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My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 22 April 2012 | Views [94] | Scholarship Entry

“For you this another step in your travels, but for me this has always been my heart and soul”.
This is what Ela told me, while we where cruising on an old, rented Ford Explorer, through the beautiful, alien landscape of Cappadocia, in central Turkey. I gazed out of the window and thought I understood what she said. The red rocks of Cappadocia, near the city of Göreme, eroded centuries ago into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms. People of the villages at the heart of the region carved out houses, churches, and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits. It was a wild, primordial scenery something utterly different from anything I had ever seen.
I had met Ela at Nevsehir Hospital, south of Göreme, after she had medicated a friend of mine who had injured his leg in a fall. She was the only one in the hospital who could speak English. She had amber eyes and olive skin, and curly, reddish-brown hair. More importantly, she was an orthodox Christian in a Muslim country. We had immediately struck a friendship, and she had insisted to guide us around the region for the weekend.
And so she led us deep into the bowels of the earth, into the darkness of Kaymakli Underground City, 40 km south of Göreme. Ela told us about the Christian sect of 20.000 people who hid and lived in the tunnels, twenty centuries ago, for fear of the Roman persecution. She showed us caves used as churches, houses and classrooms. The tunnels develop for eight levels in every direction, left and right, upwards and downwards, giving the impression of walking through a giant anthill. A giant ventilation shaft descends from the ground down to the inner level, and enormous circular rocks stand by every entrance, used in the past to seal off the city from invaders.
"Do you feel a connection to the Christians that once lived here?" I asked. Ela smiled and didn't answer, but I could tell the reverence she felt for the place, a feeling of wonder I couldn't help but share.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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