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Lunar Landscape - Cappadocia, Istanbul

Greeting from the Surface of the Moon!

We are in central Turkey, in a region known as Cappadocia, which bears striking resemblances to passing scenes in Stars Wars, certifying it 'other-worldly.' It is famous for its geological land formations found nowhere else on the face of the earth.

Cappadocia encompasses quite a large region and home to a variety of differently classified rock formations, the most famous being the 'fairy castles' of Goreme. Imagine a lemon merenge pie as large as a valley, and then fifty more pies spreading the distance. 

But even more interesting, the formations are made of soft lava, known as tufa, that ancient people found quite easy to carve. So within such a inhospitable landscape, they created cave-like dwellings, some many stories high that tunneled through and up and down and out, throughout all the valleys. 

Drawn to the seclusion, many monks and monastaries set up shop and carved elaborate churches, which still exist today in much of their glory. We visited some churches dating from the ninth century with detailed frescoes still intact. Climbing through these cave-like multi-level structures consisted of square vertical tunnels with small holes carved into both sides of the shaft as foot and hand holds. Obviously, the ladder had not been invented. A bit of scrambling, and we also mastered the funny climbing motion and explored deep into these cavernous dwellings.

Carvings on the ceiling of a cave church

Other valleys had amazing rock formations that are quite phallic in nature.  They are created from very high water rushing through these valleys eroding the slim peaks but never quite over the top of them leaving large formations seemingly precariously perched above slim columns.

 

 

 

Another unusual feature of some of the valleys are the pigeon holes. Famed as both a means of communication as well as food and fuel (from their droppings) the people of old carved huge dwellings solely for the pigeons. You can see the many holes for the entrances looking like an enormous pigeon apartment complex.

But in discussing Cappadocia, one would not be complete without mentioning the most unique accommodations we have yet to stay in. A few of the afore-mentioned fairy castles are privately owned and open to the public. We were hoping to score a room in one, and got very lucky. In Goreme, the town we stayed in, there are only about five rooms that really qualify as a fairy castle. 

our penthouse suite at Paradise Pansiyon in Goreme

view from the penthouse

Luck was with us and our room was a big whipped cream puff of a palace and we got the pent house suite (the small room at the pointy top) carved out (qualifying it as a cave) with numerous holes dug all around filled with candles. We climbed up and crawled through a hole that our packs barely fit through. Emma and our new friend Michael were in the room below us. The owner was born in that room making him the original caveman. 

When we mentioned before the hospitality of the people, we have to mention Mustafa, our friend from Urgup. We met him at one of the many deserted churches. An out-of-work carpenter, he was visiting his friend, a guard in the area. Over tea and lots of laughter, he offered to show us around the region.  He has lived there all his life and proved to be an amazing guide. 

Doug, Emma the Aussie, Ann, Michael from Belgium & Mustafa

He showed bright and early the next morning in his tiny beater car and four of us climbed in (we have been joined by a congenial Belgium named Michael) In return, all he asked was for gas money as some of the distances were great. He showed us many of the less touristed areas, but just as beautiful and saving us lots of money in the process. In some instances, he went into some sites via back ways and over the course of two days, we saw and learned so much.

doug's perfect dive...I give it a ten and a high five to myself for catching it 

On one of our treks through the beautiful valleys, we wandered upon some young boys at the local swimming hole. They was a waterfall feeding into a deep pool and the boys were climbing up and jumping off the cliffs. After watching awhile, we finally decided, what the hell and jumped in ourselves, in the clothes we were wearing. We actually jumped off the cliffs, scary as that may be, but the boys pointed out where the deep parts were (thankfully, they were correct) and we tried to aim for there, so no broken bones. And the prepubescent boys did their best to cop a feel, as boy will be boys.

note the boy next to Emma, where's his hand?

At the end of the day, he said that he wanted to take us somewhere special and have a picnic. We stopped at a local grocer, and he stocked up on provisions having a definite plan in mind. We left with a variety of fresh vegetables and large loafs of crusty bread. We made one additional stop at a local winery, picked out a few bottles for our picnic and also as souvenirs. Then we drove to a secluded valley and drove along a barely visible trail to a small shack. He bounded out of the car, unlocked the bolt and presented with a flourish his summer home, built of his own hands. It was a tiny one room shack, at most 60 square feet. But it had everything you need.  He cranked up a kerosene stove, and with lard from under the bed and salt hanging in sack, whipped up a rataouille and a fresh tomato and cucumber salad. We ate it sitting around the large cooking pan, sopping up the stew with chunks of crusty bread and the salad with our fingers. Afterwards, we relaxed outside with soothing Turkish tea and played game after game of backgammon, watching first the sunset and then the stars emerging in the purple sky. We thank him for an unforgettable day.

view of Goreme town with its fairy castles

Mustafa had plenty of time on his hands, as the work situation was not good in Turkey.  Tourism affects everything. Mustafa is in construction and because tourists are not coming, people are hesitant to build more and the economy is shutting down and soon everyone will be affected. We have found Turkey to be an amazing destination. Quite exotic for some, but very  easy to navigate. Hurt by continual bad publicity with the Kurdish rebels and economic instability, Turkey remains woefully neglected. Hotel rooms are empty and ridiculously cheap, sites are deserted and the people are feeling the pinch. But for an endless variety of sites, sounds and scenery, Turkey can't be beat. 

over and out

ann and doug

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