Cappadocia

At long last, I have a chance to write about my trip to Cappadocia. It took me quite a while to get the pictures organized and posted, but I finally figured it out. You can see them all here.

Before I begin, I should introduce you to the cast. Sean and Tom were my First Officer and Flight Engineer. Hakan is our ops rep in Adana (he actually works for our handling agent there). Matthias, Per, Leigh, and Bonnie were four of our nine flight attendants. It was quite an international group to begin with. We’ve all travelled the world extensively, but on top of that, Matthias is German, Per is Danish, Hakan is Turkish, and Bonnie, though American, used to live in Turkey. We were also joined by Mustafa, our driver for the trip, and Osman, our guide in Cappadocia.

I left home New Years Eve day to commercial for two days (three if you count calendar days) to Adana, Turkey. We operated a round trip to Bishkek and then had 3 1/2 days off. I’m not sure any one person was truly the ring leader. I had contacted Hakan before I left home about doing something, but we were just going to go out in Adana. During our first trip, Sean was talking about taking a trip and Hakan suggested Cappadocia. I mentioned that I thought of going a couple months ago but didn’t and would like to. Several others seemed interested. Ultimately, Hakan and I powwowed and he set up the tour. We invited everyone and wound up with the eight of us. It was the perfect group.

Cappadocia is the name for a region in central Turkey. We went to many separate towns there. It’s famous for its unusual rock formations and countless caves. Apparently it was first settled thousands of years ago and was one of the earliest places in the world (apparently along with Israel) to be farmed.

We met the morning of the 5th for our two day tour. 200TL (~$125 US) covered round trip transportation, our guide, and hotel accommodations, including dinner and breakfast.

We got going on our roughly 4 hour drive a little after 8 a.m. Most of us had never been out of Adana before, so we enjoyed the varied scenery along the way. A lot of it reminded me of California, covering desert, rocky mountains, evergreen forests and even grape vineyards and orange groves. We stopped along the way for tea, called Chai, pronounced the same as Indian Chai but actually just the Turkish word for Tea (it’s not Indian Chai).

Along the way, I noticed a recurring theme: most high places (taller buildings, mountain tops, and so on) were topped by a Turkish flag. We passed the train. That was a novelty. There were lots of train tunnels and the rugged scenery made me think it might be a bit like the Alaska Railroad in some ways.

Our first ‘tourist’ stop was at the underground city. There is a huge whole city of caves underground. It contained everything needed to live – houses, stables, kitchens, and even churches. A small bit of it, which is really quite expansive, has been excavated and is now open to the public. It was quite impressive.

At the shops outside, we got our fist exposure to the so-called evil eye. The evil eye design consists of a dark blue translucent glass ‘stone’ with a ring of opaque white and blue in the middle to make an eye. The Turkish explanation is that it is a charm to protect against the evil eye, which is the glance of envy. The story goes that an envious gaze will bring you bad luck and the evil eye will protect against it. We thought they were cute anyway.

Tom decided not to come in the underground city. They warned us that it could cause problems with asthma and claustrophobia. Indeed, they didn’t build it for tall people like me. The other seven of us had fun wandering through the top few floors and taking goofy pictures.

After our tour there, we went the rest of the way to Cappadocia. On the way, our guide, Osman, explained some things about the region. One of the things he mentioned was that the caves weren’t just for people to live in. Many are still in use today for cold storage purposes. They put oranges in them so they’ll last year around.

Next, we stopped in a town that underwent a population exchange. It was originally built by Christians, mostly of Greek descent. If I recall correctly, it was in the 1920’s that an exchange was worked out resulting in most of the population moving to Greece and exchanging with, I presume, Turks who were living there. It was there that we got the only photo of all eight of us together. Unfortunately, it was quite windy and sleeting, so it wasn’t the greatest photo.

We went on to one of several towns with lots of caves and a cave castle. Again, it was topped with a Turkish flag. We had lunch there in a restaurant and museum. It was a delicious meal that started with a salad, had a main course cooked in a clay pot served with rice, and finished with dessert, all for 8TL (about $5). The food was fabulous, the setting was quaint, and the hospitality was very nice.

From there, we went to another town with a cave castle. It borders a valley called Pigeon Valley. The pigeons used to live in the caves when there was more water present. Now, they’re migrating away due to less water and food being available. We stopped for some photos with an evil eye tree, a pot tree, and a … natural market 😉

From there, we went to an onyx shop. They demonstrated making an onyx egg which Leigh got it by cheating in… I mean winning a contest ;). We wandered around some more, looking at more cave castles and even stopping by the side of the road where there was a camel to ride. Sean and the camel stared each other down but nobody wanted to ride.

By that time (late afternoon), we were all so tired we were ready to go to the hotel. We napped and then hit the dinner buffet. We had discussed going to a Turkish Nights show, which would have featured whirling dervishes and other Turkish entertainment, but the show was not playing that night. We decided to just find a local Turkish bar with some live music. That turned out to be quite a fun evening that, unfortunately, Tom and Matthias missed out on.

We actually went to two places which were right next door to each other. The first place featured music that was, shall we say, not as professional as we desired (i.e. really awful). It was also so smoky I could hardly stand it. We did manage to snap a few fun pictures before we bailed out, and Sean added to the fog with a cigar. He also met a couple from Washington, DC who happened to be in there.

The music at the second place was much better. Sean went back to get the couple from DC who, I presume, appreciated that once they heard the music in the second place. At some point, amidst the Raki and Efes, someone decided it’d be a grand idea to drag out the Hookah. Fortunately, the circulation in there was better. And then, a boy came in with roses, so the ladies in the bar got a nice treat out of that…

Sean was itchin’ to get up and play some music. While the band was on break, we talked to the owner about doing a couple tunes. The guitar player loaned Sean his guitar. We sat down for a minute to figure out what we would play, but gave up on that and just went up there. We played a couple tunes, and then I got down and let him finish (the electronic drums were a bit irritating).

Meanwhile, Leigh had decided to play a little joke on Sean. She discretely took her bra off, went up there and tossed it at him while he played. He was gonna sing another verse, but that pretty much ended the set for him. I’m not sure Per saw that all unfold, though. After returning to our seats, she decided to decorate Per with her bra. For quite a while, he didn’t notice she had done it. We were all cracking up as we took photos of poor Per, unaware of his new accessory. His eventual discovery of it led to a rather humorous Wall-E moment.

When the regular band came back, a few of them decided to go dancing. Somehow, a guy wound up sort of joining us. At first, we thought he was one of the owners, but I think he turned out just to be a drunk guy… a really, really drunk guy. He was nice and friendly, but after having to catch him from falling twice, the owner finally decided to sit him down someplace a bit more stable.

Though we missed out on the Turkish nights, we had our own fun. While I can relay the highlights, it’s impossible to capture all the moments that made the evening what it was. I guess you just had to be there.

The next morning, we met for breakfast and headed out for our next day’s journey. Throughout Cappadocia, the monolithic rock formations are caused by erosion of softer earth under harder stones. At our first stop, there were many such stones that, with a little imagination, looked like statues of things. For example, there was a camel, some salmon swimming upstream, and Mary holding baby Jesus.

We made another quick stop on our way to an area with monoliths that looked like Smurf houses. There was an area we could get out and walk around and even go in some of the caves. We took some great pictures of the area (that was probably some of the best scenery on the whole tour), and explored a few of the small caves that were carved into the monoliths.

Our next stop was an area with a large network of caves that were open to explore around. It was basically a whole little city of caves. The guide explained that the oldest ones are just caves carved into the rock. Newer, are caves in the rocks with stone fronts or attachments. And the newest parts of all are freestanding stone buildings. All of it is pretty old, though. Part of that network of caves included an old church, complete with a stage. The acoustics were pretty interesting. The walls were painted with all sorts of Christian artwork and there was a lot of stone decoration around the caves.

After our visit there, we made our way to our last stop before lunch – the pottery cave. That wound up being one of the more interesting stops. That particular shop has been operating out of that cave for several generations. Among other things, they make pottery in some of the same forms as the ancient Hittites. The shop guide told about the traditional Hittite wine vases and the small vase for tears (for wives who want to show how much they miss their working husbands.. maybe I should have gotten one?).

One of their master potters demonstrated making a plate with white clay and then we got to hear about their family designs and how the paint the pottery. After that, we saw the old-style red clay demonstration using a kick wheel. The piece that rather quickly appeared before our eyes was one of the wine vases. It was fascinating to see it all come together.

Sean decided to try his hand at making something. After a couple attempts, he wound up with enough of a flower pot to call it good. We were then led into their gallery which contained an impressive array of pottery. They had things in their ‘family’ pattern, as well as traditional Hittite patterns (some of which looked like it was carved wood and not pottery), and other ancient patterns. I got my usual coffee mug – a student piece for display only, but something to remember the trip by.

We drove by the Flintstones Cave Bar (wish I could have gone in there) on our way to lunch. It had some similarities to the previous day’s lunch, though it wasn’t quite as good. Shortly after we arrived, a horde of Japanese tourists showed up. Finally, we weren’t the only ones with our cameras out. True to form, they had some real nice ones, too.

There were several dog and cat lovers on the crew and they decided to take some of the leftovers out to feed to the (rather large) puppy outside the restaurant. They got scarfed up real quick.

There was one more tour on the agenda but it was an outdoor tour and we were all pretty cold and tired by that time so we decided to head back to Adana. We made a couple last quick stops for photos and were on our way.

I slept for the first half of the ride home and then collected all the pictures at the end of the ride. I made DVD’s for everyone containing the over 1700 (!!!) pictures and videos from the trip. I think I deserve a pat on the back for whittling that down to under 300! 😉

Though I’ve been in some pretty memorable places, the best times include memorable people. This will surely go down as one of the best, most memorable layovers I’ve had. Thanks to Sean, Tom, Bonnie, Leigh, Matthias, Per, and Hakan for making it such a great trip!

V-

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2 Responses to Cappadocia

  1. kitnish says:

    Wow…that’s so cool! 🙂 Now I want to go there. I envy your ability to travel all over the world. I doubt I’ll ever make it out of this continent.

    • varrin says:

      It was a blast… It seems every year or two, on average, I have some kind of adventure like that. Some of them are smaller groups – three days with a friend in Belfast, going to the Great Wall with a coworker, meeting up with a high school buddy in Stockholm, roaming around Rome on my own… And then there were the ‘crew’ trips, usually with at least 3 or 4 people, sometimes more (this was eight) – Venice, Heidelberg, the Black Forest, now Cappadocia, and I’m sure more that aren’t coming right to the top of my mind. I’m definitely lucky to have the job that I have. I’ve always liked traveling and doing it for a living is definitely the cheapest way… 😉
      V-

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