Canyon Picnic

(I am at an Internet cafe, and the keyboard at this computer has no apostrophe key, hence my lack of possessives and contractions in this post…so I am formal and refusing all ownership today…)

Three minutes walk from our house is a crumbling staircase that drops down into a deep, striking valley. Then again, everywhere we go in Cappadocia, we are either in or surrounded by deep, striking valleys–that, much like the American West, is the nature of the place. However, we are not becoming inured to the beauty and still find ourselves gasping at every dust mound, looming rock wall, ancient bit of handiwork, and hoodoo.

The other day, needing to get out of the house (this being our current biggest challenge), we packed up some food and headed down the staircase into the valley for a picnic. A secondary aim of the expedition was to find a tree suitable for hanging a swing from. Where a swing would come from, should we find such a tree, remained a project for another day.

Below are photos from our canyon walk and picnic. The most arresting aspect of the canyon–outside of the fact that Haakon is actually walking and in it (wearing tennis shoes, no less…and boy did we hear repeatedly how heavy they were)–are the thousands upon thousands of pigeon dovecotes carved into the stone, some so high up as to be reachable only through a hidden network of tunnels or handholds.  Many of these alcoves were brightly and intricately decorated–seemingly as a means of attracting the pigeons, expressing an artistic part of the culture, and exhibiting the Muslim reverence for birds.

The presence of pigeons and alcoves stretches back thousands of years and is ubiquitous in this volcanic region, where the turfaceous soil needs enrichment for anything to grow, and pigeon poo provided exactly the necessary nutrients while also having the side benefit of being a natural fertilizer that discourages weeds; only in the last few decades has the widespread use of pigeon guano for fertilizer ebbed and been replaced by commercial fertilizers.  Nowadays, many of those whose livelihood used to come from gathering and selling pigeon manure have had to seek out other sources of income, such as opening tea shops in the valleys where tourists hike and crane their necks up towards the now-defunct dovecotes.

Pigeon alcoves with ornamental decorations

Next time we'll bring a hamam wrap (cloth used at a Turkish bath) for a picnic blanket

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7 Responses to Canyon Picnic

  1. Deborah says:

    First of all, my cousin’s son is named Haakon. That should seal our relationship, don’t you think?
    Secondly, I can’t help but get the feeling when I read these posts that your little family is quite alone, although still comfortably so. I have been imagining the level of persuasion needed to convince your kids (or maybe just the second one) that this time in Turkey was a good idea and will work out just fine. Coming up with ideas of things to do that get you out and exploring, along with enough of what’s familiar to make it all feel right must be quite challenging. Have you started ‘school’ yet? Having some structure will probably save your bacon on some days.

  2. kmkat says:

    Curious: was it hotter or cooler in the valley? Cooler because you were in a valley or hotter because of the sunlight/heat reflecting off the rock walls and being focused into the valley?

    Are snakes or scorpions a worry there? I ask because the kids are in shorts and sneakers/sandals. (Sorry to worry you, I’m just the perpetual Mom who wants her kids to put on a sweater because SHE is cold.)

  3. lime says:

    what an ancient looking place and so many nooks and crannies to explore. thanks for the lesson on the doves and the local economy. pity they’ve given up the guano for commercial fertilizer. the natural way would seem healthier and better for the local economy and environment.

  4. Tom Shilk says:

    great stuff…you’ve got a book here. i’d buy it. or at least check it out at the library. seriously…love all the info, the pics, and your family’s take on things. you could work the comics into the book too a la “the photographer.”

  5. Jim says:

    I’m lending you (okay, giving) some apostrophes. ”””””’ ””””’
    That should hold you until you can find the swinging tree.

  6. Pingback: Laying Fallow - Centipede Pigeon Home?

  7. Steve says:

    Ah! Glad to see Haakon out and about. The canyon is stunning. Very much like the American southwest, but more humanized.

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