Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cappadocia

I've been throwing a lot of updates up all of a sudden! I had some stored up from when I was in Istanbul. I'm writing this one to post the same day as I finish it, but I'm still talking about stuff I did a few days ago. Anyway, if anything's confusing, just go back a couple of entries, but you're smart folks.

Anyway, Cappadocia! I stayed in Goreme, which is kind of backpacker central in this region. But for all that, it did have some charm. I've seen a lot of people online and in the guidebooks say that Goreme is spoiled and you should stay in Urgup or Uchisar instead. And a guy I ran into on a path said that I should have stayed in Cavusin (his village). My feeling is, none of these places are perfect. Yes, there are a lot of tourists in Goreme, but I didn't feel like there were any fewer in Urgup (didn't visit Uchisar). And while Cavusin may be a charming example of a Cappadocian village (and it is), it's a lot less convenient, there are only a couple of pensions to stay in, and there aren't any restaurants or ATMs or long-distance buses. So I think Goreme was a perfectly OK place to stay.

My hotel, the Local Cave House:

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In most ways, this place was great! Friendly, non-pushy staff, big rooms IN ACTUAL CAVES carved from the rock (people in this part of Turkey traditionally lived in caves - they're naturally cool in summer, sturdy, etc., and the rock is soft enough to carve out a cave without lots of fancy tools, a pool (although I never went in it)... and then there was the bathroom. Ew. Not a good bathroom. I recognize that ventilation is going to be a difficulty in a cave kind of situation, but this thing was seriously DANK. Something ought to be done, preferably involving industrial-size fans and several gallons of KILZ. Anyway, we shall forget about the bathroom (I very nearly forgot about it by the end of my three-night stay, though when I first arrived I was seriously grossed out).

Another nice thing about the hotel was that it was just up the street from the Goreme Open-Air Museum. The Goreme Open-Air Museum consists of a bunch of churches and other buildings from a Byzantine monastery. These are all carved into the rock! Monks living in caves in Central Anatolia... that's the true hermit lifestyle. These guys knew what they were doing. Many of the churches have frescoes in them, and some of these are incredibly well-preserved:

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These are from a church called the Dark Church, because it was basically windowless. That's why the frescoes in this particular church are still in such great shape. The Dark Church also has frescoes very high up the walls, which was lucky because when Iconoclasm became the new thing to do, they defaced the features of all the figures (I believe these were Byzantine iconoclasts - the Istanbul churches were defaced when they were converted into mosques, for similar reasons). But the iconoclasts apparently forgot to bring a ladder, so all the faces above six feet high or so are largely intact.

My favorite church I visited was not in the Open-Air Museum, it was the Aynali (Mirror) Church, off the road from the Open-Air Museum to Ortahisar. This museum didn't have such fancy frescoes, but it did have Suleyman the caretaker, who was fabulous! He said I was the only person to have come so far that day (it wasn't quite lunchtime, so there was still hope). He gave me tea and told my about how he had recently had a brain tumor removed, and he showed me how he played music on his extra chair:

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I have video of this, but it's not uploading to flickr and YouTube is banned in Turkey.

The church also had seriously creepy tunnels. Not for the claustrophobic.

I basically just wandered around while I was in Cappadocia. I didn't see all the sites you're supposed to see; I missed the Underground Cities and Ihlara Canyon. I did see people working at their traditional job of storing citrus fruit in caves in Ortahisar:

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Not really that exciting, but I had read about it in the guidebook and I was like, "What does that even mean?" I'll tell you what it means: it means they store citrus fruit in caves.

I did go to some of the valleys that are famous for their rock formations. Rose Valley:

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And Love Valley, where I forgot to bring my camera. I do have a few photos on my phone but no good way to get them off the phone right now.

My last day, I took a balloon ride, my first! 45 balloons take off on any given morning in Cappadocia. Each balloon holds 10-20 (or even, in one case, 30) people. I flew with Goreme Balloons (cheaper through my hotel than if I'd booked direct - another reason to tolerate the bathroom cave).

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I ended up changing around my schedule at this point because I didn't want to take an overnight bus. Overnight travel has been making me extremely cranky on this trip, so I decided to avoid it and fly to Izmir instead of taking on overnight bus to Fethiye. I think it was mostly a good choice, although I ended up spending too much time in Selcuk. It was a restful kind of too much time, though. More on that soon.

1 comment:

Steph said...

OMG, the Local Cave House is AWESOME! (The bathroom sounds scary, though.)

And a balloon ride!

You have such awesome holidays.