Suitcase and World: Selime Monastery.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Selime Monastery.

Selime Monastery was one of those places that I had no expectations going in but left with memories of an amazing place. Wow!

From the entrance to Ilhara Valley, it probably took us about 10 minutes to get to Selime Monastery which is located at the northern tip of the valley.

Seconds after we parked the car, the skies opened up and a bucket of water rained down on us.  Seemed like an opportune time to break out lunch which was a combo of food we took from the breakfast table and the persimmons that Bro had bought earlier in the morning.

See that bowl on the dashboard?  It's a collapsible doggie bowl from Target.  Dog.  Human.  We can eat of the same type of bowl :-)

Did I tell you I love persimmons?  Especially the soft fleshed variety like they have in Turkey.  It's like eating a really tasty jam!

The most unusual persimmon I've ever seen.  The flesh was a translucent brown.  Full flavored and super, super sweet.   Lucky for Bro, there were seeds, which he quickly pocketed for planting back home.  One of several *green* souvenirs he has gotten on this trip!

It didn't rain for long.  The downpour stopped just around the time we finished eating.  It was still chilly though and who knew if the rain would start again so I kept my rain jacket on as I got out of the car.  The entry fee was included in our museum pass so we just headed on in.

The sight of Selime stopped me dead in my tracks.  Out of flat ground was this enormous, very oddly shaped rock.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before. 

A bit of rain.  A lot of wind.  Trying to keep my camera dry.  Does not make for a pretty picture.  Good laugh looking at it though :-)

I've learned that when they say *monastery* or *church* or *cathedral* in Cappadocia, they're not referring to an actual building; they're more likely referring to something cut out of rock.  Such is the case with Selime.  In a place filled with unusual rock churches, Selime tops the list!  It is the iconic troglodyte church!

Selime has a long history.  Over time, it was home to Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Danişment, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations. Not only was it a place where many leading clergymen were educated but it also once served as the military headquarters for the region.  While the monastery dates back to the  8th and 9th centuries, the frescoes in the structure date back to late 10th and early 11th centuries. 

Size wise, Selime is the largest religious building in Cappadocia with a cathedral-size church. The monastery also contains monks’ quarters, a large kitchen and even a stable for mules.

From the road there is a short but challenging climb up a steep hill to the monastery.  The rain had made the rocks slippery so I had to be especially careful.  Arrows pointed the one way up; there was a different path to come down.

If we weren't going up, we were trying to navigate our way along some narrow troughs that the path dissolved in to.  It was a much easier task for me than for Bro; my feet are much smaller.

There were a few signs, scattered here and there, identifying key interest points but for the most part, we just wandered along the path and went inside any room we could go in.

Inside the rock, there were many passages connecting the rooms.

The one thing that we could easily appreciate was the view.  There were plenty of places to catch a good one!

Any rock that could function as living space was carved!  I let Bro do the exploring as I focused on taking photos of this ever so interesting place.

I loved exploring the place.  You never knew what was around the corner or up the hill -  perhaps a cool cave room or a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape.

Definitely, one of the unique features of Selime is the color of the rock; it looks like the color of tarnished brass. had to take a closer look - the blueish green shade comes from lichen.   Oddly enough, only the real *exterior* rock wall was that tinge of color - carved sections were the color of the original rock.  Perhaps because those sections are slightly less exposed to the elements.

Panorama Selime Monastery
Panoramic view of Selime Monastery. Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire photo.

The path ended in a small open area facing a series of cave rooms, including the monastery's cathedral and two churches. 

The person in the bright blue jacket is standing in front of the entrance to the cathedral.

The interior of the cathedral was massive - much, much larger than any other cave church I have ever been in.  In more impressive is that it's a two story structure - there are steps that you can take up to the floor above.

We took a quick look from upstairs.

And then continued our exploration, taking the passageways that connected rooms.

We saw a small chapel.

As you would expect, the monks had to eat so Selime has a kitchen.  Walking through it, you can still see the soot that had built up on the tall walls leading up to the vented ceiling.

There was even a room for storing grains and supposedly, there's a space set aside for housing the animals. Hmmm....wonder where they kept the camels?

The people who lived here most certainly enjoyed marvelous views of the surrounding area.  You can imagine what it would have been like to look out and see nothing but wilderness and perhaps a small village or two.

Our wanderings eventually led us to the church with its massive vaulted ceiling.

One of the churches had a set of magnificently carved columns that were also decorated with frescoes which have faded over time.

Walking through Selime truly felt like walking through a ghost town.  Beautiful but slightly eery.  I was fascinated just thinking how the people who lived here actually planned out the complex.  How do you look at a rock and imagine not only a single room but a series of them, each serving a different function?  Then, with crude tools, you have to slowly chip away at the rock to bring your vision to life.  Amazing.

Looking back towards where we parked our car.

Because of the wet, slippery rock, I found it harder to go down than come up.  I was super careful.  Bro scampered along as he always does.  Some of the rooms were actually by vertical passageways.  Bro did the dutiful and took them wherever the arrow pointed him to do so.  I opted to take the longer way down.  I think he made the smarter choice as I had to contend with slippery rock while he enjoyed dry ground.

Easier to back down.

By the time we made it back to ground level, we just headed back towards the car.  Although I took a picture of the cemetery across the street, we didn't go see it.  In the middle of the cemetery stands the Selime Sultan Turbesi (Monumental Tomb). Supposedly, it is a rare example of its type in the region as it is conical in shape with an octagonal base. From the architectural style and materials used, it most probably dates from the 13th century AD.

Selime was a wonderful surprise and I'm thrilled that after three trips to Cappadocia, I got to see it!  I really enjoyed my short time here.  Next, we're off to Derinkuyu to visit the underground city.