Cappadocia, In a word: fantastic. In the literal sense. It's a fantasy land, both in terms of history and landscape. The region is a network of small towns that have one thing in common: the weird geology of the region lent itself over the ages to people digging caves to live in. And so they did.
And, if you look at a map, and know a little of the history of the Christian church, you'll see that this area also lent itself to becoming a true cradle for the infant church–a cradle which sheltered Christians in these caves for up to fifteen centuries.
I posted about Rome six days ago, and at the time promised to go on endlessly about our subsequent visits to the sites that were destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD, or as the secularists say, 79 CE. Since I'm a Latin guy though, I'm sticking with AD.
So, here goes. First there was a train ride from Rome to Naples, then a change for Pompeii. We had decided to stay in Pompeii, instead of Naples, for a couple of reasons. Number one is that Naples is pretty much of a shit hole, and I can't remember the second one.
Madrileños, unlike most denizens of big cities, are genuinely friendly and eager to talk about their city, Spain, and almost anything else you want to discuss. Our first night here, we had a discussion about journalism and its position as a profession in Spanish society over beers and a plate of olives at an outdoor cafe in the Plaza Mayor with a young man named José Angel. José Angel’s girlfriend is a journalist and he’s a carpenter, so he allowed as there was some friction with her parents over his “station” in life. I assured him that their positions would probably be reversed if he came to the United States and he’d be welcome to visit us anytime the in-laws got to be too much.
Kris and I went for the weekend in Valparaíso and stayed for the rain.
The three month long drought in Chile broke all over us last weekend. We took a two-hour bus trip to Valpo on Friday even though we'd been warned that the weather wasn't going to cooperate. I don't know why we didn't just postpone until the week. It's not like we have jobs or anything that makes us note the difference between weekends and weekdays, but, at least one of us is really stubborn.
When you think of just how dry and forbidding the Atacama desert is, you wonder why the hell anyone would live there. Maybe it makes sense now, because there are things like highways and trucks and bottled water you can bring in from a distance. And maybe now because there are vast deposits of copper and other minerals there, and the export of those minerals is to Chile what oil is to Saudi Arabia.
Our weekend trip to San Pedro de Atacama was a little anti-climactic for me. Evidently, I had eaten something which didn't agree with me sometime during the previous week and it sort of came on all of a sudden–and I do mean all of a sudden–on our second day of a three day trip. So, I did manage to see the geysers on day one, and the archeological sites on day three, but missed the Moon and Death Valleys on day two. Hell, I like geysers and ruins as much as the next guy, but abject desolation is really fascinating. And that's what I missed.
I've been reading, for the second time, a book called The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie. It makes traveling so much better when you know something about the history of what you're looking at. It's a terrific lot of historical research that reconstructs in great detail just how the Spanish destroyed the Inca empire, and fits in beautifully with Hiram Bingham's accounts of his rediscovery of the Incan sites, particularly Machu Picchu. (Did you know, btw, that Bingham was looking for Vilcabamba, the last Incan capital, and thought that's what he'd found at Machu Picchu? Oh well, that's another story for later, and to be told by someone else–scholars, for instance–who are interested in academic credit.)