Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Turkey || Cappadocia

Early Sunday morning, we made our way to the airport to take a quick flight to Cappadocia in central Turkey. We booked the flights on Pegasus Airlines and were a little worried because if the phrase "you get what you pay for" were to hold true, then there was a chance we wouldn't make it to Cappadocia in one piece: the plane tickets cost less than $30 USD. We were pleasantly surprised. I think Pegasus is Turkey's version of Southwest maybe? Nothing fancy, but it was a perfectly fine flight, and all four of us even got extra leg room on the exit rows (Catherine apparently did a great job of hiding her baby bump because they never suspected a thing!). 

We landed in the semi-bustling city of Kayseri, which felt like a suburb. Lots of locals, malls, churches, shops, etc. We rented a car (in the police station?) and were told if we wrecked it, we should "make sure to wreck it good." Catherine and I pouted on the street corner while Ryan and Bryan spent hours, literally, trying to find an open cell phone store (on a Sunday morning, remember) so we could get a Turkish sim card for Ryan's phone. We tried to find a detailed map, too, but those were nowhere to be found. We eventually opted to wait for the mall to open up and to pass the time, we shopped at a local grocery store where we found gems like a hard candy called Missbon, a soft candy called Tofita, pistacio chocolates and Yogurt/Dill Lays potato chips. Seriously delicious. 

After what seemed an eternity in the mall cell phone store, we left (Maren and Cat less than pleased) and finally started on our way to Cappadocia, much later than anticipated. Though, the wait ultimately proved worthwhile as we never would have found our way without the map on Ryan's phone due to road closures (and the fact that we didn't speak Turkish). Or, Ryan never would have found our way...Bryan, Cat and I all fell asleep pretty quickly. Thanks, Ryan!
As we neared Cappadocia, we feasted our eyes on a centuries-old civilization built right into the landscape - both underground and in caves carved from ash that blanketed the region when volcanoes erupted 30 million years ago, or so they say. Over time, the ash solidified into "tuff" and was worn away in some places creating "fairy chimneys." 

And to top it off, we got to sleep in one of the caves. 

After we wound our way up to the hotel (it took a loooooooong while to find it), we settled into our cave rooms and then ventured to Kaymakli, an undergound city just south of our hotel. Mustafa, our adopted tour guide, led us though the winding hallways and rooms complete with ventilation, kitchens, wineries, stables, bedrooms and more. The underground city kept its 5,000+ residents safe from religious crusaders. We wandered for more than an hour and only saw less than 10 perfect of what was there.

After Kaymakli, we ventured out on a sunset hike led by employees from our hotel. The hike led us through the fairy chimney-esque Rose Valley, as we ascended and descended caves used as churches, post offices (with ledges used by carrier pigeons) and more, (all while wearing skirts and flip flops). We sat at an open air "cafeteria" where we sipped pomegranate/orange juice and watched the sun set. 

We ate a late dinner on the main road (where I got violently ill...thankfully it passed within a few hours) and then headed to bed. 

In the morning, we ate the most incredible breakfast offered by our hotel, with an even more incredible view. Cave dwelling IS all its cracked up to be!

After breakfast, we found ourselves at the Goreme Open Air Museum where we crawled up and down stairs leading in and out of churches, monasteries and nunneries in what used to be a bustling city built into caves. 

I was hoping to ride a camel, but we didn't see them where our guide book said they'd be and we quickly ran out of time. All in all, a fabulous day and a little bit spent in central Turkey. I highly recommend it and think two full days would be perfect (which we would have had without the sim card debacle). 

On to Ephesus!

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