Friday, June 14, 2013

The Complicated Love Affair that is Turkey: Part 1, Cappadocia

Beautiful, crowded, enlightening, frustrating, magical, difficult, quiet, touristy, historical, awe inspiring, friendly.......umm, welcome to Turkey, the land were nearly any adjective could work.  We had so many up and down emotions throughout our trip that I feel bipolar just thinking about it.... so that being said; here comes the first installment of my latest roller coaster of a blog: 
Instead of starting up the track like every good roller coaster should, our trip started in the opposite direction due to a little protesting/riots/tear gas/crowd control going on in Taksim (about a 10 minute walk to where we were supposed to spend our first two nights).  While on our way to the Zurich airport, a Turkish colleague of Nicole's advised us not to go via manic text saying something along the lines of "Istanbul is like a war zone and the police are beating people in the streets."  So....on that note we decided to change our plans and head to Cappadocia instead of Istanbul. We later found out that this was greatly exaggerated and the protests were confined to a very small area that could have been easily avoided, but you can understand why we wussed out and changed our flight.  That initial day of travel ended up being ridiculously long (our apartment to hotel, something around 17 hours) and included a 45 minute search to buy our visas for Turkey.  Did you know you can only by a visa in Turkey using Euros and not their own currency? Neither did we. Anyway, we finally made it to Goreme a little after midnight and all our troubles were immediately forgotten as we checked into our beautiful cave suite and were welcomed with mezze sandwiches and a delicious bottle of Turkish wine.  And back in the game!  
We woke up the following day excited and invigorated but nothing could have prepared me for that first real glimpse of Goreme in the morning sunlight. I have truly never seen anything like it.  The strangely magnificent landscape simply looks like it doesn't belong and should be from another planet.  Serene yet surreal, the tall chimneys, doors, and windows carved into the stone hills and spires that are everywhere you look, gave me the impression that it was something out of a sci-fi novel rather than our Turkish holiday blog.  Long ago, volcanic activity from three surrounding volcanoes laid down thick layers of ash, lava, and basalt that hardened over time.  Years of erosion eventually left behind the spires or "fairy chimneys" that past civilizations discovered were stable yet easily carvable and made perfect shelter opportunites that led to the creation of many small towns and underground cities that are still around today. (geology nerd rant over)
We rented a scooter and just rode around the countryside stopping in small villages and checking out underground cities with bazaars out front for most of the morning and afternoon.  The underground cities could be surprisingly vast and intricate. I have always loved natural caves and caverns and I couldn't help but marvel at the comforting feel these man carved tunnels instilled. We went to two, which was enough for Nicole because I started to worry that she would get a concussion if she hit her head one more time.  The low ceilings were apparantly not made for persons of her height and the builders of both cities were similar in stature to myself because I could stand straight up in a number of the tunnels and rooms with only about half an inch to spare. I love finding new benefits to being short! Flying on planes or in backseats of cars, check;  maneuverability in tight and confined spaces which now include underground cites in Turkey, check....yup, that about covers it. Outside the cities were the bazaars with all the sounds, smells, and activity that one would imagine. We enjoyed walking around drinking fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and saying "no thanks" to hundred different friendly merchants within the space of about ten minutes. We did manage to buy a few small trinkets with a very low success rate in the haggling department. Neither of us are very good at it and I think we are resigned to pay a dollar too much for everything we will ever buy where this strategy is involved.
I don't know if it was the lanscape, or the people, or being in and part of an ancient country where whole empires were won and lost, but thinking back it still seems a little unreal. I guess knowing you are having one of those "experiences of a lifetime" while you are in the middle of it just makes it feel more like a dream than reality. At one point we had a random touch of homesickness, as clouds began to roll in we were suddenly enveloped in that "just before the rain starts in the desert" smell that only true desert dwellers know and love.  Although we have both lived away from Arizona for 10 to 15 years of our lives and will probably never live there again, that moment, riding a rented scooter around in the middle of a country halfway around the world, we realized that Arizona, with its beautiful mountains, vistas, and arid climate will always be what we consider home. We don't have those moments often but this time it was something comforting and heart lifting that we were able to share together. We continued our ride, randomly getting lost on purpose, and eventually made it back to our town never letting the silly RomCom grins slip off our faces. After working up a huge appetite scooting around all day we went to a great authentic restaurant where we sat on the floor and had our food brought out to in the clay pots they were cooked in.  Relaxing Turkish music played in the background as we watched our waiter break the pots with a hammer in order to pour the food we had to order three hours in advance onto our plates.  The wait was definitely worth it! We ate and drank, we talked for hours and relived our adventures of the day, as well as adventures past.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I caught myself staring across the small wooden table at my beautiful wife who was smiling and laughing, probably about something ridiculous we did together. I still remember the first day I saw her almost 20 years ago, and if she had any clue she would have caught me staring then as well.  She didn't, instead she looked up and said "let's go to a wine bar and watch the Heat Pacers game."  God I love that woman.  Hands down, one of the best days of my life.   
Stay tuned for "The Complicated Love Affair that is Turkey: Part 2, Istanbul and Bodrum."  

This underground city had eight different levels. Nicole only hit her head 17,000 times.

Cool sitting area in one of the three different cave rooms we stayed at in as many nights. idea.

Uchisar Castle

I don't think anyone is going to mistake me for Jax Teller anytime soon. 

Top of Uchisar Castle...there are not stairs in a city that Nicole has not made me climb. Admittedly most have been worth it.

If you are wondering why the normally very fashion conscientious Nicole is wearing one of my long sleeve T-shirts, I will touch on it a little more in Part 2.

For breakfast one day we were picked up in this tractor and taken to a small family owned valley for breakfast.

Heading down into the valley for breakfast were we met our crew for raging that night! 

Volcano in the distance.

Sneaky camel shot so we wouldn't get bothered by the owner.



The small holes used to be pigeon houses.  Pigeon poop was the areas main resource long ago because it was one of the few things that could be used as fertilizer.


Our dinner was cooked in the pots and then broken open.

This is what came out of my pot....sorry it's upside down.

This is where the real party started...too much wine and way to much Raki to be happy about a 4 AM balloon ride! From left to right: Karin, Antonio (can't see him), Derek, Susie, Nicole, the owner of the restaurant who ended up hanging out with us and taking us to the next bar.

Half an hour before we have to leave for our balloon ride....whoops.

Whelp.....we made it...Barely. I wasn't sold on the balloon ride at first but I have to admit it was pretty spectacular.


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