Monday, 19 August 2013

Cappadocia - Part 2

Ellen gave you the history of Cappadocia. Now Alex will give you the story of our trip to the tiny town of Göreme.

Fethiye was a great way to end our Mediterranean adventures. Getting in as much sun and salt water swimming as possible on our last boat cruise left us feeling refreshed and well seasoned. The mini-bus picked us up from our guest house in the afternoon and dropped us at the otogar for our over-night bus to Cappadocia. We had heard a lot of stories about the long-distance buses from travellers we'd met. They had advised us on which companies to take, which to avoid, and when not to fall asleep in case of missing the ice-cream man!

Leaving Fethiye at 7.30pm was the perfect departure time. Watching the sun set behind the vast mountains and pine forests that surround the north-west outskirts, was an absolute gem of a farewell. As it dipped below the horizon, Ellen set about busying herself in attempting to sniff out what treats they had in stall for us, whilst I checked out the on-board entertainment. The Turkish coaches really are just like aeroplanes. Each person has their own touch-screen tv with movies/live TV/music/games, and every couple of hours a steward passes down the aisle offering refreshments and wet-wipes. Ellen fell in love with ours, as he was wearing a gold bow-tie and brought her favourite selection of chocolate-filled biscuits, cakes, herbal tea and sour cherry juice...unfortunately no ice-cream:(

Whilst Ellen attempted to sleep during the 12 hour journey, I was content amusing myself watching an array of Hollywood films in terribly dubbed Turkish. We stopped every couple of hours for either toilet/smoke breaks or so the driver could wash the entire bus (for some reason the Turks have a burning necessity to always drive with a freshly polished bus..) At some stage around 3am we wound up in a bizarre city that was completely lit up with neon lights. We felt like we'd stumbled into the Turkish Las Vegas or something. The only difference was instead of Casinos, bars and hotels, it was still just full of banal commercial businesses like kebab stands, hair dressers and carpet warehouses. We walked around for about 15 minutes to stretch our legs, feeling like moths in a light store...except that every light was mortifyingly scary and making us nauseous.
Your first glimpses of Göreme feel quite strange.
When we finally reached Göreme we were both ready for a proper sleep. Thankfully the tourist info centre was open and directed us to our hotel. The hotel only had one dorm room and it was converted from a traditional cave dwelling, it was really cool to experience some slightly authentic living. Thankfully our beds were already vacant so we jumped straight in.

When we awoke later that day, we decided to take the small maps on offer at reception and walk a short 45-minute section of one of the nearby valleys. The landscape was unlike anything we'd ever seen, so decided to just extend the route a little further. Six and half hours later we found ourselves lost in the middle of two unknown valleys, and facing a rapidly setting sun. Our map was pretty crappy, presenting only a basic outline of the valleys, but not listing the routes that ran through them. Thankfully, a group of young dutch guys appeared from behind some bushes a couple hundred metres away. We ran up to them and asked if they knew where we were. They were looking perplexed at their map. It was pretty crappy as well, showing only the trekking paths, but not labelling the valleys. Putting our two crappy maps together we were able to discern a rough idea of where we were and how to get out. When we finally got back to the main road the sun was set and the sky darkening. The dutch guys mentioned they knew a good place to eat so we tagged along with them. They were leaving the next day so over dinner gave us advice of what to see in which valleys. We headed back to the hotel, quickly showered, then met some of the other roomies.

Ashwin was from Bangalore, currently completing his phd in the Netherlands. Martino was from Milan, easily discernible as being Italian before he even introduced himself, as he was having a stereotypically elaborate phone conversation with his mother as we walked in. There were three Spanish girls who just sat around talking about godknowswhat, in high-pitched voices faster than the speed of sound. Lastly a Chinese boy, who only referred to himself as 'Orange'. He had travelled all through the Indian sub-continent and middle-east into Turkey, wearing only flip flops.

The next morning the Spanish girls all woke up at 3am to go on a hot-air balloon ride. Göreme is famous for ballooning, as every morning up to 100 hot-air balloons cover the skyline as the sun rises. The wind floats them over the top of Göreme village, so you cab stand at various look out vantage points and watch them fly overhead. As the Spanish girls woke everyone up with their loud packing, we collectively decided to all just wake up and walk to the lookout together. That way, we could put a ban on anyone else sleeping in the dorm who wanted to go for a balloon ride throughout the week.

It wasn't very far to the lookout from our hotel so we arrived there with plenty of time before the balloons took off. Just as the sun began peaking its head over the horizon, a bunch of small dots began to appear in the sky. Then a load more. Within 15 minutes the sky was littered with about 60 hot air balloons. All of a sudden 50 year-old men lugging cameras with 2m lenses began running past us to find perfect vantage points for them to set up their tripods. They definitely had no idea how to use the equipment as they were struggling with the camera settings for about half an hour before they actually started taking photos...(the problem was the lens cap hadn't been removed...ah, oldies and technology). We sat up there for about 3hrs watching the balloons. Breakfast started at 8am so we headed back to the hotel, ate, and then went back to sleep for a couple hours.

An older Korean guy checked into the dorm the next day. He didnt really talk to any of us so we assumed he had possibly missed out on getting a bus ticket before they filled up, so had to wait til tomorrow. This turned out to be the case, except he had also booked himself on the Balloon ride and not set himself an alarm. Like all ageing persons he was able to sleep quite heavily. At 3.30am a Turkish man from a tour agency began storming around our room shining a flashlight in everyone's eyes demanding us to get up immediately if we'd booked a balloon ride. We all groggily stated that the man must've walked into the wrong room. He left, spoke to the receptionist for confirmation of the room number, then waltz back in, once again harassing each of us to get up. The Turkish man kept going back to Orange's bed as the name was obviously an Asian sounding one. We told the driver to go ask the Korean man in the corner. He said he'd already asked, but went and shook him awake once more. "no, no. Go away." We heard the Korean man reply. "its not him. It must be one of you!" The driver demanded. Martino got out of bed. "ok, I'll go on the balloon ride so you stop pestering us". The Korean man sat up. "oooh, did you say Balloon ride? That's me." He started getting noisily changed. We all glared at him in the darkness reaching for the salted cucumbers under our pillows.

Hasan's tea house in Pigeon Valley - go there!
The next four days after that we explored the numerous valleys and canyons around Göreme and Uçhisar. We met an incredible old man Hasan, who had lived and worked in cappadocia his whole life. He was fluent in English, Turkish, French, German and Italian. He used to be a tour guide, but as large hotels and tour agency are monopolizing the tourist demographic who want to take tours, as opposed to self-explore the area, he was now unable to attract business. Instead he ran a tiny tea house off one of the trekking paths in Pigeon Valley. He served us extremely potent Turkish tea and sesame bread pretzels. We spoke to him a lot about the change in tourism and infrastructure to the area, and how rapidly the mass amounts of tourists who ride ATV and motor bikes through the valleys are eroding the landscape. He also told us stories of his travels through Turkey and recommended us places to see. A French outdoors author had recently published a book about cappadocia and Hasan had been featured in a four-page spread. He eagerly showed us the copy the author had sent him, and translated the text. Before we left he quizzed us on our Turkish knowledge. We were pretty rubbish, only getting 3/10. However, he still deemed it satisfactory enough for us to receive gifts. I was given a miniature stone carving of the fairy chimneys and Ellen, a cute little turtle.

We spent about 6-8hrs everyday trekking through the valleys with the boys, Orange scaling every rocky surface with his rubbery thongs, yet still managing to grip better than anyone else. The cave houses were incredible and each one completely different. The highlights were definitely the churches, though. The intricate ornamental carvings inside the rock structures were blowing us away! The most incredible was a church with 14m high pillars carved into the space. On top of the altar ceiling was two more stories of rooms that were used for storing food, candles and bibles. From the outside all that was visible was the rock face of the cliff, a small doorway entrance and a couple of small Windows. We weren't even going to enter it as it appeared to be nothing more than a small house. This clever exterior discretion was how the villages were able to avoid being found and having their properties raided during invasion. For the time being you can climb up all the secret passageways and touch all the intricate carvings, however, I guarantee within 10 years the spaces will be roped-off and only accessible with tours. VISIT THIS AMAZING REGION ASAP!!!

We took the dolmus 1.5hrs outside if Göreme to visit the underground city of Derinkuyu. This was the pinnacle of mind blowing human will-power. Derinkuyu is surrounded by flat plateau areas, unlike the undulating gorged landscape of Göreme. So there is no soft rock fairy chimneys in which to carve out housing. Instead what the inhabitants of this area did was dig directly underground. Not just 10 or so metres, but an astounding 75m down! The city could accommodate for 5000 people, as well as livestock, grain and other food storage. The rock in this area is much harder as well, so the excavations must have been a lot more arduous. This is visible by the extremely low ceiling height, and narrow passageways. The city planning was pretty incredible as well. Each level folded on top and around the others, so you could quickly slip up and down levels with incredible ease. They had grated and heavy stone wheels they could roll over passageways to prevent intruders from gaining further access, and as they knew the connection routes they could wrap around and attack from behind. The most amazing aspect of the city was their access to fresh air and water.
A massive ventilation shaft ran the entire length of the city, so fresh air carried to even the deepest parts. They had built an amazing Roman bath for washing, however the specific drainage system is un-determinable due to the ceramic piping now being broken. I don't know how often they would emerge for some much needed sunlight and to dispose ofj rubbish/sewage etc. Needless to say, it was truly an astounding example of human engineering and ability to adapt to an environment.

As it was currently Ramadan, every evening at 8.15pm (or there abouts) the mosques would project the final prayer of the day, signifying you could now eat and drink again. To reward the community in for their diligent fasting, the mosques set up a banquet for Muslims to enjoy a free meal. Orange took it upon himself to also enjoy this free meal, rocking up and dining with the exhausted locals. It was quite hilarious seeing the tables of turkish men all dressed in their shirts and suit pants, respectfully sharing the communal bread and salad dishes and then seeing Orange rock up in his boardies, singlet and thongs, usually with an opened can of coke already in his hand, and sitting down next to them, scoffing his meal and then heading off. Sometimes if he wasn't in the mood to sit on the hard plastic chairs outside the mosque, instead preferring to lounge on the hotel couches with us, he would waltz down, ask for them to package the meal take away and then eat it in comfort in front of us. He truly was a special one.

We could easily have stayed another week in Göreme, but we wanted to keep exploring other areas of Turkey's vast countryside, and I had smashed my jaw on the bed frame, chipping my tooth, so needed medical attention from a Dentistry office that wasn't built into a cave. So we booked an overnight bus to Pamukkale and jetted off.

No comments:

Post a Comment