Wandering Through the Snowy Hills of Cappadocia

Trip Start Aug 02, 2011
Trip End Apr 17, 2012

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Flag of Turkey  , Cappadocia,
Friday, January 20, 2012

Jan 15-20

I departed Istanbul by bus a bit later than I had hoped to. It wasn't a big deal, but this meant that I had to spend the night in Ankara rather than making it all the way to Göreme, my final destination. Ankara was a nice place to rest after being on a bus for eight hours. There was light snow, which was fun to walk through. I also found a nice restaurant that served very authentic Turkish food for a couple dollars.

After only one night in Ankara, I left the next morning for Göreme (goo-rem-ay) a town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. It was snowing there as well, which made the landscape of rock formations even more spectacular, especially when snow was on the ground and sun was in the sky.

I ended up finding a hotel that was built into a cave. This isn’t unusual for Cappadocia. For hundreds of years, people have built into the sides of the rock formations, caves, and hills. The caves keep cool during hot summers, and are insulated pretty well for winter weather. Fortunately for me, it’s also not unusual for cave hotel rooms to be equipped with wireless Internet and heating.

To get to my room, I had to enter the cave through a staircase and then bend over, walk a few steps, and squeeze through a small doorway. Once inside of my cave room, I didn’t have to worry about hitting my head, because I was about two inches below the ceiling. The room was small, which meant that it kept its heat well. It had two windows: one looked over the snowy town, and the other one displayed the nearby mosque, which was lit up with green light at night.

For dinner, I went out to look for a local restaurant that wasn’t too touristy. I walked into a restaurant on the edge of town and was greeted by two friendly people that worked there. When the fog on my glasses cleared, I saw that there was another guy in the restaurant, a patron, who was looking at me.

This friendly fellow asked me where I was from. It turns out his name is Lorenzo, and he is an Aussie from the Philippines. Lorenzo and I had dinner together and talked about our travels. He’s been at it for over a year now, traveling Europe, and will be returning home in February. We both ate a beef casserole that was served in a dish made of clay. We were served rice pudding for dessert, on the house. When I tried to tip the owner, he gave me the tip back and said, "No, my friend, maybe tomorrow." Lorenzo and I realized that we were staying at the same hotel, so together we walked through the snow and ice back to the hotel.

The next morning I was woken up by the call to prayer from a mosque that is just down the street. (If you haven't heard it before, watch the video at the bottom!) It wasn’t hard to go back to sleep as soon as it was over, because it was barely even dawn outside, and the call is only a few minutes long. I had a slow breakfast at the hostel while talking with Lorenzo and William, another interesting guy. Will is in his 40s and works as an architect in New York City. He had not had a vacation in 10 years, so a few months ago he decided to seize a cheap flight from New York to Istanbul for only $500 round trip. All of us also started talking to Laura, the nice girl who served us our breakfast.

Laura is from Philadelphia, and she’s probably around 30-years old. After getting a law degree from Georgetown with a specialty in international law, Laura lived in five different countries working legal jobs, learning languages, and traveling all over the world. At some point in the recent past, she stopped by Göreme and met Yasin, the owner of the hostel we were all at. Laura returned to Göreme some months later and ended up staying for a few weeks, at which point Yasin proposed to Laura. They got married. Now Laura helps out at the hostel, and is planning her and Yasin’s honeymoon to India and Southeast Asia.

After our conversation, I left to go on a walk through Red Valley up to Çavuşin, a town that’s about 2.5 miles north of Göreme. The landscape of fairy chimneys was stunning, and I was able to enjoy it despite the weather being about 8-10 degrees Fahrenheit. In Çavuşin I had a çay (Turkish tea; it’s much more popular to drink a tea in Turkey than a coffee, by the way) at a family-owned café. As I was drinking my tea and thawing, a new customer entered the room. During the brief moment that the door was open, I watched a cat sprint through the doorway and take the empty seat next to me by the stove. It stretched out, closed its eyes, and then let out a few deep purrs before falling asleep.

The following morning I enjoyed talking with Laura and Lorenzo over breakfast before taking off on another hike: Love Valley. This hike took me quite a while. I was out for about five hours, hiking north halfway to Çavuşin and then south to Uçhisar. I think in total it was a 20-mile day. I grabbed a Turkish pizza on my way back to the hotel and passed out early.

On my last day I had another leisurely breakfast at the hostel that consisted of an omelet, tomato slices, cucumber slices, olives (a Turkish breakfast staple), bread, and jam. I had another stimulating conversation with Laura that lasted a couple of hours. Instead of using my sore muscles for another hike, I went to go to a local café. There were some Americans from New York at this café. I overheard them introducing themselves and then, within a few minutes, discovering that they both graduated from NYU.

The next morning I left for Urfa, a larger and supposedly less snowy town that’s in the Kurdish region of Turkey.
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