After spending the entire winter without leaving Ankara, I finally had the chance to leave the city with Stephanie and visit one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth, the Cappadocian region of Turkey. This region is right in the center of Turkey, just to the southeast of Ankara and it is absolutely amazing.
The bus ride
Wednesday, April 28, was a day filled with errands. We had to buy bus tickets at the bus station (that place can be completely overwhelming). We planned on taking a midnight bus, but there wasn’t a bus until 1:30. So we bought our tickets, went back toward the city center to finish errands and go to work. After we finished teaching, we took the subway to the bus station again and waited for about three hours until our bus left and it was not by any means a comfortable bus. It arrived from Istanbul with passengers who had already been on the bus for six hours or so. We left and tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep, but after four hours, we arrived in Nevşehir with barely any sleep and most of the passengers got off. We then continued to Göreme and as we did, we took in the amazing landscape as the sun crept up through the clouds. More passengers exited and we remained two of the last six people on the bus as it went to Ürgüp. The view continued to amaze us as we wound through the countryside. We arrived, booked a day tour for 9:30 and were brought to our hotel.
We stayed in a cave hotel at the suggestion of Stephanie’s Turkish teacher and it was nothing short of spectacular. We were fortunate that nobody had been staying in that room the previous night, so we were able to check in at 7:00am Thursday and promptly took naps and showers until our tour began.
Cappadocia is known for many things, we got to see all but one of them. Firstly, this region has the strangest rock formations, known as fairy chimneys. They are a cone-shaped rock with a sort of mushroomed top. They’re very strange and quite rare. We’ve been told that they were formed by volcanic activity and erosion over a long period of time. They look extremely surreal. The first thing we did on the tour was to walk through a valley filled with these
famous formations. The landscape continued to take our breaths away.
Our second stop on the tour was to a pottery workshop where a local family had been producing beautiful works of pottery for over two centuries. We watched a young man make a pot on a real pottery kick wheel (no really, he actually had to use his feet to make it move). We saw the artists drawing and painting all free hand. And of course we were shown to the shop where all of the finished pottery lay before us, extremely expensive, but tempting nonetheless. We didn’t buy anything on this visit, but perhaps in the future.
The Open Air Museum
Some of you perhaps recall Cappadocia being mentioned in the Bible. Some people from the region were in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Later, the region began a Christian community and some of the small churches and chapels located inside of caves are still viewable and quite beautiful. Many of them have frescoes of some sort, though damaged and occasionally graffitied, they are still quite gorgeous and inspiring to see.
The Carpet Shop
Most people know that Turkey is rather famous for its rugs. We had the pleasure of touring one of the carpet workshops. Turkish carpet makers pride themselves on their “double knots” which make a carpet more durable and last longer. We watched a young woman making a very small silk on silk rug and her fingers were moving so fast with such small string, that I couldn’t even tell what she was doing. Making a rug like that, which is only approximately one foot by one foot takes over a year for one person to complete. We saw the dyeing process with all natural dyes and then were taken to a room to be shown carpets galore. Again, though expensive, we were quite tempted to buy one of these amazingly beautiful, hand-crafted rugs. We’re hoping we can buy one before we go home and have it shipped to the states by the rug company so we don’t have to figure out insurance etc. for such a thing. We shall see.
The Cappadocian region is famous for a type of kebap known as pottery-kebap or testi-kebap. It is a stew type meal that is cooked for hours in a piece of clay pottery and served inside the clay pot which you have to be careful not to ingest. For dinner on Thursday we went to a restaurant that claimed to have it. We sat down with our menus deciding on drinks when we were informed there was no pottery kebap. So we decided to wait until lunch the next day instead of leaving. At lunch the next day, the exact same thing happened. We asked, they said yes, we sat down, they said no. We still have not tasted the pottery kebap.
Cappadocian wines are some of the only truly good wines in Turkey. Our hotel was just up the hill from a winery where we did some wine tasting and bought a bottle (at 1/2-1/3 the price as we see for such wines in Ankara).
Hot Air Balloon Ride
As we arrived Thursday morning, we saw numerous hot air balloons ascending into the clouds. We had booked a flight
for Friday morning and were hoping it wouldn’t be cloudy, rainy or windy for our rides, and we were not disappointed. We got picked up Friday morning at 5:10 and were driven to a field filled with hot air balloons. We had some coffee and waited until the balloons were ready. We were in a balloon for 20 and rose into the air just before sunrise and were able to watch as the sun rose over the plateau and shown its light on the excessively beautiful landscape below. The balloon ride took us through the valley, closer than I thought possible to the rocks below and ascended again. After an hour and Stephanie taking as many pictures as she could, we descended, landed and were greeted with champagne and certificates stating our participation in such a wonderful experience. We went back to the hotel for breakfast and another nap.
We came back to Ankara refreshed, though still exhausted from all of the things we did on very little sleep. In two days, well a day and a half really, we did about as much as I would have expected to do in four days.
The only places we didn’t get to see that I would like to are the underground cities. These are places where Christians hid from persecution. One goes down nine levels I believe, though not everything is open to tourists due to safety reasons. We plan to go back at least one more time and see some of those and hopefully taste the pottery kebap.