Sunday, February 02, 2014


I'll never stop being amazed by many things in life. One is the invention of the washing machine. Another might be the luxury of a thermostat controlled heating system at home. And surely to that list I'd add the magic of being in one place one day and waking up somewhere remarkably different the next.

After the quiet of Kos, we wake up today in Istanbul. Now, we aren't really in the center of the city and so the madness of that intersection of all cultures, nationalities, religions passing through, staying, not staying, returning, on the go, always on the go -- all that is not before us. But I look outside of the actually quite pleasant Titanic Hotel (I ask Ed -- why do you suppose they gave it the same name of a sinking ship? Memorable -- he says, without hesitation) and I see the waters of the city and I know I am not on the Greek islands anymore.

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Breakfast is elaborate. I mean, there is an infinite number of courses and plates and I think Ed tries them all. It takes us 45 minutes to eat our way (well, really his way) through foods that make their way to our table.

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Me, I'm fascinated with the Turkish honey comb. I've seen it dripping honey before and now I ask -- are you supposed to only catch the honey? Or break off the comb and eat it?  
Break off the comb with the honey and eat the whole thing! Delicious.
And it is, if you can quit thinking that you're chewing on beeswax.

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And now we're at the Domestic Terminal of the airport -- same gate as when we were heading south! Only now, the demographics of the passengers changes. Who is going to Nevsehir with us? People who live in eastern Turkey and several handfuls of Chinese and Japanese tourists. See for yourself:

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When no one else even thinks of traveling abroad - in the wettest, coldest, most off putting seasons - Asian tourists get on that flight and go to all the places that offer a glimpse at another world. I admire them for that.

The flight to Nevsehir is only an hour, but it is a bumpy, rocky flight -- one of those incomprehensible to me times when the clear air makes the plane bounce so much that the flight attendants have to sit down, or else. But the views toward the mountains are, well, heavenly.

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And then we are there: on this high plateau toward the eastern part of Turkey (1000 meters high, so that the air stays cold all winter long. Okay, cold relative to other parts of Turkey. We're to have temps at around 40 during the day and around 20 at night).

What's so special about this place? Well now, let's see if I can give it a just description.

Initially, Ed says it reminds him of America's western frontier lands.

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Our mini bus drives through what looks like barren and dry land, except it's not that barren and dry because there are small vineyards scattered throughout and we all know grapes need water.

We come to a small town and our bus driver inexplicably has us change to another mini bus. He is still the driver. We continue. Until he does a neat u-turn and goes back to the town we just left behind. We think he forgot something in the other van. Here's a photo of the town where we changed vans. Notice something unusual about it?

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So it is after noon when we arrive in Urgup -- the village that abuts the region of Cappadocia.

We're staying at the lovely, absolutely lovely family run Fresco Cave Boutique Hotel ("Fresco" because it is in part an 18th century mansion with Islamic art presented in frescoes throughout). It's sort of a given that if you come to Cappadocia, you'll wind up staying in a cave hotel. So now you know -- we are in an area of caves.

I actually resisted the whole sleeping in a cave thing and asked for a room that was just "normal," but we got upgraded (off off season works magic tricks like that) to a suite which has a "normal" old living room attached to a cave bedroom and bathroom, so that, as the proprietor tells us --we can experience it all. This utter luxury comes to us for 100 Euro per night, including the airport transfer (and the airport is a good 50 kilometers away) and a copious cooked breakfast, and taxes etc etc.

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(the cave part)

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(the view from all those sun drenched windows)

There is so much to see in this area, but I am absolutely sure where we must start, because we have been so incredibly lucky with the weather! It is cold but sunny outside and that is a wonderful turn of events: the rains went elsewhere -- I don't know where, I think Rome, but wherever they went I want to thank them for their detour because Cappadocia cannot be appreciated fully without a clear sky to add the right light and of course a dry spell to keep the paths from turning into gushing torrents of mud. In other words, I want to hike.

Our proprietor helps us with this: she arranges a taxi -- it's no good to rent a car because the trails are not loops -- they continue through the valleys in between rock formations -- and she lends us her cell so that we can actually call when we are done.

So... you ask, okay okay okay, but what is this place anyway?

I could tell you in words: how volcanoes erupted and sent lava flowing through here 50 million years ago. How erosion then carved fairy chimneys out of the terrain. How in early times, people chiseled homes, churches and indeed entire cities into these cliffs.

But you should know this too: Cappadocia, for all its recent appeal to tourists with lovely little hotels and well marked trails and beautiful sunsets and God knows what else, Cappadocia is unspoiled. It follows a village rhythm and the people still are delighted if you tell them you've traveled far to be here.

So come on, let's get to it -- a hike, a long hike through the valleys and gorges and caves -- an empty trail today, because the tourists, like at the Grand Canyon, congregate at certain view points, leaving the gorge, the climbs, the magnificent paths in utter quiet. (During our 3.5 hour hike -- it was that long because we got lost twice -- we encountered a hardy Chinese duo and we were so grateful, because we were in a cave and they had an iPhone with a flashlight and so we could see where the large puddles offered some stepping stones! And, secondly, we ran into a family of Turks from... Cappadocia! They were thrilled to meet us -- from America?? Yes?? We are all from Cappadocia! From here! From this area!  Here they are, welcoming us, welcoming you!

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Alright. Mustafa, our taxi guy, leaves us at one end of the trail and we hike. And right away we take a wrong turn, but you already know that. So let me not throw more words at you, just follow along with us through this spectacular lunar landscape, on this late afternoon in February:

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(the start of the trail)

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(tall cliffs against a blue sky)

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(ancient burials, chapels, dwellings carved into the cliffs)

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(a closer look)

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(trail passes through caves)

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(towering above us)

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(in the light of the fading sun)

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(path gets icy for a bit)

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(again through a cave)

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(a few times we had to mount iron rungs -- this is where my tail bone started really protesting!)

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(a tricky stretch)

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(a gentler segment)

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(then another steep climb)

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(looking down)

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(victorious at the top: my tail bone cooperated! Sort of.)

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(looking to the north)

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(heading down now)

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(many have commented on the anatomical shapes of some of the "candles")

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(no ridge looks the same)

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(looking back...)

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(looking forward; that small peak in the middle? That's not a fairy candle, that's a mosque, telling us we made it to our destination!)

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(the village of Cavusin)

I call Mustafa from here and we use the handful of minutes to stroll around, looking at the stalls of local artifacts. I don't usually post funny photos of incongruous juxtapositions, but I could not resist this one: a local family passing something that clearly is supposed to speak to the interests of tourists.

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At one stall of ceramics, the vendor comes up and engages us -- not really pushing a sale, just the usual "where are you from."
America! I have visited it!
Where did you go?
California and the Grand Canyon!
Ah yes. You want to see what the "other one" is like. Did you like it?
Yes... He pouts a little here. Yours has a river running through it. Oh God, do we always have to try to present a bigger better version of what exists elsewhere?

Mustafa arrives and we drive back slowly. He is proud of his region and he shows us especially attractive formations at the side of the road.

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Perhaps it is too much for you, you sweet, patient Ocean readers -- all those cliffs and boulders! But I have to say, this day is one that will stay with me. For many many reasons. So, just one more cliff photo...

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And I'll stop for today.

We ate dinner at a place called Ziggy. A lovely little eatery with a gracious and friendly staff. Just up the street from our hotel.

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Ed wasn't hungry, but he was a good guy today and nibbled on a salad as I devoured smoked eggplant and skewered chicken bits in olive oil and garlic.

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I come back now to my thoughts from this morning: I shake my head at the incredulity of this: in Cappadocia today, tomorrow, even Tuesday morning. In Madison Wisconsin Wednesday afternoon.