Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cappadocia, Turkey

I think I have fallen off the slippery slope. I am 13 blogs and around 24 days behind. I have 11 blogs of pictures uploaded, but a lot of writing to do. I was falling farther and farther behind. I think I am starting to catch up, but 11 blogs? That is a lot. It might be time to write a lot less and not grammar or spell check these. I won't like doing it, but I don't know if I can catch up any other way. Anyway.


Rose valley formations.

Cappadocia, Turkey is fabulous. It is a geological wonder with some great cultural stuff thrown in. The geological part is all of these crazy rock formations in a few valleys. If you move one valley over, there might not be any crazy formations. The cultural part is that the same thing that let these rock formations be created allowed for people to carve caves out of the rock. The caves allowed the people to hide in them when marauders were passing by. Cappadocia is also rumored to be a film location for Star Wars, but it isn't. George Lucas wanted to use it, but the Turkish government was worried about difficulties from civil unrest (I assume from the Kurds) and turned him down.


Rose valley house?

My bus to Cappadocia (pronounced, Cap-a-do-kya, the kya is not kia..its more one syllable than two) didn't actually go to the main tourist town of Goreme. It went near by. My ticket agent had just written Cappadocia which isn't a set place so I had to beg my way into a transfer to the town I actually wanted to go to. The bus drivers were great and set me up. Unfortunately, putting my bike in and out of so many buses in Turkey caused my bike computer wire to break in half. I think they over rotated the handle bars when the wheel was off. Amazingly, I was able to wire them back up. This is an incredibly easy fix for some people, but I tend to stay very far away from wires.


I can't remember which valley this is, but I love this photo.


Red Valley.

Anyway, finding a hotel was not as easy as getting there. The place I wanted to stay as was very unhelpful. He said there were no openings, could not put me on a wait list, and did not know if there were openings for the following day. I don't understand how a hotel doesn't know if they have openings for the next. It was frustrating. After checking out 7-8 other places that all did not take credit card, I finally just chose one that I would have to pay cash at. I had wasted too much time. I almost left this hostel because one guy said I could use the internet for free and another guy later said I couldn't. When I said I was checking out if there was no free internet, he suddenly changed his tune. Grrr.... Luckily, their attention seeking, hike leading dalmatian made up for him.


Red Valley.

After checking in, I immediately settled in for a nap. Then, I went out for a hike in the Rose and Red Valleys. In among the crazy formations are a bunch of caves that you can explore. Some were being used for storage. One had a couple tents in it, so I wonder if it was being lived in or just camped in. There was no protection for the formations. You could just walk in and out as you pleased. There was even an old church with a fresco that you could visit. In one valley, the formations would be similar. When you switched to another valley, there would be a different type of formation. It was neat. One valley that I did not visit was called Love Valley. I believe it was named (from the pictures I saw) because of its phallic rocks.


A fresco in a Rose Valley church.

In Cappadocia, they had an Indian naan type bread that was delicious. I think I snacked on it once a day. That was because it was cheap and filling. On my first day, it was really important because the town had lost power and no one could accept my credit card. I was really worried since I was paying cash at the hostel and running about of money. Eventually, the power came back on and I had some fabulous Turkish hummus for dinner. So, so good.


A hot air balloon over Goreme.


Getting ready for the morning balloon launch.


Balloons away!!

My first night's sleep was wonderful. I was in the roof top dorm and there were only 3 people in the 24 mattress room. There were no bed frames. It was cold. I loved it. In the morning, I woke up, heard the call to prayer, and then was given the unexpected treat of seeing maybe fifty hot air balloons in the sky. It was amazing to see that amazing scenery with the balloons being illuminated by the rising sun. The rides cost $200 which was too much for me. I was happy just to walk to the highest hill and see the balloons. I think they were the main attraction then.


Overlooking the Goreme Valley.


I liked how the figurines almost look like a topside view of the rock formations.

After getting myself some breakfast, I joined a bus tour that would explore the 'Star Wars' sight, a couple valleys, the Ihlara Gorge, and an underground city. The Gorge was the big draw for me. It was pretty far away and I was enjoying the rest that my legs were getting. On the tour, was a French-Dutch couple living in Spain. They eventually asked me if I was on a bike tour and had been in Croatia a couple months ago. I said that I was and I had. They remembered me from a 5 second interaction where I excused myself to reach past them to get my bags and leave the Fresh Sheets hostel in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In the time since they first saw me, they had finished that week vacation and gone back to work for a month. This was a completely separate vacation. I cannot believe they recognized me. That is some cognitive ability.


Underground passageway.


Stuffed into an alcove as another group passes by.


Underground church and prison.

The tour took us to an underground city that every other tour seemed to be at. It wasn't the busy season, but it was still very crowded. We had to wait time and time again as other groups went through passageways that were only big enough for one person. The cities were huge, but only smart parts are open now. They held up to 1000 people, went down up to 10 levels, had full kitchens, churches, stables, and ways to hide smoke for when they were cooking or needed heat. Yet, as extensive as they were, they were only used to hide. They preferred to live above ground.


Ihlara Gorge.


The Melendiz River that somehow ran fast enough to form the gorge.


A house inside Ihlara Gorge.


Ihlara Gorge.

From there, we went to the Ihlara Gorge. Steep walls. Small river. Caves. It was a wonderful stroll. We walked half of it. Even though being rushed and herded around reminded me why I don't take tours usually, it was nice to be able to see so many spread out sights in a short time.


Selime Monastery.


Selime Monastery cathedral.


The possible Star Wars site.


Another view of the monastery.


A video tour of Selime Monastery, Cappadocia.


Selime Monastery.

Our last two stops took us to a monastery carved into the side of a hill and an onyx factory. The monastery wasn't used anymore, but was still impressive. The other caves we saw you really had to use your imagination, but this one seemed more complete. There were halls connecting the different rooms and levels, but none of it was far off from sunlight so you could always see where you were. This is also the spot that was almost used for Star Wars. I can understand why. It definitely looked like it was from out of this world.


The town of Uchisar.


Raw onyx looks like marble, but lets a little light pass through.


Different onyx colors.


Silent assassin sales team.

The onyx factory is notable for one reason. At the end of the tour on how they shape it into jewelry, they take you to the showroom so you can buy their stuff. While the woman was giving her final 10 minute talk, 15 sales people quietly slipped in the door behind us and spread out around the room. I felt like I was in an action movie and we were slowly being surrounded for an ambush. If you were focused on the woman, you never would have heard or seen them. Silent assassins waiting to sell you stuff. Once the tour was over, I spent time in the show room, but all the sales people accurately sized me up and left me alone. I was more than happy to drink their apple tea meant to keep us there a little longer though.


Cavusin rock fortress


Rocks in Zelve Valley.

That night, I had another great dinner at a place that accepted credit card. I can't actually remember what I had, but what a lot of other people had was super neat, if not a little wasteful. They use an oven and cook food inside pottery. To get to your dinner, you have to break open the pottery container. I am not quite sure how this works. Maybe they harden the clay a little before the food is put in so it doesn't mix and then put the whole thing in the oven to bake it. It was super neat, but it seemed a little weird to be throwing away a 9'x5' vase every time you had this particular meal.


Rocks in Pasabagi Valley.


More rocks in Pasabagi Valley.

My next day, it was a blog and biking day. I went to visit a bunch of the sites that were a medium distance away. I biked about 25km and my legs were pretty happy about it. It seemed like it might be time to get back on the bike. I visited the mushroom formations in Pasabagi Valley, the fairy chimneys in Imagination or Devrent valley, the rock fortress in Urgup, and finally the local formations near the Goreme open air museum. I think this was my favorite day. I was on my bike again. I had the freedom to stay as long as I liked. I wandered. In the one area, I was biking up where people were hiking. I had to walk the bike a little bit, but it was funny to see the looks I was getting from people because they didn't realize that you could possibly get a bike up there.


Sleeping in a cave really isn't as glamorous as it sounds.

On my last couple nights, I switched to a new hostel that would let me use my credit card and I'd be sleeping in a cave. I had not intended to stay in Cappadocia so long, but my next stop was Syria and my ATM card had not arrived. I did not want to enter Syria without any money. While I was pinching, I would reuse my leftover breakfast bread for lunch. On one of these days, I was a couple wraps in before I realized the bread had mold on it. A little bit of mold, a little bit of penicillin to take care of any diseases I might have. Yum! In the end, my card didn't come. My brother wired me money and I trusted that Syria would be fine. It was.


We call this one Camel.


Devrent Valley.

My bus out of Cappadocia towards the border was another overnight bus. When I was checking out my hostel owner and I had a difficult chat. He was saying I checked out late and wanted to charge extra. I had told the cleaning lady I was leaving because he wasn't around so she could change the sheets. I was also irritated because he had guaranteed the internet was free and available 24 hours. I said great because I wake up super early and want to use it. However, he sleeps in the room where the Internet is and locks the door. That really isn't 24 hours. This happened a lot in Turkey where the employees sleep in the lobby of the hotel. I assume it is part security and part availability. In the US, I am used to someone working the night shift and being awake. These guys were definitely not night shifters. They worked during the day and this was their bedroom.


Rock caves in the Goreme Valley.


Rock formations in . . . .

No one wanted to deal with the bike going on a bus when I was looking to leave. One guy said he was willing, but wanted to double the price (to line his own pocket). I eventually bought a ticket and got on the bus no problem. They, took me to the nearest city where I could use a credit card to get down to Antakya. My bus ended up breaking down before it got me. The ticket salesman made a point to track me down and put me on another company's bus. It was above and beyond customer service. It was great. The disparity between the touts and those helpful guys is huge. OK, on to Syria.


I think I broke a law by putting this dog up where it drink from the fountain instead of what was drying on the sidewalk.

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