We left İstanbul last week on an overnight train to Kayseri, followed by a bus to Göreme, which is in the heart of the Cappadocia (Kapadokya) region. All together it took 23 hours. In Cappadocia there are houses, churches, and even entire underground cities carved into the rocks. Early Christians carved out these rock villages 1000-1500 years ago. They took refuge in the underground cities whenever invaders came through and were able to stay there for up to 6 months. They painted intricate frescoes in the churches, which have, unfortunately, been badly damaged over time. The faces of most of the people have been chiseled out!
We did not arrange for accommodation in advance, and wandering around, we ran into Faruk, who recommended several places to stay as well as eat. We eventually chose one of these recommendations, Arif Pansiyon and stayed in a cave room way up on the top of a rock spire with a view of the entire town of Göreme. The mosque was very near and the minaret that broadcasts the prayer call was only slightly lower then our window, waking us up at 4:30 in the morning the first few days until we got used to it. Later that day we ran into Faruk again, and he took us on a crazy drive in a tiny 2 seater pickup with 4 of us squeezed in the front. Faruk's father shifted gears, pressed the gas, and honked the horn while Faruk manned the brakes as we tore around corners on a winding road. They asked Tim if he could shift, but he declined as he could barely move! It was pretty wild.
We met many neat people in Göreme and feel like we are slowly learning about life and culture in Turkey. The Turkish people have a wonderfully varied heritage as they are literally on the crossroads between East, West, North and South, near the birthplaces of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. They seem to be very adept at integrating all these cultural influences into a wonderfully vibrant and tolerant culture all their own. The people here are very entrepreneurial and work very hard, often at multiple jobs. One person might work as a guide, grow grapes, make wine, and have a little souvenir shop. Often people's business requires that they work from morning until night.
We have been told that there are less independent American travelers here since 9/11. They mostly come in large tours now. Tim and I don't feel any anti-American sentiment, although, understandably, there is anti-Bush sentiment. People seem to realize, though, that many of the American people disagree with our government's current policies as much as they do. We are definitely enjoying Turkey and would recommend travel here, but consider leaving your American flag t-shirts at home!
From Göreme, we took the shared taxi's, called dolmuş, to Kaymaklı to look at the underground city there. It was pretty amazing, 4 levels of interconnected tunnels and rooms, all able to be blocked off by rolling huge chock stones across the entrances. There were chapels, sleeping areas, kitchens, and wine making rooms. The town of Kaymaklı itself had virtually no tourists as most people visit on a tour bus that drops you off and picks you up in front of the underground city. Having taken the dolmuş, we were free to eat lunch in a local restaurant and walk around the town. As we walked, children ran up to us to practice their English and have their photo taken. Afterwards, they asked to see the image of themselves on the digital camera screen and then went off happy. Kaymaklı was also the first town we have been to in Türkiye (the Turkish name for this country) where we saw people hurrying towards the mosque at the prayer call. Thinking it would be a very interesting place to stay for a few days, we looked for a Pansiyon (guesthouse), but there were none in town.
Afterward we took a dolmuş to Uçhisar to look at the rock castle here and then attempted to walk through Pigeon Valley back to Göreme. We soon became blocked off by steep, washed out areas. There we met Hasan, who was relaxing in the valley drinking Turkish tea. Hasan led us along a maze of footpaths, through a long, narrow tunnel carved in the rock, up to a view point for photos, and back down into the valley past a pour off.
Another day we rented bicycles from Faruk's rental agency, Öz Cappadocia, and biked through back roads, visiting other valleys and carved rock dwellings. We met another man who showed us an extensive sixth century church and monastery. It was he who told us that Clinton was the best president. He then said Bush was the worst, and Iraq an absolute mess! I could not agree with him more!
We finally left Göreme last night on an overnight bus this time, which took about 12 hours to get us to Olympus.
View from the train
Frescoes in Dark Church at the Goreme open air museum. This was my best photo because for this one, I forgot to turn off the flash!
Exterior of some of the rock dwellings.
Rock formations looking towards fairy chimneys
View of Uçhisar and the upper pigeon valley from Uçhisar Castle.
Hasan at the view point he took us to.
Contemplating chicken, which I ate for the first time in about 9 years. I decided that if I tried to stick to a vegetarian diet while traveling I would at best miss out on a lot of good foods, and at worst, starve.
Making silk thread from silk worm cacoons at Carpedocia
No one goes to Turkey without buying a carpet! After exhausting shopping we finally chose ours at Carpedocia, where they had many unique designs of high quality.
Left to right: Tim, Faruk, Yarrow, Faruk's father.
Our room at Arif's is through the upper door in the rock. Following is the view at sunset from the deck of the Pansiyon.
Small girl in Goreme
Our recommendations to other travelers:
Öz Cappadocia - Car, scooter, motorcycle and bike rentals. Tours. Good recommendations and traveler help. Say Hi to Faruk for us if you are there! www.ozcappadocia.com
Carpedocia - carpet makers cooperative. Many unique and high quality designs. www.carpedociacarpets.com
Arif Pansiyon - Normal and cave rooms-great views. www.arifcavepension.com
Dibek Cafe and Restaurant - Excellent traditional home cooked food in a beautiful historical building. Try the homemade wine!