We have landed on the Moon

Trip Start Nov 05, 2008
Trip End Nov 25, 2008

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Flag of Turkey  , Cappadocia,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Arrived in Goreme... well, actually, arrived in Kayseri-  an old,  converted military airport about an hour's flight from Istanbul.  At the arrivals hall, there was this massive crush of people from the previous plane who had still not received their luggage.  Rather than stand back and wait for the carousel fo start turning, everyone was crowded around 3 and 4 deep craning and pushing so that no one could see anything nor could anyone reach any luggage had their been any luggage to reach. Which there was not. The luggage was on the tarmac. i stepped out of doors, back on the runway basically, to see 2 young guys struggling to pull the large wheeled luggage carts from the plane manually. One of the carts had a flat tire and they had enlisted one of the Turkish airlines counter personnel to get behind the cart and push. They finally succeeded in getting it to the building and all the luggage came crashing down off of it onto the tarmac.  They then proceeded to throw the luggage, piece by piece on the exterior conveyor belt which then fed it to the waiting mob. This was the first of 5 carts to be unloaded from the plane before ours. I could still see all of our luggage sitting on other carts next to our plane.   I decided to relax.
After a one hour shuttle bus ride through the depressing outskirts of Kayseir, we finally started seeing some interesting landscape.   All of a sudden, at Arvanos, a pottery town, we started to see these fantastic shaped mountains and rocks.  We have arrived.   As Hugo said as we walked around later that night,  "This is exactly as I tbought it would be"  Half western town, half college town, it reminds you of other places.  You wouldnt be surprised if Disneyland had an environment that looked like the bizarre rock formations of Cappadocia.
  The locals are sitting on large tractors and wave to you.  The backpackers hanging out in the very small,  grubby bars/coffee/internet shops.  We walked around for about an hour but the temperature was dropping rapidly and we thought it was time for dinner....dark enough....cold enough...checked the clock: 4:58 p.m.  Ummmmm, oh what the hell, let's have dinner.  We went to Alaturca which specializes in Anatolian fare(whatever that is.) When we entered the front door, a young waiter sprang down the stairs and greeted us. He spoke no English and after we exhausted our 3 Turkish phrases, he coaxed us upstairs to the massive, empty , dark but well appointed  dining room.  I tried to ask if the kitchen was open but he was having none of it -- he retreated and an older (25 vs. 22) waiter who spoke smooth, Russian tinted English approached and asked us to sit.  By the time we left, very full, there were 2 other tables - this of course is the off-season and you feel it in everjy store, in every rug merchants eyes - the fact that there is little business and winter is coming on.  This is such a vast difference from the cosmopolitan feel if Istanbul.  Actually, our host here at the Guven Cave Hotel is from Nevishir (nearby ) but lives in Istanbul and is high-tailing it back there this morning he told us.  It is very early and I tried to get into the upstairs terrace room to write and maybe find some electricity for this computer but the door was locked.  It's too cold to be outside so I"m sitting on the bedroom floor trying not to wake Hugo with my typing.
Hugo here...
Last night we sucked it up and had the owner of the hotel book us reservations for a group tour of  Cappadocia. Unlike Istanbul where almost everything is within walking distance,  the major attractions in Cappadocia are all about one hours distance from each other.  We could have rented scooters and stubbornly forged ahead on our own but all the guide books suggested that a good tour guide would greatly enhance the experience.  So, for 40 YTL or about $32, we set off at 9:30 in a mini van full of mostly Japanese tourists for what would be a fantastic day of sightseeing. 
First stop, the amazing underground city of  Denjikuyu This city and many, many others around Cappadocia were started over 4000 years ago by the Pre-Hittites.  The were carved by hand and obsidian  into the soft volcanic  rock called tufa.  The largest city descends for over 16 floors and could house roughly 30,000 people, complete with  kitchens, schools, sleeping quarters,  churches and stables for the horses and camels. Unfortunately, floods and collapses in recent years have closed all but 8 of the levels to visitation.  Still, an amazing feat of human ingenuity and engineering.  Notably, a large Christian population took up residence in the cave cities to escape persecution by the Romans and later Arab invaders.   All the history aside, the cave cities are a wonder to behold both inside and out. 
Now... a little about group tours.   In general, Im not a fan.   But today was actually great fun.  Although the mood on the bus in the morning was a bit stiff, our excellent  and knowledgeable guide was nimble at loosening up everyone with charm and wit in several different languages.  By the time we got to our second destination, a 4 km hike along the Red River to visit 2000 year old churches and monasteries carved into the rock, little groups of "new friends" had formed.   (Denis here now)  This valley is called the Ilharra Valley and is surrounded on both sides by little carved out dwellings and churches. One of these churches had a series of crumbling frescoes showing biblical stories as well as the evil eye which in this part of Cappodocia is from an Antatolian tradition.  It came from the Egyptian and then was co-opted by the Christians an then co-opted again by the Muslims.  The valley also featured the "babbling brook" and copses and copses of poplar trees.   The poplars are a tradition whereby a sapling is planted every time a boy is born.  When the boy is old enough to get married, the tree is cut down and the income from the wood is then used to start their new life.  After this valley, we moved onto lunch in this charming floating river restaurant in a town called Belisirma.  Hugo has decided to post pictures of all the food we're eating - we'll do a food entry tomorow. 
After lunch, we went to the Silene Monastery which is carved out of rocks and was an active monaster/church until the time of the Selcuk turks when it became a caravansarei.  Travelers could stay here with their animals (you can stilll smell the barnyard fumes from camels and donkeys).  They stayed for up to 3 days for free and after that they paid a tax. The idea was to promote travel along the Silk Road to promote trade.  Can you say Subsidy? Can you say Socialism?  
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madlionden on

so generous
It's so generous of you two to share these images and your little travelogue. Thanks! In a couple of pictures, it looks like you guys are wearing suits. I think this is very civilized. :)

mcatgarrison on

i got nervous then jealous...
first i got nervous when i started getting your entries that you had missed the election--thankfully no!!! greatest night of my life so far :) and then that left me seething with jealousy. i want to see underground cities!! i love your adventures and thank you for sharing them with us! soak it all in and can't wait to hear about it in person.

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