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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cappadocia - day one and two.

Those 10hr night bus rides are a grind and the one from Pamukkale to Cappadocia was no exception. The buseso in Turkey are reputed to be very luxurious but I beg to differ. At least not the one we were on. Marginally comfortable seats and no bathroom. Mexican buses are way better. In any case, we arrived early in the morning in Nevsehir where we transferred to a bus to the town of Göreme where we were to stay in Cappadocia. About 15min along we stopped for gas. I was appalled when both the driver and his assistant lit up cigarettes right where they were fuelling. Yikes! No explosion, thankfully. Shortly after that, the bus sputtered to a stop and the driver and assistant got out. No one knew what was happening. After a while, the assistant got back in gingerly carrying the driver's tie, carefully hung it up and went back out. He soon returned and got a screwdriver and went back out. By then it was clear that there were engine problems. More time passed. The assistant came back in and attempted to start the bus. No dice. Same routine repeated a couple more times until, voila! it started. The driver got back behind the wheel, we gave him a round of applause,



Then he lit up, and off we went. Hold it......lit up?! That's right. It's pretty clear that smoking is not permitted on the bus but I guess this qualified as special circumstances. And he proceeded to smoke for the rest of the 20min trip.

This highlights the level of tobacco consumption in Turkey in general and in this region in particular. Most people seem to smoke most of the time. Everyone reeks of cigarette smoke as do the shops. I heard that cigarettes are very cheap here and they grow a lot of tobacco. But I digress. We found our way to our hotel, the Royal Stone House in Gnöreme, the hub of tourist activities in the region, were given a room upgrade and complimentary breakfast. (The desk clerk, a charming young man with good English, said it was because I was wearing a ball cap with the logo of his favourite Turkish football team. Who knows.) The top floor room with great view was surprisingly opulent and we happily settled in then went for a nice buffet breakfast. This was all very welcome after the gruelling bus trip.

About Cappadocia. The name, Cappadocia, means "the land of beautiful horses." There's lots on line, of course but, a little overview: the Hittites settled Cappadocia from 1800BC to 1200BC after which smaller kingdoms held power. Then came the Persians followed by the Romans. During the roman and Byzantine periods became a refuge for early Christians and from the 4th to the 11th century, Christianity flourished. When the Christians were hiding out here, they build large underground cities in which to take refuge. The area is also riddled with cave dwellings and churches carved out of the rock high up on the fairy chimneys and cliffs.

Everywhere you go you see these caves and there must have been thousands of people living in them at one time. There must also be hundreds of churches carved into the rock, no one knows how many but you encounter them everywhere in the valleys, some hidden away and hard to find. Now, many of the caves have been made into chi-chi boutique hotels and restaurants.

After breakfast we decided to go for a hike in Love Valley, one of the many valleys around Göreme, full of what they call fairy chimneys, pointy rock outcroppings that Cappadocia is noted for among much else. This region contains the most unusual, arresting, amazing lunar landscape you'll see anywhere. It's totally mind boggling and the history is equally amazing.

Our hike didn't go so well. We took a wrong turn and wound up going cross country up a steep incline over these weird rock outcroppings. Then it started to rain, then rained harder and it was cold. We found a dirt road at the rim of this canyon and followed it for quite a ways until, frustrated and soaked, we just made our way down the steep, slippery slope, through muddy fields until we finally found the main road through town which, by this time was more a river than a road. Finally we arrived at our hotel, wet, exhausted and cold. Hot showers and rest were in order followed by dinner and bed.

The weather still wasn't promising for the next day so we booked a tour that included a variety of attractions in the greater area. Our tour leader, Ramazam, was a character.., extremely energetic (read: wired), funny, engaging and, very informative. Said he'd lived all over the world, had been a professional kick boxer, spoke a dozen languages, attended three universities and most of it was probably true.

It is true that guides are required to take a minimum two year university training and most do four. Interesting group too representing Singapore, Germany, Uruguay, Canada, India, UK and USA.







First stop was one of the three underground cities in the area, Derinkuyu. It was interesting in an academic sort of way but too crowded to really see much. Extending to a depth of approximately 60m, it was large enough to shelter approximately 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey and is one of several underground complexes found across Cappadocia. It was fully formed in the Byzantine era, when it was heavily used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the arab-Byzantine wars (780-1180). The city was connected with other underground cities through miles of tunnels.

To be continued.
















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