Waking up to silence and sunlight is one of the greatest feelings. I believe I may have been the only person in my hotel, as I didn't run into a single guest the entire visit, even at breakfast. While it is a basic accommodation, Kilim Otelli is a quiet 15 room bed and breakfast with plenty of hot water, clean rooms and a wonderful staff of friendly people. There's a minibar with snacks and juices, a TV full of Turkish channels— I hear TV watching is a great way to learn languages— and a simple and tasty complimentary breakfast of cheeses, bread, jams and boiled eggs. Perfect for a girl like me.
Around 9:30, a minibus picked me up for my second tour. The group was a bigger one this time, 12 people in all, lead by the lovely and knowledgeable Miss Şukran. Our first stop was the Red Valley for a four kilometer hike through the most remarkable landscape I have ever seen.
At the start of the hike, a man offered us dried fruits and nuts out of the back of his truck. I have a weakness for mulberries, and downed a fistful of them before he offered me something I have never seen or tasted before. I later learned that iğde, the reddish brown olive-like fruits in my hand below, are called oleaster, and are native to temperate and subtropical Asia.İğde has a papery skin that once removed, reveals a sweet, dry and spongy fruit around a smooth long pit. At first the texture was a bit odd, but after three or so, I was hooked.
I could have spent all day in that valley, the weather was warm and sunny, and I was having such a great time with my tourmates. I really can't describe just how wonderful it was, being right there amongst the rocks, birdwatching, climbing into caves and drinking natural spring water. Speaking of birds— the valley was full of rock doves, more commonly known as pigeons. Pigeons were an important part of Early Christian life in Kapadokya, they not only carried messages to others hiding in the hills, but were also eaten, and their droppings were a valuable fertiliser. Rock faces have thousands of small semicircular alcoves cut into them to house this special bird— you can see some in the image below. Being a fan of the pigeon, seeing these little houses and hearing the gentle cooing of the nesting birds was fantastic.
After the hike we had lunch at a touristy restaurant which had decent food— one of the things that I think needs improvement on these tour packages is the dining. Turkish cuisine is unbelievably good; some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten in the world was in Turkey, and yet the tour agencies have deals with certain restaurants that aren't necessarily representative of the deliciousness of the local cuisine. The food was good, but not what I had expected— lunch on Day Three however, was an entirely different story. That was divine.
We visited Kaymaklı, one of the many underground cities in Kapadokya, which are impressive but not recommended for those who get claustrophobic. All my photos were too dark, since I wasn't allowed to use a flash. Imagine tiny tunnels carved through rock that open into a network of caves. Some caves are bigger than others, some caves are painted chapels and some are blackened kitchens. At one point in time, around 5,000 people lived in Kaymaklı— hard to imagine when you are crawling through the maze of rough tunnels.
My tourmates, who had now become my new friends, and I got to wander around and climb in the ruins of a small Greek village that I believe was called Çavuşin— I can't seem to find it in my notes. The area was once populated by Greeks until the 1923 population exchange between Turkey and Greece, which involved around two million people. You can still feel the the sense of "home" in these crumbling structures— nooks are carved into stone for shelves, you can see decorative elements added for aesthetics, platforms for beds and blackened walls where stoves once stood.
Toward the end of the day, we visited a small onyx factory and learned about the local onyx trade. Here, a skilled craftsman is shaping an egg out of a very unassuming chunk of rock. In minutes, a beige opaque block was turned into a shiny, smooth stone of yellow, orange and cream swirls. I got to take the egg home when I correctly answered the gemstone expert's pop question: "Where does the name Kapadokya come from?"
I'll tell you at the end of the tour.
One of the most breathtaking views of the day was of Ortahisar Castle from a lookout point. It was straight out of the storybooks. Modern upon ancient, cement upon volcanic rock, it's truly magical. I stopped in one of the many, many roadside shops to see if there were any more knitted socks that I fancied, and ended up chatting with this lovely lady who showed me how to wrap a headscarf in the regional style. I promised I'd send her a copy of the picture. I'm thinking I'll send along a little drawing too.
Later on that night, two Italians, a Japanese, an Australian and a former San Franciscan ventured into a Turkish bath. Yes, it sounds like the beginning of a joke, and indeed it was an experience that left us with quite a story and many laughs. I think I might save that one for the next entry, as it's quite involved, and Day three will be a shorter post. Until then, I pose this question: do you know where Kapadokya got its name?
Coming next: Day Three.