Monday, April 16, 2007
IF I DIDN'T ALREADY CONVINCE YOU OF THE WONDERS OF CAPPADOCIA, HERE ARE TWO MORE WITNESSES
A couple of months ago my old friend Kristin and her husband Nick were thinking about going to Turkey and Kristin checked out what I has to say about Cappadocia after I got back last year. After a quickly arranged lunch she went home and booked her flights and reserved a suite at the Esbelli. This morning I got an e-mail from her and Nick-- from the cave.
Turkey is amazing. This will have to rank as the best trip we have ever taken....Rein Daddy and Howie you were dead on and we are grateful for your education and advice...We had no idea how beautiful this country was, as well as how fantastic the people are.
We are in Cappadocia right now in the interior of the country. It is snowing outside, but we are toasty warm in a cave where we are sending this email (high speed DSL I might add) resting from a long hike into some deserted caves, valleys, villages, etc...
We have not encountered a single tourist here, let alone an American. We are truly living among the Turkish people, and they seem so fascinated with the site of an American. On countless occasions, we will be walking into a tiny shop (like 40 sq') to buy a water or something when the owner rushes to grab some old chairs from the back for us to sit in while he serves us apple tea and then just sort of stands there smiling and looking at us. It may sound strange, but their warmth and hospitality transcends all language barriers. Today, we were in a shop and this older woman (covered as most of them are here) comes up to Kristin like she just found her long lost daughter with a smile beaming ear to ear and just starts touching her face smiling and laughing and saying "Guzel...guzel" which we have learned means beautiful. The fact that this is a 98% Muslim country should not dissuade anybody from coming here. We have felt safe everywhere we've been, except for a crazy taxi ride in Istanbul a week ago.
So far, we have spent around 4 days in Istanbul, 3 days in Selcuk (Ephesus), and now we are in a small town called Urgup in Cappadocia. We have traveled region to region by airplane due to the size of this country and cheap tickets. Istanbul was a great introduction to Turkey, and the different customs and such. It's pretty crazy as you are walking down the street when you hear the Muslim Call to Prayer echoing from loud speakers throughout the city. This goes on about 5 times a day. It's pretty cool, except at 5 am when you are trying to sleep. So, we went to the massive and impressive Blue Mosque, the Aya Sophia, Topkapi Palace, as well as shopped at the Grand Bazaar. Of course, we did a lot of eating too. The food here is pretty damn good. Sort of a East meets West...The spices remind me of sort of a mix between Moroccan, Greek, and Indian, and Kapabs are the big thing here. I must have had a couple dozen by now. Turkish pancakes (like quesadillas) and Pide (like pizza) are also favorites of ours.
In Selcuk, we felt like personal guests of the hotel owner -- Erdal. We just couldn't believe he had other hotel guests, because he was our personal guide throughout the region. He drove us to all of the major sights, restaurants, and even to run our errands. Anything we wanted, Erdal was there to provide.
Ephesus was, bar none, the best ruins that we've ever experienced. You are in an ancient city with tons of history-- Alexander the Great was here, Jesus's disciples Paul and John were here, the Virgin Mary was here, multiple Emperors were here. It's so easy to imagine what life was like 2000 years ago and what a bright and vibrant time the 200,000 citizens must have experienced. The frescoes, mosaic floors, fountains with multiple statues, and terrace houses were amazing and well preserved. The houses even had hot and cold water running in them!
If you come to Turkey, you are nearly required to purchase a carpet, and we've met our quota. We are thrilled with the 9x6 and 4x6 carpets that are on their way to California as we speak. Any carpet salesman is delighted to give you an education of Turkish carpet making (only women make the carpets), but we decided to buy from Erdal and his partner, Nazmi and we think we got a pretty good deal.
We're on our first day in Cappadocia and we are in one of the greatest hotels that ever existed. We feel like we've landed in a parallel universe that is featuring "Cave Hotels of the Rich and Famous." It's called Esbelli Evi (look it up online) and much like our experience in Selcuk, our host Ramazan has taken us under his wing and is directing our tour of the region. For the next three days we are hiring a driver to take us to see sights throughout the region. This costs nearly the same as renting a car and doing it by ourselves. We just can't wait!
Cappadocia's terrain is frequently compared to being on the moon with incredible rock formations, mountains, and valleys that are one of a kind. We were prepared for it to be a bit cooler in this region, but didn't expect snow. Don't worry too much about us too much though,
today we bought 2 pairs of wool socks, 2 pairs of wool gloves, and 2 hats for about $15.00 and lunch consisting of 2 pizzas and 2 drinks set us back a cool $4.80 with tip.
Well, just as we were sending this a couple from Toronto just checked in to the "cave" and agreed to explore and hike Cappadocia with us and our driver making this even more affordable. I think $15 a head for an entire day with a private car and driver. As they say in Turkey, Hoshchacal for now. We know about 7 words including two numbers (Bir, Ichi) but we're always learning more.