A middle aged man carefully smears a woman with mud while a friend looks on. All are dressed for the beach, and yes, it’s hot, in these mountains far inland in rural Turkey. Towering behind them, rather incongruously, is a near vertical wall of what might be snow. Perched on top are palm trees and the walls of ancient fortifications. The sun is high in the sky. We are in Pamukkale, bathing in a stunning white natural thermal pool, one of many which hang from the edge of this calcium coated mountain. There are no two ways about it, this is strange.
Another day, another surprise. Our journey takes us to Cappadocia in central Anatolia. Here we stay in the village of Göreme, and go underground. Many of Göreme’s inhabitants still live in caves carved into the volcanic rock. A vast complex of 10th to 12th century abandoned, windowless churches is cut deep into the hills, and decorated with frescoes which have somehow stood the test of time. This same area has troglodyte underground cities, built to hide whole populations and withstand attack. We explore Derinkuyu, which housed as many as 20,000 people and their animals, and has stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, and wineries all far underground. Time spent hiding there must have been unimaginably hard.
The light and the dark, the dark and the light. More memories of our three weeks in Turkey last summer, travelling around. Watching a wild tortoise cross the road in front of our bus in the blazing heat of the midday sun (it lived to tell the tale). Sweet, sticky Turkish Delight bought in a heaving sweet shop one night in Selçuk. Cold beers drunk on the roof of our hotel as we watch the sun set over Kaş on the Mediterranean.
These bright thoughts will somehow sustain me through our grey winter gloom.