Hosca Kal Turkiye!

Trip Start Feb 26, 2006
Trip End Nov 28, 2006

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Sunday, June 4, 2006

After an 11-hour overnight bus ride from the coast, we finally arrived in central Turkey in the Cappadocia region, known for its amazing landscape of unique rock formations. It was a relief to get to our hotel after the uncomfortable ride through the Taurus mountains - our ears kept popping as we went up and down the mountains, and we had a crazy bus driver who kept swerving on the road and stopping abruptly.

Highlights of Cappadocia:
a) Hiking near the village of Goreme amongst oddly shaped rocks, many with cave dwellings and churches carved out of the solid rock. Some of the churches had very well-preserved and intricate frescoes depicting Christian images, most of them over 1000 years old!

b) Crawling through the tunnels of the Kaymakli underground city (the tunnels were so low that even Amy couldn't stand up!). Used as hiding place during times of siege by invading enemies, this city is 50 metres deep and has 9 underground levels that once housed as many as 4000 people. The city was elaborately built with horse stables, hiding spots, traps, and even several wine making and storage rooms to help pass the depressing time underground.

c) A Turkish folkdancing show - The Turkish equivalent of the "Medieval Times" dinner & show in Toronto (without the horses, of course). We splurged on this all-you-can-eat and drink event, but we expected the show to be cheesy. To our surprise, the show was quite fun. The folkdancers did a bunch of amazing, crazy dance moves and looked like they were thoroughly enjoying every minute. There was also a belly dancer who picked out several men in the audience to try their hand at belly dancing. Amy and I couldn't help laughing our heads off because the belly dancer chose nearly all old men who couldn't swing their hips if their life depended on it! At the end of the night, Amy got picked from the crowd, along with several other people, to join in on a Turkish dance which had them holding hands in a circle and doing kicks. We had a blast that evening!

d) Our first Turkish bath experience! After a long day of hiking and crawling around underground, we were ready for some deep cleaning. Arriving at the bath house, we were instructed to wash up, sit in the sauna and relax before our scrubbing and massage. After steaming and what we thought was a thorough self cleaning, we went into a massage room where the real cleaning began. Attendants lathered us up and showed us what we missed - loads of dirt and skin being exfoliated as they scrubbed us head to toe! To finish, we were given an amazing deep massage from a big Turkish man that bordered on torture as he worked our muscles, and at times seemed to be trying to drive us THROUGH the marble slab we were lying on! At the end we really felt like it was the cleanest we'd ever been, and now we're hooked. We can't wait to try it again!

Not having had our fill of rock formations yet, we made our way from Cappadocia to eastern Turkey where the famous Mt. Nemrut is found. Here, there are some rock formations of a different sort - massive carved stone statues/heads (the heads fell off long ago) sitting on the sides of the mountain, facing the sun as it rises and sets. Amy and I actually woke up at 2:30am to catch a mini-bus to the mountain and then hiked up at twilight to see the sun rise! It sounds crazy, but it was well worth it. The sun hitting the statues was amazing, and the atmosphere was great because there were lots of Turks who were visiting the statues too. It actually became a bit of a zoo with us being the animals on display, because we started getting LOTS of people asking us to take pictures with them. Once again we felt like celebrities (or maybe freaks?) when kids and grown-ups would come and ask us where we are from and request a photo with us!

Turkey was fantastic. It's a truly beautiful country - the sights, people, and food are incredible. There are so many things to see and do that we wish we could stay at least a few more days, but we have to say "Hosca Kal" (good-bye) and move on to Syria!
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