We zeroed down to Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus/ Izmir before the trip. This was largely thanks to our travel agent, Dilber. She suggested that we skip Anatolia given it’s a sea side resort and given that we were more into history. We then wanted to choose between Izmir and Cappadocia as the inbound flight rates were messing up our budgets. That is when she suggested go ahead with Cappadocia as she knew people who had really liked it. She also suggested the staying in a Cave hotel. We then found out about, and fell in love with, The Museum Hotel.
There was one problem. The cost actually went up compared to our original three city plan. I sat and weighed bankruptcy on one hand and an apparently surreal holiday on the other. Kainaz stepped in and said that she would pay for the Cappadocia part of the trip as an anniversary gift to me.
Our hotel, Museum Hotel, was straight out of Discovery Travel and Living’s amazing hotels. Our room was fashioned out of a cave, we had our own Jacuzzi (!), a window which looked onto the most amazing rock formations and gourmet.
Our room was called the ‘dovecote’ or ‘Guvencilik’ after the pigeon coves which were found in the cave and had been preserved while fashioning the room. Each room had its own name and theme. The Museum hotel was very tastefully done and got its name from the various artifacts which the owner had collected and displayed.
All in all, the Museum Hotel, was indeed a special anniversary gift for me.
As was Cappadocia! The terrain which was sculpted by volcanoes centuries back and had amazing rock formations was breath taking. The mountain rocks were shaped into mushrooms, camels, parent and child formations, couples dancing, ‘fairy chimneys’ and whatever else your imagination fancied. It out of a lotus eater’s fantasy. As we walked through the multi coloured valley in the cool, crisp mountain air, I thought ‘could we really be here?’, ‘could we be here in this magical land? Can someone pinch me and tell me that it’s not a dream? This was so removed from anything we had seen in real life. A 70 mm experience if there was one.
It was not just the natural beauty which was breath taking. There were the marvels of early man. There were churches from the time of the apostles, built two thousand years back, fashioned out of caves, decorated with frescos made out of pigeon droppings and grape juice. There were the pigeon valleys where alcoves were fashioned by people centuries back to attract pigeons to gather the precious droppings. I always feel a shiver up my spine when I am by ancient ruins as I try to imagine life as it was then. And here the shivers were on an an overdrive. The achievements of people so many centuries were awe inspiring and humbling.
The cave churches and houses were fascinating. However, the underground city of the pre Christian, Hitites was something else. The Hitites, and later the early Christians, used to burrow in into this underworld cities when their enemies would attack. They would surface out three to five months later.
You had to bend double through short passages and then come to a floor where there were various remains of ancient flour mills, grape crushing vessels, grain storage ares and so on.
What can I say? I like the blue sky. I met other people who came out after one or two levels and we formed a mini support group of our own while waiting for the others to come out! It didn’t help that our hotel room was in a cave. I must admit that I was a bit uneasy at night
Kainaz and I are not fond of packaged tours. Visions of a fixed itinerary, guides with whistles, Indian food, pesky fellow travelers with whom you have to make polite conversation have kept us away from packaged tours. We do take ‘seat in coach’ sight seeing options while travelling and we had our best experience so far at Cappadocia.
We had the same earnest guide, Dida, for both days. Her calling in life seemed to be to save creatures in distress. She once stopped our bus to move a turtle that had strayed onto the road to safety. And of course she stopped her tour in the middle of the underground city to take my out when I had a panic attack.
We had this lovely mix of fellow travelers in our Cappadocia sight seeing tour. There four, ever smiling, elderly, Australians who were as energetic as mountain goats despite having reached after a grueling trip of Egypt. We had two honeymooning couples. One from Japan. Another was a Pakistani couple settled in the US. The Japanese lady was a hair dresser and I got a professional opinion from her on Kainaz’s Toni and Guy perm. The Pakistani couple wanted some Istanbul restaurant tips. I launched into a discourse on the street food there. Kainaz berated me saying that we would probably want something posh on their honeymoon. How was I to know? I was on my seventh wedding anniversary after all.
Then there were these two Mexican guys from the US. One of them would keep making the other take photographs of him in all sorts of poses. He would then inspect the photos and ask for retakes if they didn’t meet his approval.
A lone Japanese gentleman joined the group on the second day. For some reason Kainaz felt sorry for him and decided to take him under her wings. Whenever we got off at a place our mother hen would ask him if he wanted a photograph of himself on his camera. She would then take the camera from him and give it to me to click him. He would politely agree. Later in the day when this happened to the n’th time he sidled up to me and explained that he had left his battery charger in Japan and wondered whether his camera would last the rest of the trip. That’s when the coin dropped. I realized that in his polite, Japanese, way he was telling me, “ask this crazy lady to leave me and my camera alone!”
The two days that we spent with this group was good fun as we got to know each other and became friends. In between we even got entertained by Kainaz who was asked to demonstrate her pottery skills in a ceramic shop.
(PS The gentleman with the grey specs is the one who was trying to save his camera from Kainaz)
I guess everything fell into place with this group. As people we got along well. Everyone was friendly and cheerful without being too prying. We were together for two days and then went our own ways. Within the two days we headed to our own hotels in the evenings and get enough time by ourselves. And we were all doing what we wanted. Kainaz and I were on a lazy croc, two city holiday. There were some who were bent on taking on as many new sights and discoveries and possible. And of course the honeymooners who were getting to know each other while exploring new places.
We definitely had the most amazing experience at Cappadocia. It primed us up for our second shot at Istanbul. I must admit that we were quite happy to get back to a big city after three days in the wilderness.
At the risk of a horrible pun…Cappadocia rocks!
- Our local travel agent in Turkey did the Cappadocia part through a company called ‘Agra Tours’. They were quite good and efficient
- Even if you like travelling alone, you would need a sightseeing tour to see places at Cappadocia as it is a large province and not a town. There were some who were driving by themselves though. I guess you would need time for that
- We skipped the balloon rides which are a speciality there. We gave it a miss as it was 170 (!) euros per person for an hour AND you had to get up at four (!) in the morning. Those who went up though raved about it. You go up in a balloon and fly over the Cappadocian terrain for an hour. At the end you get a certificate and a champagne toast
- Cappadocia involves a lot of walking so carry comfortable shoes
- If you stay at the Museum Hotel, pay more for the deluxe rooms as the regular ones are not pure cave rooms.
- While the Museum Hotel is on an expensive side, you must stay in a cave hotel if you go to Cappadocia. The cave hotel theme is quite popular now and a net search will throw up some cheaper options too. Check whether the room has a window though as it could get a bit claustrophobic otherwise