18 August 2020 – Cappadocia Turkey
We were extremely fortunate this past weekend and took a 3-day excursion with our friends Jean-Yves and his wife Tuba to Cappadocia. The region of Cappadocia lies in central Anatolia, in the heartland of what is now Turkey. Jean-Yves drove nearly 5 hours to get us to this high plateau over 1000m in altitude that is pierced by volcanic peaks, with Mount Erciyes (ancient Argaeus) near Kayseri (ancient Caesarea) being the tallest at 3916m.
To get there, we had to drive up and over mountains and then across the “breadbasket” of Turkey. The roads were excellent, as we have come to expect in Turkey.
This picture could have been taken in Saskatchewan Canada.
There were a few real police officers, but more often than not – they were “cardboard police”, like this one – pretty convincing at a distance.
This was probably our first view of what we came to see with respect to homes carved into the hills.
During these COVID-19 times, there are very few tourists. There are still many government restrictions in place, one of which prohibits the flying of small groups of tourists in large hot air balloons – probably because they can’t maintain the social distancing requirements. Typically, photos of this area show many colourful balloons in the sky – particularly in the morning. One could say that we were fortunate, and the crystal clear blue sky was unpolluted by the usual dozens and dozens of balloons. We were also fortunate to visit in the summertime as Cappadocia has a markedly continental climate, with hot dry summers (nearly the same temperature as Alanya, but very dry) and cold snowy winters. Rainfall is sparse and the region is largely semi-arid.
This is my “play on words” with a Turkish “inuksuk”. It is more commonly known as a manmade stone landmark or cairn built for use by the Inuit, Iñupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found in northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska – but it looks like nature makes them here in Turkey as well.
The name Cappadocia, is traditionally used in Christian sources throughout history, and continues in use to define a region of exceptional natural wonders, in particular characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. These are the fairy chimneys.
Cappadocia is diverse, with Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks inhabiting the region. The earliest record of the name of Cappadocia dates from the late 6th century BC. Every meal was an event.
We stayed at the Grand Elite Cave Suites in the city of Göreme, first settled in Roman times.
The Yusuf Koç, Ortahane, Durmus Kadir and Bezirhane churches are found in Göreme, and houses and churches are carved into rocks in nearby area.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is the most visited site and contains more than 30 carved-from-rock churches and chapels, some having superb frescoes inside, dating from the 9th century to the 11th century. All photos and videos inside were prohibited, by the way.
Obviously, this cave was used by the community for grinding grain.
We rented ATVs and quickly explored 4 nearby valleys.
One very interesting side trip is to the underground private ceramic museum, Güray Müze. This place was massive, with excellent displays of thousands of ceramic items, presumably found in the hundreds of former dwelling places inside the nearby caves.
It was cool enough inside that Diane and I took a comfy seat next to the fireplace.
On the first night, we had a wonderful dinner right in the town centre, with a commanding view of the caves and wonders of Göreme.
On the way back, we followed the same route, but this time stopped at a truck stop for lunch and were treated to a region speciality – pizza made on flatbread.
They say that first impressions are lasting, and I have to admit that I’m somewhat disappointed in the views of Turkey that seem to be held by some of my friends. These views have been promoted by the main-stream media that launches on every news-worthy story, particularly stories about fear and desolation. Yes, Turkey is a police state. There have been many coups here. But, Turkey has first-world infrastructure and hospitals – and the people are honest, hard working and pleasant. If I didn’t tell you, you could hardly tell that the majority of the population were Muslim. When the mosque starts up with a loud-speaker “call to prayer”, it lasts for about a minute, compared with the norm of 20-30 minutes in Indonesia or Malaysia. I would argue that you would see A LOT more hijabs worn by the women in downtown Ottawa or Toronto than you do around here. Come to Turkey – you won’t be disappointed. Hopefully, you’ll see the balloons in Cappadocia.