020-7978 7333; www.originaltravel.co.uk) which offers six-night packages to Cappadocia and Istanbul, including return economy flights on Turkish Airlines from London, three nights B&B at Yunak Evleri, Cappadocia, three nights B&B at A’jia, Istanbul, and three days’ guided walking in Cappadocia, from £1,210 per person based on two sharing a double room midseason. The following hotel rates are for a double room B&B midseason. A’jia, Kanlica, Istanbul (0090216-413 9300; UK reservations, 020-7722 2288; www.ajiahotel.com), from about £225. Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Besiktas, Istanbul (0090212-258 3377; UK reservations, 00800-4263 1355; www.ciragan-palace.com), from about £350; suites from about £1,175. Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul, Sultanahmet-Eminönü (0090212-638 8200; UK reservations, 00800-6488 6488; www.fourseasons.com), from about £255. Hotel Pera Palas, Tepebasi, Istanbul (0090212-251 4560;www.perapalas.com), from about £115. Yunak Evleri, Urgüp, Cappadocia (0090384-341 6920; www.yunak.com), from about £80. Other tour operators offering Cappadocia include Elixir Holidays, 020-7722 2288; www.elixirholidays. com and The Ultimate Travel Company, 020-7386 4696; www.theultimatetravel company.co.uk. Argeus Tourism & Travel (0090384-341 4888; www.argeus.com.tr) provides reliable guides and can arrange access to whirling dervish ceremonies. Turkish Airlines (020-7766 9300; www.turkishairlines.com) flies twice-daily from London to Kayseri via Istanbul from £200. For more information on Cappadocia, Istanbul and the rest of Turkey visit www.gototurkey.co.uk


Bet Siteleri
Mariobet
betigo
site by abcmedya