Michael Palin explores eastern Europe. He treks up to the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, where he joins the summer solstice celebrations of the White Brotherhood sect.
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'Lake Ohrid lies between Albania, which I've just left,
'and Macedonia, on which I'm setting foot.
'I shall be heading east, through Macedonia's eye-catching scenery,
'and on to the border it shares with Bulgaria.
'Then across Bulgaria into Turkey, and via Istanbul and Ephesus
'to Cappadocia on the Anatolian plateau.'
-Pretty spectacular up here.
'With my friend Dimitar, I'm entering territory
'where even 4x4s fear to tread.
'The rocky foothills of the Rila Mountains in western Bulgaria.
'Dimitar is a member of an order called The White Brotherhood,
'who hold an annual gathering in the starkly beautiful surroundings
'of an area they call The Seven Lakes.'
-I've just seen a lake.
It's beautiful. This is...
-The first of the...
COW BELLS CHIME
'It's been a long day's journey to get to this remote spot.
'Well, as remote as a spot can be
'when there's 1,000 other people sharing it with you.'
This is the camp.
It's like a...
-small city, isn't it?
Up there, all of those tents perched very precariously.
'I didn't sleep much last night. By the time I nodded off,
'everyone else was getting up for the sunrise,
'which is very important to the White Brotherhood.
'The summer solstice is the most auspicious time of year for them.
'And this lofty mountain top is the most auspicious place to witness it.
'The White Brotherhood was founded by a Bulgarian called Peter Deunov,
'on whom the spirit of God descended on March 7th, 1897.
'Non-smoking and vegetarian, it's a curious mix
'of Christian and Indian mysticism, with much talk of spiritual energies,
'which are evidently abundant in these spectacular mountains.
'The climax of the day is what they call paneurhythmic dancing.
'No bobble hats and anoraks here.
'This is the White Brotherhood in all its glory.'
What is the aim of what you are doing here today?
What is it really all about?
It's about the peak of the summer.
Today is the peak of the summer.
People are gathering today because it's a celebration for the brotherhood.
Since this day is when you can receive the most of energies
from the sun. And... We come together,
we dance the paneurhythmic. We have concerts.
It makes us feel more close to each other,
more like brothers and sisters.
Is the paneurhythmic dancing, is that a way of achieving this harmony, this function?
Yes. This is the best tool we have for achieving the harmony.
Because, it's a union of three very important things.
Number one, that is the material, the moves.
Number two, this is the words, you know the mind.
It's words which are words about nature,
about love, about harmony, about the spring, the energies.
And also, it's the third thing, it's also the heart. You know,
people are also working with their hearts, while being in the circle.
It's a union circle. Uniting people.
It's the symbol of the sun. And also,
People are also working on their spiritual level.
It's like a prayer in movement and dance.
Today was an extraordinary event.
-Were you pleased with the way it went?
I think every year, it's becoming more and more harmonious.
What happened to the White Brotherhood during the Communist period?
During the Communist period,
it was hard for all spiritual work in Bulgaria.
Because, you know, the only spiritual thing allowed
was worshipping the Communist ideal,
the Communist principles, so...
It was not only the White Brotherhood, but also all kinds of
religious and spiritual movements were either forbidden...
At times they were persecuted.
Or they have to hide.
What I like about the White Brotherhood is that they're not dogmatic.
They may be excessively tolerant,
But also this great event today, very spectacular,
but a quiet spectacular.
It's not been the blasted noise from PAs and loudspeaker systems
that seem to be so important these days.
The other thing is, they talk a lot
about the feel of natural energy in an arena.
I've never been sure about that. But here in the Rila mountains,
I think it actually really does actually exist.
'After the elevated harmonies of the White Brotherhood,
'mundane considerations like getting off the mountain
'bring us down to earth with a jolt.
'Well, rather a lot of jolts, actually.
'On the way to the capital, Sofia,
'we detour to meet Stefan Kitanov,
'who has, for many years, championed the work of Monty Python in Bulgaria.
'Whether it's our fault or not, I don't know,
'but his other great enthusiasm is the powerful local spirit rakia.
'His father, who gave him the taste for it,
'worked for a sports goods business, run by the state.'
My father was deputy director then.
It was not possible for him to be director, because he was not a member of the party.
-Oh, I see, so he never got to to the top.
-So, after he got retired,
-he came here, and he escaped.
It was very important during the socialism,
-people to have country house.
So it was one of the aims for them.
-He grows absolutely everything here, doesn't he?
But my father doesn't believe in trees which do not deliver fruits.
-Oh, I see!
-Because, from any type of fruits you can make rakia.
-But, you see, the best rakia comes from these...
-This is your father.
'The ripe fruit is carted off to a couple of doubty 70-year-olds
'called Lubo and Seta.
'In their garden shed, they produce a head-whacking double-distilled concoction.
'Brewed in a copper still called a kazan,
'and decanted into an attractive plastic bucket.'
-Oh, well, cheers!
-Nostravia. We say "nostravia".
Does the government discourage moonshine rakia making like this?
-Is there any sort of disapproval of it?
-You know, it's a very important part
of the life of the people. So the government doesn't want to interfere.
It's a bit like opium poppies, or...!
HE SPEAKS BULGARIAN
-Nobody knows, and everybody has kazan!
'Sofia is one of Eastern Europe's most intimate and walkable capitals.
'There are one or two grand buildings,
'like the Alexander Nevsky church,
'a memorial to Russians who died helping their fellow Slavs fight the Turks.
'But, by and large, her leafy streets are on a human scale.
'If you want to get around more quickly, there is, as throughout Eastern Europe,
'a ubiquitous tram system, which the Communists wisely kept and, indeed, actively encouraged.
'Today, in pursuit of a wider cultural context,
'I'm turning my back on cathedrals and churches.
HE SINGS IN BULGARIAN
'This is Azis.
'And he must have come as quite a shock to some of his fellow Bulgarians!
'In a predominantly conservative and homophobic country,
'you couldn't be much more out of line than a gay, gypsy transvestite.
'And as a result, he's wildly popular.
'I meet him with Mya, a local film director, as our translator.'
Were you encouraged by others around you, your mother or father, to become a singer?
HE SPEAKS BULGARIAN
His mother had some kind of sick ambitions...
..thinking that her child should be a mega-star.
Something like Elizabeth Taylor in her mother.
But, in one moment, because of his... Because he is gypsy...
..all of the doors were closed in front of him.
But that was before.
You were born and brought up a gypsy,
Do you think the situation has changed for the gypsy community now?
No. Actually not.
They are still so dirty and so miserable as they were.
When you were young, were you angry at the way you were treated as a gypsy?
Yes. There were people who obviously did it.
They rejected him because of his race.
His mother took him to film castings...
..and nobody took him because of the colour of his skin,
This is not a tan. It's the colour of his skin.
He was born like that.
'Despite his problems, Azis is one of the lucky ones.
'Most gypsies live as close to the edge
'as the threadbare horses they're racing for pin money
'in Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city.
WHISTLING AND APPLAUSE
'I'm here with local girl Meera Stileva.'
They move pretty quickly! They're really fast!
'We're enjoying ourselves, even if no-one else is!'
What's going on?
'The shouts and cheers belie uncomfortable facts.
'85% of Bulgaria's gypsies are unemployed.
'Only 10% of their children are in secondary education.
'They live in a part of town dominated by canyons of Communist housing blocks.
'Quietly going to seed.'
-All these blocks here are totally occupied by gypsies, or do they mix them?
-No, they're not mixed.
This quarter here is for gypsies.
-Do they try to mix them ever?
They try. There is another quarter in the south of Plovdiv.
And every first floor, they put the gypsies, gypsy families.
-And all of the other floors are settled Bulgarian families.
And... A big spy in the door, you just have a hole,
-and behind that there is a horse.
-A horse in the apartment?
Yeah, a horse in the apartment, and a fire in front of the block.
-So, this didn't really work so well?
-Not at all.
But it's quite funny and interesting.
Do they like living in these blocks, or would they rather be living
-in the countryside?
-If you spend some hours here, they're just out of the blocks.
They never spend much time in the blocks.
They're gathering coal together in front of the blocks,
doing... music, singing, chatting.
Do ordinary...? I mean...
-Would other Bulgarians come here very often?
'Despite the conditions, wherever there are gypsies, there will be music.
'And where there's music, there will be a party.
'I've been invited to sway along with the local's Women's Institute.
'Some of them have come armed.
'The gypsies of Plovdiv are not without friends.
'There are groups working hard to improve conditions in ghettos like this.
'But like gypsies all over Europe, these people cling tenaciously to their own way of life.
'Plovdiv is the last big city this side of Turkey.
'And outside a local transport cafe,
'I hitch a ride aboard of one of the many trucks heading for the end of Europe.'
HE SPEAKS TO THE DRIVER IN BULGARIAN
-That will do me fine. Fantastic.
Istanbul turn off.
There's a title for a novel!
'It's a long straight drive down the E80,
'across a flat featureless plain that will take me to the border,
'then on to Edirne and Istanbul, before crossing the Bosphorus
'into Asia to Ephesus, and as far east as Capadoccia.
'I asked the driver to drop me at the border,
'because I want to see as much as I can of European Turkey,
'which many people tend to forget about.'
This is the Turkish border which, of course, used to stretch
far into Europe, as far as Vienna at one time, under the Ottoman empire.
The empire is now long gone but modern Turkey still wants to be part of Europe.
'I take a taxi into the nearest big town, Edirne.'
Hello. Edirne or bust.
'There's nothing very beautiful to see at first.
'Just another wind-swept frontier and another interminable line of traffic.'
Wow. People ask what the connection is
between Turkey and the rest of Europe. Just look at all these trucks...
for the answer.
'There's certainly no evidence that Turkey is an under-developed nation. Quite the contrary.
'It's the growing strength of the Turkey economy,
'and the size of the place that worries people.
'If Turkey joins the European Union, it won't be as a small country,
'glad of the security, but as a giant
'with a population bigger than any other member state.
'I'm beginning to wonder if I've made the right decision to stop off at Edirne.
'But a 15th century stone bridge leading into town
'is just the first of a series of wonderful revelations.
'Behind the mundane facade of a busy modern city, lies an impressive history.
'My guide, Selene Corcot, born and brought up in Edirne, is keen to show it off.'
I'm glad to have met you, because otherwise I think I would have just gone through Edirne
-and gone straight to Istanbul.
-That would be a shame.
Because this city is full of so much culture and history.
-And the landscape is beautiful.
The collection of buildings are just extraordinary.
And three very important mosques in walking distance and lots of bridges and rivers.
'The man largely responsible for the glories of Edirne is Mimar Sinan,
'whose work, more than any other,
'expressed the might and magnificence of the Ottoman empire.
'The Ottomans, a dynasty from eastern Turkey
'made Edirne their capital before they took Constantinople.
'It was here, in 1569, that Sinam, in his eighties,
'created what many consider his finest work.
'The Selimiye Mosque is arguably Europe's most glorious example of Islamic architecture.'
Wow. That is such a...
-Colossal. Colossal space, isn't it?
-It's almost, sort of...
-dizzying. There's nothing in the centre...
-It's all supported around either side.
When Sinam built this, he was quite an old man, wasn't he
-He was 85 years old.
This is why it's his masterpiece.
We are very happy that he had a long, fruitful life.
That is why we have more than 400 art pieces from him.
Is this considered to be one of his best?
This is the masterpiece of Sinam.
He achieved everything he was aiming.
He tried to make it perfect, the dome as big as he wished.
'If the mosque represents the religious impact of the Ottomans,
'the 500-year-old Beyazit Kulezi shows how important science was.'
I really wanted to show you this place. It's my favourite place in Edirne.
It's a complex with a mosque and a hospital, and Bayezid built this complex
so that he could give the city a nice, advanced hospital.
'Its centrepiece, now a museum,
'is probably the first psychiatric ward ever built.
Running water and soothing music
'were used to create a suitably therapeutic atmosphere.'
Water and all that. It's a peaceful feeling
-even before you start being treated?
And the sounds of music.
Let me show you this patient's room, suffering from black love?
-Impossible love. Dark.
Sort of unrequited.... Ah!
Treated very nicely with New Age therapies in this room.
-And he is... That's insane?
-The insane one. So, they do share a room, probably.
He doesn't look insane, he hasn't had a letter for a few days!
With a rose in his hand.
-It is. Ahead of its time.
In Europe, until the 18th century, it wasn't recognised,
-Lock 'em up!
'This far-sighted alternative to the madhouse
'failed to outlast the Ottoman empire.
'When the Russians invaded in the 1870s, it was closed down.
-'But our tour of the splendours of Edirne is not yet over.'
That was good. Now where?
Now I want to take you on a traditional sight-seeing trip.
-With this carriage. I hope you like it.
It's the real thing with the horses.
A modern way to get about.
It doesn't mean we are getting married?
No, no, no.
If you want!
SHE SPEAKS TURKISH
-Lovely, isn't it?
This is the municipality building,
-and this is the founder of the republic, Ataturk.
-Yes. It's a very new republic.
So, they're trying to...
keep up with his ideas,
and not to forget, so that religion and state is kept separate,
so that we are a modern country.
Because he started the republic in the 1920s, after the end of the Ottoman empire.
The end of the Ottoman empire, it was the the first world war,
and we were defeated.
-So this part of the Edirne was taken over by Greeks.
And then Ataturk just put up a
big war, and tried getting back all of the land.
And then quickly had to make the republic.
-What else did he do that was particularly significant?
-He did so many things.
For example, for us Ataturk is important as a woman,
because we have the same rights as men.
Where are we going now? We are leaving the town.
This is a surprise for you. There is a local wrestling, oil wrestling, right by the river.
-It has a beautiful view.
-What is it, oil wrestling?
Oil wrestling. It's a very traditional Turkish sport.
It dates back to like 640 years of history.
And wresters are called pelivanns.
'The prospect of grown men and young boys wrestling while covered from head to foot
'in olive oil may raise a few smiles in the cricket-playing countries.
'But here in Turkey, it's a very serious business.
'As the drum and pipe band gets everyone in the mood, the olive oil is liberally dispensed.
'It's important to get the oil everywhere,
'both over and under the black buffalo-hide pants
'which are all the wrestlers are allowed to wear.
'The youngsters are particularly keen.
'They know if they're any good, there's money to be made in the oil business!
'As the band up the tempo and the grappling begins,
'Selene fills me in on the rules of the game.
'A bout is deemed to be over when one of the pair is flat on his back, belly to heaven.
'The pants can be used to get a grip as can the buttocks inside them,
'but wedding tackle is strictly out of bounds.
'The referees, ever vigilant, keep a careful look out for any slippery behaviour,
'or rather, non-slippery behaviour.
'The pelivann are all professionals, And in the height of the season, do really well.
'What could get you arrested at Wembley can make a fortune in Turkey!
'Discovering Edirne has been a delightful surprise.
'The sort of thing that gives travelling a good name.
'But now it's time to see more of this country
'that straddles Europe and Asia.
'As Edirne slips away, the local train takes me on towards Istanbul.
'It's not the most glamorous way to approach one of the great cities of the world,
'but there is a touch of gold at the end of the rainbow.
'Our Istanbul terminal is the very same one
'that was built in 1883 for the world renowned train
'that connected Turkey with the rest of Europe, the Orient Express.
'The famous old train doesn't come here any more.
'But ghosts of the old days still linger at Sechecy station.'
There's something about arriving at Istanbul, it's one of the great destinations of the world.
You know when you come here, it's a place of consequence.
Probably been at the heart of human affairs, this city, longer than ever.
Of course, it's the end of Europe.
For now at any rate.
The Bosporus, touching Asia and Europe connecting Russia
with the Mediterranean, binds Istanbul together.
Wherever you are, it's always there.
I meet Rafi, an art dealer,
who recently brought a big Picasso exhibition here.
He reminds me that Turkey's connections with Europe are nothing new.
Don't forget that Istanbul was the capital of the Eastern rule.
When it was Constantinople.
..we feel that we are in Europe, we have exhibitions in Istanbul.
Do you think the success of your Picasso exhibition
-is an example of things changing on a wider scale in Turkey?
Especially in the last 20 years,
we start to change very quickly.
So easy, the Western way.
Do you feel frustrated at all at the attitudes
of certain European countries towards Turkish membership?
If you want to come, even for a simple club member,
you have to accept the main rules.
What we did to become a member of the European Union.
-But if the club start to create every moment different rules,
you don't feel comfortable.
I think if Turkey joined, do you feel it would be a good thing, a bridge?
Yes. Exactly. Exactly. It's a very...
-More so than any other country, really.
Judging from the young Turks I see pouring in and out of the Sabanci Museum,
there's no lack of curiosity about things European.
Of course, it's a two-way process, isn't it?
You are not just talking about Turkey becoming more Westernised,
-but the West being interested in the East through Turkey?
Where we are here, right now, it's a very good place to explain this question.
-We have a silver brazier here.
-That is what it is.
And we have a painting, an anonymous painting,
but we think it was made by a French artist at the beginning of the 20th century.
-Western ladies being brought tea and coffee by Turkish girls?
It's a very good place to ask this question.
Do you think it will happen in your lifetime?
-This Turkish membership?
Yes. I'm sure of that.
You are a young man. That's a pretty safe answer.
Let's say 60 years old.
For me, it's very young!
Istanbul is a place of drama not just for arrival but departure.
You can't get much more sensational than going on one of the world's very few intercontinental ferries.
Europe to Asia.
For about 50 pence.
On the Asian shore, I'm to glimpse a more exotic side of Turkey.
SHE SPEAKS TURKISH
Tanyeli is not just one of the country's most accomplished belly dancers,
she is also a canny businesswoman,
taking her product away from sweaty folky evenings for tourists and turning it into a cool global brand.
She has studios in Florida and Australia,
has taught moves to Madonna and I'm here at her dance academy to see how she does it.
It's a tough assignment!
Which rather unexpectedly becomes a lot tougher.
-I need to see your belly.
I have to see your sexy belly.
My sexy belly.
You have to do... Come here.
I won't be able to do this. I just know.
I'm culturally and physically...
SHE SPEAKS TURKISH
When you do the belly dance, it works, breathe in and take your muscle in.
Now you breathe out.
She makes it roll nicely.
No, no, no. It's not roll yet.
It's the base step.
Then you have to work with the muscle like this.
Because, we have stomach here and here. Two different muscles.
Then we start the move from start here and breathe in and out.
But then to belly roll, you have to hold your breath here first.
-You cannot do it.
-I'm very nervous.
I might have a heart attack. Ah!
I will work on it and come back in five years.
Five years? Oh, my God!
Five minutes, if you like. I can do it when you are not watching.
That's why I'm telling you that...
Anything at all? Does that look rather rude?
That's not a belly roll.
It is something else.
That is a pelvic thrust.
-It is. That was what I was taught in Alexander technique.
Any Turkish girl should be able to belly dance
because you are born to it?
Because the tango is not from my country
and other dances are not from my country.
For new generation and new age, we know how to do tango, we love to dance.
Even Indian, hip-hop, R'n'B
but belly dance is from our blood.
-You know? It's like people ask me sometimes, "When did you start?"
-I don't remember. I think I started when I was in my mother's tummy.
This dance is like a medicine.
It's like a meditation but when you have stress,
then you feel uncomfortable about something.
You have made it internationally.
You have your clubs all over the world.
-How have you been able to export it?
-Dancing means love.
Dancing means peace. In the dance, there is no fight.
You know, my advice from me to them
is it's good to dance a little bit.
Do men belly dance? Could you teach George Bush to belly dance?
George Bush to belly dance? You know, this is like Mission Impossible.
He'd ask for a big fee to start with!
'Hang on, that's two steps to the left,
'two to the right, one step forward, one step back.
'Turn to the right, turn to the left.
'Spin and... Yeah, yeah!
'I think I've got it!'
'After all of that excitement, I take my evening meal at a meyhane,
'a simple local restaurant where I can sit quietly
'and recover over a meze and a glass of raki.
'But they have ways of dealing with people who want to sit quietly.'
May I sit?
'Within seconds, my meal turns into a concert.
SHE SINGS IN TURKISH
'Sheval, who has serenaded me so beautifully, explains.'
What was it about, apart from your very passionate singing and beautiful playing?
-What was going on?
-Here is meyhane.
-Meyhane means, the exact translation,
I should have to exactly translate means a very old-fashioned Turkish word,
Hane is the home, the house.
A drink house.
It's not a simple word.
Meyhane is more poetic word in Turkish.
This kind of music is coming from Ottoman empire.
It's out of the academic, out of the street.
The people express their feelings
with this kind of music.
The idea, really, of a place like this is to open up?
If we see someone drink alone, like you, and we have more compassion!
After two glasses of raki, and with this kind of music,
you start to open your heart
and express your feelings, your sadness.
It takes a lot more than two drinks to unlock the Englishman!
You are sure? Let's try.
Throughout its long history, as a Greek, Roman and Ottoman city,
Istanbul has managed to combine both an Eastern and Western temperament,
which has made it unique.
But Istanbul is not Turkey.
If I want to understand this country better, I must move on.
Under the stern gaze of Kamal Ataturk, founder of the republic,
a procession is taking place to mark an extraordinary event,
the 25th Camel Wrestling Festival.
The event is held in an arena in Ephesus
built on top of 2,500 years of history.
20,000 people, mostly male, gather together to enjoy raki and kebabs
whilst wallowing in nostalgia for the creature
that once played such a central part in rural life.
In modern Turkey, apart from these showpiece occasions,
the camel is virtually redundant.
These are specially bred, highly-trained Iranian camels,
kept hungry and randy to ensure that bad temper will make for a better bout.
Frothing at the mouth like angry colonels,
they try everything to pin their opponent's heads to the ground.
Tell me a good trick you have seen the camel play.
To hold the other's head under the front legs.
Hold the head under the front legs?
And sit on it, which is very dangerous for the other one.
And also very good for the one who can do this.
-That's like a headlock, the equivalent in wrestling, you can't get them out.
My friend Yusuf assures me that the camels feel no pain.
Though not being a camel himself,
there's an element of speculation here.
It certainly looks bloody uncomfortable to me.
SHOUTS IN TURKISH OVER LOUDSPEAKER
They're encouraging the more aggressive side of the camel's behaviour.
One or two out there are just... They obviously don't want to fight.
They look like they're really happy just having a cuddle.
Are they gay camels?
There are some sort of camels. Yes.
So expensive is it to run a good fighting camel that as soon as
victory is achieved, the contestants are instantly pulled apart.
Changing tack slightly, do you think that
people here today are mostly in favour of Turkey being in the European Union or not?
Yeah, hard to say.
I know, and I believe many Turkish people, the majority
of Turkish people want to belong, be part of the European Union.
the political things...
seems like new difficulties
being created by the European Community. Maybe it's our fault too.
express our feelings better.
I think we should get some camel wrestling at Wembley Stadium.
That is the first step!
ANNOUNCEMENT OVER TANNOY
Well, we've come to the end of the Turkey that we know.
But the vast majority of this country lies out to the east where the camels came from.
And where we are going to.
In the heart of Anatolia,
or Asia Minor as it was known, is this hauntingly beautiful area called Capadoccia.
Created by the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption, the sea of lava solidified
into a soft rock called tufa,
which has been sculpted into these unique shapes by wind, rain and snow.
This is the town of Goreme. I'm off to meet a couple who have turned one of these wonderfully odd structures,
called fairy chimneys, into a very unusual guesthouse.
Half expecting to find hobbits, I instead find myself taking a glass of tea
with a German academic called Andus and his Turkish wife called Gulcan.
How did you end up living in a cave in the middle of Turkey?
Well, it's a kind of funny story actually.
But I'm an anthropologist.
During my studies I came to this area as a tourist actually.
I found out it's a very interesting area.
First of all, the funny dwellings, all of these troglodyte caves everywhere and the nice landscape.
I thought it might be a nice scene for a thesis.
So I started doing field research in the area.
And well, later on, many years later, I came back.
Gulcan, what do people think around here about a German
moving into one of these caves that everyone else was leaving?
They get surprise.
They state why he is living here,
he is a secret agent,
007, like James Bond or something.
-He looks like James Bond!
Probably did then.
-All of the Bond girls!
Yes. Here, this house, almost 30 or 40 years
nobody lived in it before, because it was empty.
The whole broken houses.
When I was a little child, when I come to my grandparents,
if I get naughty with my brother, they always say,
"Don't. You have to be OK, just stop. Otherwise we are going to put you in the ghost house."
-We call this area ghost house.
-You call these ghost houses?
What kind of ghosts?
There are two different kinds of ghosts. The nice ones, they call them the fairies.
These are the good ghosts, or fairies.
-The bad ones, the bad spirits which are gathering in the green waters.
-They take you into the water.
They take you into the water and drown you and give you bad energy.
People still believe it.
I believe, but it's not true.
But it's scary.
-You go first.
-No, after you.
It's nice today.
Careful down there.
You don't have railings.
-Yes. It's still in progress.
-The good thing is the pond down there, if it's not frozen.
You can fall in that.
The caves have provided refuge for many,
none more so than early Christians who came here fleeing persecution.
They built an estimated 1,000 rock churches in Cappadocia.
It's an area where you have lots of churches from different periods.
You know. Very close together.
Was this early Christianity?
Well, it's a very important area, especially over here,
you have lots of different churches from different times.
In early Christianity, the area where also the Trinity was,
let's say, invented with the Father, God and Holy Spirit.
-That idea was...?
-It all kind of developed over here
and later on became of that orthodox part in Christianity.
How long were the Christians here for? How long were these
sort of working churches?
Well, you know, it started in the 6th century and would last until
the 12th and 13th century,
even the time when Ottomans already invaded Turkey.
Anders tells me that human habitation goes way beyond the early years of Christianity.
People were living here, you know, from Neolithic times onwards.
They had some trading contacts to Mesopotamia,
where they traded the volcanic glass,
which they used for cutting the harvest. That's how...
It wouldn't be the Silk Route, but it would be going across it?
Yes, it's a very early trade line.
Afterwards, more and more people settled down in the area.
Cos it's rather fertile, you know.
In some churches, there are wall paintings in stunning condition.
Protected over the centuries from direct sunlight, though sadly not from the hand of man.
The faces scratched out, was that... They've scratched the faces out,
was that a deliberate policy at some time?
Later on, when the Turks came, they were afraid of the evil eye.
So they scratched out the faces,
especially the eyes, cos they kept flocks and animals in the caves.
-They thought the eyes were somehow had some spirit quality?
Would you like to learn for your feature, I have a friend of mine. She's just living over here.
Gulcan is more interested in the future than the past.
She wants me to meet a neighbour who can read fortunes from looking in a cup of coffee.
I never know if it's a good thing to know about what is going to happen.
She says bad things and good things. Most of the time, it's coming true.
-Does your neighbour read your fortune?
-Good things and bad things.
-You seem a happy sort of person though?
-Oh, yes. Yes.
-You generally think news is good for you?
I'm interested in exciting and nice things.
Also she says bad things, of course, I get really upset.
-I turn it upside down.
-Put it down there.
-And let it wait for a while.
When it becomes cold here, it means it's ready.
It takes time for them to dry out.
-So it's against Islamic law?
Yes. For Islamic things, this thing, I'm really not a good Muslim person.
I'm not really a religious person.
This kind of things is for Muslim people, they say never, ever do it.
They don't accept such things, they say it's a sin.
But we do.
Also sometimes men, they are very interested in such things.
But mostly maybe 80% is women that are more interested in than men.
-Yes, I like it very much!
SHE SPEAKS IN HER LANGUAGE
OK, will you meet a rich lady.
She will make you tied here.
You don't want to go!
-It's really interesting.
-There is new love for you.
You will get very good news.
You will be happy and you will jump like a kangaroo.
You will be very happy, she says.
-Is this to do with meeting the lady or is this separate?
-Maybe. Maybe or not.
That's really interesting.
You are going to meet this rich lady in the internet chat.
-Like a teenager.
I can't work the chatrooms!
Caves and internet chatrooms?!
It's most confusing.
It certainly stops you making any glib judgments about big cities
and rural backwaters.
It feels strange, unfamiliar, and very foreign out here
in Asian Turkey. Yet, there's much we have in common.
Our Christian heritage survived here.
Sons of Anatolian farmers abandon their fields to run hotels for us.
As the young move to modern houses, anthropologists save their old ones.
Separating East and West is a futile preoccupation.
The future is co-operation. I know - I saw it in the coffee cup!
Much history has been played out in this hard and mountainous land.
As political and economic change reverberates through the region,
it could well see its time come again.
If Turkey is successful in joining the European Union, and many think she will be, then the new Europe
will include not just wild and wonderful landscape like this,
but a whole set of new neighbours, including Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Subtitling by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Michael Palin explores the countries that were for much of his life hidden behind the Iron Curtain but now are part of the new Europe. From Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, Palin treks up to the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria where he joins the summer solstice celebrations of the mystical White Brotherhood sect. Crossing into Turkey he admires the great mosques of master architect Sinan in Edirne, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, before witnessing an oil wrestling competition.