Travels to Turkey

My incredible travels to Turkey in 2007

Archive for the ‘Goreme’ Category

The Land of Fairy Chimneys – Day 6 in Cappadocia

Posted by Mardee on May 10, 2007

Before I begin, here is a brief geology lesson on the history of the “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia.

The origins of this unusual region can be traced to the Tertiary period some 50 million years ago, when craters and chimneys dominated the landscape. Since then huge quantities of volcanic material have spewed out of the many volcanoes. Forces of erosion have shaped the incredible and unique Cappadocian tuff-coned landscape. For hundreds of years men have dug into the soft but firm tuff to create dwellings, monasteries, churches and underground cities. www.allaboutturkey.com/kapados.htm

Wednesday morning was bright and sunny and cool (have I mentioned that the weather here has been just about perfect?) so I quickly got ready and made my way up to the terrace for breakfast. Sergio prepared a plate of fresh fruit, tomatoes and cucumbers with some yummy sheep cheese, fresh Turkish bread and honey, olives and some other small fruit that I don’t know the name of (and neither does Sergio or Altan – at least, the English name). I also got an omelette cooked by Chef Sergio, which was tasty although different from the ones I’m used to – there was no filling or cheese inside; just eggs.

My first stop of the morning was the Goreme Open-Air Museum, which is about 2 km. from the hotel. Since it was such a beautiful day, I decided to walk there and enjoy the scenery along the way. The Open-Air Museum, which sits in the middle of the area’s incredible landscaping, holds the region’s best collection of painted cave-churches. Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic stone and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. There are approximately 6 churches all together and each one is an incredible visual experience. My favorite was the “Dark Church” (Karanlik Kilise) so called because it has less light than the other churches. Consequently, the frescoes are in much better condition.

After this excursion, I headed back to town for a quick bite to eat and drink and wound up with a plate of borek and a bottle of water. Borek is a phyllo-pastry concoction with various fillings inside. I chose a spinach and cheese filling and it was served with a topping of yogurt and a rich tomato sauce – delicious! After that, I reviewed my 2 guidebooks (now ripped in sections) and determined that there was an interesting village about 6 km. down the road called Cavucin (pronounced “Sha-vu-shin”). It took me over an hour to walk there since I was dawdling as I walked, but the end result was worth it.

The town itself is rather nondescript, but as I walked through the narrow cobbled streets I began to see evidence of a long-ago culture. To my left was an older woman with a young girl sitting on top of a load of straw in a wooden cart that was being led by a donkey. Farther down the road I saw a woman leading a goat down the street. The woman wore a white translucent scarf that was wound around her head and decorated with colored trim. Her blouse was a red print and was topped with a multi-colored vest and the bottoms were Turkish divided pants (salvar). On top of that, she had placed a wide-brimmed hat. I continued to see this same type of costume over and over on the women of this village and throughout the region.

On one corner, two older women were sitting side by side and let me take their photo, giggling madly when I snapped it. When I tried to speak Turkish to them, one of them (she was about 4’10”) reached up and pinched my cheek and laughed at me. They all looked like they had stepped right out of a book of ethnic folk costumes. I continued walking through the town, and gained a companion at one point. A little dog appeared from nowhere and scampered around my feet as I walked, occasionally leaving me to investigate something interesting off to the side.

The villagers used to live in the caves above the town but as erosion began to cause problems, they moved into houses below. I was trying to find a way to get up into the caves but was having a hard time locating a path. Luck was with me, however – a German tour group began winding their way up a path I had missed so I quickly got in line behind them. We all huffed and puffed our way up into the hills. At some point near the top I saw them head off around the corner towards an old church and decided to let them go. At this point, I realized it was me and me alone sitting on top of the world with a view for miles around. All around me were magical fairy chimneys and caves dating back thousands of years, and hills covered with bright yellow wild flowers and poppies. The only sounds I could hear were birds and tiny insects – no planes, trains or roaring cars. The peace and serenity hit me like a ton of bricks and I sat back against the hills and stared around me at this beauty.

Time passed and I continued to sit. I finally decided I had better make my way down as I wanted to take a dolmus (mini-bus) back to town and wasn’t sure how late they ran. I had a brief scare when I deviated from the path a bit and then couldn’t find it, but eventually made my way back down the hillside. As I walked back through the town, I saw several people riding through on wooden carts led by donkeys or horses. In fact, I noticed that most of the houses had a cart sitting in the yard and I could hear the occasional braying of donkeys behind walled yards.

I had to wait a while at the main road for the dolmus to arrive so I entertained myself by watching the children coming home from school. They were all wearing some sort of uniform – white blouses/shirts and grey skirts/pants. Some of the mothers came out to greet their children but most of the children – even the younger ones – headed off in various directions to their home unaccompanied. Very different from most of America.

By that time, I was exhausted so I went back to the hotel and napped for awhile. Shopping was next and I went into town and bargained for a few things, earning myself a couple of glasses of tea while shopping. The shopkeepers here are much different than in Istanbul – much less agressive and much friendlier. Eventually, I headed back to the hotel where I was going to have dinner cooked by Sergio. I had a yummy lentil soup, salad, bread, and lamb cooked with vegetables over rice, and ended with baklava. It was wonderful!

Later came my nightly internet session and then back to the hotel for my last night there. Tomorrow, read about my BEST day ever as I tour Cappadocia with Altan…

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Posted in Cappadocia, Cavucin, Fairy Chimneys, Goreme, Turkey | 3 Comments »

Goodbye, Istanbul – Hello, Cappadocia (Day 5 in Turkey)

Posted by Mardee on May 9, 2007

The morning came all to soon and I had a couple of hours to sit and enjoy the scenery whizzing by while the train headed for Ankara. The countryside reminded me somewhat of Spain – the same type of rustic greenery and ochre landscapes with the occasional village plopped down in the middle. No urban sprawl here! The train was over an hour late getting into the Ankara train station, so I decided to forego my plans to hit the Museum of Anatolian Civilization. It about killed me but I wanted to get to the Cappadocia region (pronounced “Kapadokia”) before dark and I know the bus ride would take 4-5 hours.

Speaking of buses, Turkey has the bus system down to a science. Their bus terminals are called “otogars” and are huge – we’re talking airport terminal huge here (okay, maybe small city airport terminal). When I walked into Asti, the Ankara otogar, I couldn’t believe how large it was. There were almost 100 terminals and each had a different company, all going to various places in Turkey. I stopped at the Information desk and asked about buses to Goreme, and they directed me to number 51. The gentleman there gave me a ticket in return for 23 lira (around $17) and told me the next bus was leaving in an hour.

Since I had time to kill I headed for one of the many restaurants and cafes in the terminal and had a glass of tea, which I am fast becoming addicted to. Turkish tea is served in a small hourglass-shaped glass with 2 cubes of sugar and a tiny spoon. It’s a lovely way to drink tea. Most shopkeepers will offer you tea if you’re in their shop for more than 5 minutes even if you don’t buy anything (of course, they’re hoping you will!).

About 15 minutes before the bus was due to leave, I saw the bus pull into slot no. 41 so I made my way over there and boarded. Seats are assigned so I headed for mine and settled in comfortably. As I said, the Turks have this system down pat. As we drove down the road, the attendant (all buses have attendants as well as a driver) came by to spritz everyone with “freshening” cologne. Throughout the drive, he would serve tea or coffee periodically, and also passed out a little snack cake about halfway through the drive. The seats are extremely comfortable – reclining backs, foot rests and a little drop-down tray in front like airplanes have. We stopped about 1 pm for a bathroom/snack break. After that, they showed a movie on the drop-down video screens. The movie (an American movie called “Mr. Bones”) was dubbed in Turkish, but judging from what I saw I don’t think I missed much.

At Nevsehir, we had to change buses – at this point, most of the people on the bus got off for good, and the only ones left were me, an Australian couple and a couple from Quebec. We got on a smaller bus and drove the short distance to Goreme. The first hint you see of the amazing landscape in this region comes about 5 minutes before you get into Goreme. This is when the “fairy chimneys” first appear in view. The bus dropped us off in the middle of town and the five of us headed to the Tourist Info Center to book a hotel. Pashahan HotelThere are tons of places in town so I picked one at random recommended in Lonely Planet called the Pashahan Hotel (it was just included in the new version). What a gem this place was! It had the biggest most spacious room I’ve stayed in, and the price was a mere 30 euros (approximately $42), which included breakfast and free hot drinks thoughout the day. The owner, Sergio, even came to pick me up from the TIC. Best thing of all – the room had a huge bathtub! I love my baths and hate the fact that most hotels in Europe only offer showers, so this was a real treat. The hotel and rooms are decorated with dozens of carpets and Turkish art and gives an overall feeling of elegance.

After checking in, I went out and wandered around for awhile. The town itself is very small and dense so all the shops and restaurants were close together. Everyone was extremely friendly but without the agression I found in Istanbul. I wandered into a couple of spots and then found an English-language used bookstore. The woman, Maggie, is an expatriate from Leedsö England, and has been here around 8-9 years. She recommended a restaurant called the “Local” and suggested I try the Ottoman chicken.

So that was my next stop – since I really hadn’t eaten lunch, dinner was sounding pretty good. I soon found myself sitting on a lovely terrace outside the Local restaurant munching on Ottoman chicken (chicken rolled and baked with cheese), rice and vegetables, a glass of red wine – and the wonderful Turkish bread that I love. The owner came out to chat and said that after he had retired from his business, he came here to run a hotel and restaurant.

After dinner, my feet directed me next door (again, thanks to Maggie’s recommendation) to some wonderful carrot cake made by a woman who just opened a cafe. She is from South Africa and her husband is a Turk and they just moved here from Capetown. Neither she nor her children speak Turkish (although they’re all learning now) but she seems to be taking the move in stride. Her father-in-law became sick, which is why they moved. I love the fact that these people will sit down and talk to their customers and are so friendly – it’s such a change from the somewhat sterile atmosphere of American restaurants.

By this time, I was getting tired and made my way back to the hotel. As I walked in the door, Altan (Sergio’s friend and assistant) asked me if I wanted to join Sergio up on the terrace for a drink. I headed upstairs to the roof. Sergio and another friend (whose name I can’t remember) were sitting at a table and asked me to join them. He poured me a glass of wine and we all started talking. The friend spoke very little English (Turks learn English in school but many of them lose it if they don’t have contact with English speakers) and my Turkish is of course, practically non-existent, but we managed – mostly with Sergio translating. The glass of wine turned into another and another, and before long Sergio, Altan, Sergio’s friend, and me were all drinking and talking the night away. We discussed everything from restaurants in the United States to Turkish politics. In fact, at one point I asked them about the different clothing styles some of the religious women wear, and that embroiled a huge debate between Altan and Sergio, each yelling at the other and gesturing madly to emphasize their point. It was a lot of fun, especially spending time with local people. It doesn’t happen that often for travelers unless you happen to know someone, so I was appreciative of the time I got to spend with them.

Eventually, we broke up the party and headed to bed, which, by the way, was extremely comfortable. Actually, every bed I’ve slept in in Turkey has been very comfy – the pillows are perfect and I love the Turkish duvets. It is similar to an American duvet in that it is a comforter covered by a duvet cover – however, rather than having a large one that overlaps all the sides of the bed, Turkish duvets fit squarely on top of the bed and line up with the edges (I’m not sure if this description makes sense – I’ll get a picture later). Whatever they do, it makes sense because I have loved every bed I’ve been in.

And speaking of bed, I’m going there now. Oh, Sergio kindly lent me his laptop so that I could post this entry tonight. He is such a nice person! Tomorrow will be about one of my favorite days in Turkey so far – the ancient Christian churches of Goreme and my walk to the neighboring village.

Posted in Cappadocia, Fairy Chimneys, Goreme, Lonely Planet, Pashahan Hotel, Trains, Planes and ... Buses, Turkey | Leave a Comment »