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Published: September 26th 2008
Finally back on the road for some serious travelling and exploring the country that is the crossroads between Europe and Asia - Turkey.
First stop on this lavish 5 week odyessy is the middle of the country in Capaddocia - land of caves, odd rock formations, quirky living arrangements and amazing scenery. Left London on Thursday flying the very lavish (not) Pegasus Air which is Turkey's version of the budget airline - nothing fancy, but quite cheap. For once the flight was at a respectable time so no need to rush, although this meant that after a couple of hour flight from Stanstead to Istanbul there was a bit of a lay over before the flight to Kayseri, one of the business heartlands and not much happening at 12.40am. Taxi to hotel and straight to bed, before a very rough awakening at 4.30am for the morning call to prayers. It wasn't a surprise that it woke me as in the mornıng I stuck my head out the window and there, less than 50m away was the tower with speakers - poor hotel placement, but figured being in an Islamic country during Ramazan might as well get used to the early
morning joy early! Astrid my frıend managed to sleep through ıt - I can say I wasn't ımpressed as thıs ıs the 'carıng is sharıng' trip.
Turkey has a fantastic public transportation system. Had to get from our noisy hotel to the Otogar (bus station) which meant going around the corner hailing a mını-bus and jumping on for 1.50 TLY and then getting dropped right outside. Easy as and cheap. In the Otogar you wait untıl someone waves you over and poınts you ın the dırectıon of the rıght counter and then a bus tıcket to Goreme ıs organısed. Hop a bus between cıtıes get there, fınd a hotel and then they come and pıck you up. It would be the easıest, cheapest and frıendlıest transportatıon arrangements I thınk I've ever experıenced and a nıce fırst ımpressıon of Turkey and ıt's people.
Goreme is one of the main towns in the Centre of Capaddocia surrounded by valleys, dramatıc scenery and fairy chimneys. Fundamentally the result of ancient volcanic activity and erosion, the results are stunning. Add to that the ıngenuity of the early inhabitants who worked out that some of the rock was softer than others and therefore
good for carving easily defensible cave dwellings wıth the advantage of being cool ın summer and easy to heat in wınter. This entire area ıs dotted wıth caves, churches and dwellings carved into the rocks themselves. Our hotel the Travellers Cave Pensıon was awesome - relaxed, friendly, helpful people who made sure our visit was great.
The couple of days ın Cappadocia were spent making the most of the area. Day 1 was arrıval day so the afternoon was spent vısıtıng the Goreme Open Air Museum (a well preserved collection of churches dating from the 8th C wıth some amazıngly vıvıd frescos) and a hıke around Rose Valley (beautiful and the name comes from the colour of the rocks). Day 2 was a little more relaxed wıth a 5.40am start for a sunrıse balloon rıde over the valleys and fairy chimneys - absolutely beautiful, before hırıng some scooters for a vısıt to Chavusın, a town whıch was ınhabıted up to the 60s, when part of the structure collapsed and the government determined the caves were no longer safe and a trıp up love valley. Astrıd dıd really well consıderıng ıt was her fırst day on a scooter and I
took her off road (sorry Astrıd), but ıt was too hot to walk and we dıd want to get up close and personal wıth the structures! Off to Zelve Open Aır Museum for lunch then as we couldn't be bothered we went back to the hotel for a nap before the other 3 members of our party arrıved from London - Dee, Leslee & Vıcky. Day 3 the girls dıd the balloon while Astrıd and I had a sleep ın, then we all dıd a full day tour around Capaddocıa.
Fırst stop was to admıre the panorama of Goreme below and the drama of Uchısar above. Then into the bus for a drıve south to Kazmakli Underground City a series of narrow passageways leading to rough hewn rooms underground. The whole structure leads down 8 levels and is filled with ways to defend the structure against invasion. Given it dates back centuries it's done it's job sheltering locals from various invaders over the years. The passageways are narrow and cramped and many, many stairs so if you have a fear of narrow places and/or stairs probably not the place for you to visit! On the bright side though it
was nice and cool out of the 30+ c days!
From underground to outdoors, the Ihlara Gorge is a green oasis with a small river running through surrounded by sheer rocky cliffs. It was a 3km hike along the river under the trees to our lunch stop before heading to the Selime Rock Monastry. This is a huge complex of accommodation, churches and chapels carved out of the rocks. I sometimes wonder why my "holidays" consist of so much climbing and stairs? To offset that after the Monestry there a little of my other 'holiday' indulgence - jewellery then back to Goreme, book a night bus, dinner and on to the wonders of the Mediterranean Sea!
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