Day 67: Turkey: Part 2

I apologize for the delay- my Mac’s hard drive decided to break and I’ve been without a working computer since the back-end of Spring Break. I’m hoping to recover most of my data and pictures, but I’m using a computer from CMU for the time being. I apologize for the limited photos, I hope to have more soon!

For the second leg of Spring Break, my friend Colin and I went to Cappadocia, a rural vacation destination in central Turkey. Our travel to the airport(s) was longer than our flight, because we went to the wrong airport! Luckily we had enough time for the hour taxi ride to the other side of the city  It was then a quick hour-long plane ride and we rented a car for the 3 day trip. I got to drive a manual transmission for the first time in a while, so that was interesting. I only stalled once, although it was on a four line highway and I was facing oncoming traffic! We made it to our hotel though and it was a unique experience. The hotels are made from the caves in the mountains of Cappadocia. Above our hotel was “Sunset Point,” where you could overlook the entire town at the end of the day. The town was relatively empty because it’s not tourist season but we still met a few people.

We went to an old underground city, spanning 10 levels underground. It housed a few thousand people at its height, and people were able to live entirely inside for months at a time. We went to the 8th level and saw bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens (the ceiling was black from smoke), wineries (the grapes were pressed with feet and the floor was angled to a trough), and churches with old engravings. There were massive round rocks (8ft diameter) used to seal off main passageways to defend the city. We also saw air and water shafts that went all the way to the surface. It’s incredible that these caves were built over a thousand years ago. The passageways were also very small in areas and I had to almost crawl through them.

We then drove an hour and had lunch at the base of a canyon next to a creek. We finished the afternoon with a few miles of hiking the canyon. Inside the canyon, there were old mosques that had been carved hundreds of years ago. We came across a few farmers herding their goats and making the evening trip home from a day of grazing. We also watched a woman gather a huge batch of brush on a donkey then take it to burn- it looked like quite a task for the afternoon heat. Overall, the hike provided some excellent views and a quiet day with no tour groups around.

The following day we did a morning hot air balloon ride at sunrise. It was an incredible experience floating over the “fairy chimney” rock formations and seeing the town wake up. We were in the basket with a British man traveling southern Turkey and it made for a fun ride. We were back at the hotel for 8AM breakfast and then attended a day long tour of the main attractions. We got to see plenty of other ancient cities carved into the mountain. We also saw a few old churches, most notably the church of St. Basil and a Dark Church. The churches have paintings that are over a thousand years old and they won’t allow photographs inside, but the areas are definitely worth visiting if you’re in Turkey. We saw a few other natural rock formations that were amazing to see up close, and then went to a family pottery store. We watched a wine vase be created by hand, and then got to see their master collection of pieces. To finish the evening we went a government run carpet-making school. We got to watch the process and see different types of carpets and learn all about the history as well. The one picture of the horse is a carpet not a painting! It has over a thousand small knots per square inch! Quite amazing to see and feel up close.

The food was pretty good in Cappadocia. The best part was probably being alone in most restaurants so the owners and waitstaff were always willing to chat. We had Turkish pizza, which is just shaped more like a football and has different flavored sauces. They serve a lot of meat dishes that resemble a thick stew and are flavored with a variety of spices. The local wine was delicious and went well with a lot of the local dishes.

I made an early morning trip to the airport to catch a flight back to Istanbul and stayed the evening there. I went back to Taksim and did a little shopping. Turkish clothing is quite cheap and good quality in the right stores. I spent the night at a hostel and had another early morning to catch my flight into Greece! I’ll miss Turkey- it was an awesome experience full of good food and lots of interesting places to see!

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