Hello and welcome back friends. I just returned yesterday from an exhilarating and rather chilly weekend in Central Anatolia, Cappadocia to be specific, the town of Goreme to be even more specific. As you all know, my folks were still here, and we flew out to Kayseri on Thursday. It took me only an hour to get to the airport, which was a nice surprise since I was expecting to be in transit for at least 2. The flight only took one hour (by bus it is 12 hours) and then we got picked up by a shuttle at the airport to bring us to our hotel. On the ride to the hotel, it was very obvious we were not in Western Turkey anymore. The landscape was much drier and the rocks were not shaped like normal rocks. Many were conical and seemed to have some doorways in them. When we got to our hotel, we dropped everything off and proceeded to walk around the town of Goreme. It was quite a bit chillier than here in good old Istanbul, and I was not prepared for the drop in temperature. The town was lovely and we got more of an idea of the cave hotels that the town offered. We also discovered that a couple staying next to us was from the same area, one was from Poughkeepsie, only 25 minutes away from me at home and the other from Brooklyn. Small world.
The next day, we started out bright and early at the Goreme Open Air Museum, which consists of many churches that had been hand carved by Christians around 400-500AD to escape persecution from the Pagans. The rock is called tuff, and hardens when it hits air, but is very soft underneath the surface which allowed these rocks to be carved out. Here are some pictures of the museum:
After the museum, we decided to walk back towards the hotel because my dad was not feeling to well and on the way we stopped at a pottery seller, and in her driveway were two beautiful trees. One was a prayer tree where people tied their prayers on, and the other people tied on the evil eye to bring them good luck. Both were quite striking against the landscape.
So my dad decided to take a rest, while my mom and I went horseback riding. Now, if you know me, you know horses and I do not mix well. I have always had a slightly irrational fear of horses and I do not know why I had a sudden desire to get on one at this point in time. But, we took a 2 hour trail ride through one of the valleys. Yes it was beautiful, yes the horse was relatively calm, yes I was still scared the whole time. After the ride, the ranch owner’s mother made us traditional Turkish bread with cheese inside and some sweet sauce to put on it, which helped soothe my stomach, but not my sore butt. That night, to try to make my body less sore, I decided to try a Turkish Hamam. Now, if you have never tried one, get up right now, book your flight to Turkey and as soon as you get off the plane go to a Hamam. A Hamam, for those of you who do not know is a traditional Turkish bath.
Let me start from the beginning. As I walked downstairs to the women’s level, I was greeted by the most adorable old woman ever. She began speaking to me in Turkish, and miraculously I understood a good deal of what she was saying. First, you have to take off all of your clothes in the locker room, then I went back out and the adorable old woman painted a green face mask on me with a paintbrush. Then comes 15 minutes in the sauna (they give you an iron cloth to cover yourself). I went at about 8pm and was the only person in the sauna at that point. Then I moved on to the shower to rinse my face mask off and then take a little dip in the swimming pool. The next part, the massage, was the best part. They lay you down on a heated marble platform and begin by scrubbing your skin until all the dead skin particles come off. My massage woman then came over with what looked like a pillow full of soap, then just squished it on top of me so I was all soapy and then proceeded to massage. My back is naturally pretty tense and at home I can usually rope one of my friends into giving me a back massage every once on a while, but not here, so this was glorious. I just lay there for a long time being heated and massaged at the same time until the sad moment came when it was over. I later realized that I should have brought conditioner for my hair, so I could actually complete the showering process, but I didn’t, so I then went back to the shower, back to the pool and back to the sauna. After I came out of the sauna, they sat me down on a chaise lounge and handed me a bright green apple tea and I just relaxed until I felt the energy to get up out of my mellow state. The whole process was about an hour and 15 minutes. So go. Now.
But anywhos, back onto the Cappadocian adventure. The next day we chose to go on an all day tour because the public transportation in the area is not very good and the tour showed us a lot in just one day. We began at Derinkuyu, an underground city 13 levels and 87 meters deep. The public is only allowed to go 8 levels deep for safety though. These tunnels were occupied by Christians looking to hide from persecution. This was one of the coolest things on the tour. It was amazing how they carved a city that housed over 22,000 people by hand.
After the underground city, we were taken to Ihlara Valley which also had some churches in it. The thing I liked most about it though was the nature. There were trees and rocks and a stream, a nice change of pace from Istanbul and it sort of reminded me of home.
The tour guide also told us that out of the window of one of the towers, we could see the “Star Wars Movie Place.” Yes, that is the name of it. Apparently, around the late 1960’s when George Lucas was scouting places to film Star Wars, he came to Cappadocia and wanted to film at this particular location, but the country was in political turmoil at that point in time so he was unable to get a permit from the government to film. We were told that he took many pictures of the site and rebuilt it in Tunisia, but it is still called the “Star Wars Movie Place.”
At the end of a long day, our tour guide took us to a local store to do a tasting of some local Cappadocian foods. We got to try chocolate covered apricots and pomegranate tea and a lot of Turkish Delight.
The next morning we left bright and early back to Istanbul to face reality again.
And just a couple more photos that I like.