Monday, October 1, 2012

Goreme, Turkey – Cappadocia

We met our roommate the first night upon arriving in the geologically beautiful and interesting city of Goreme, Turkey in the historical region of Cappadocia. His name was Billy and he was bat.

Two days earlier in Istanbul we had not yet decided if we wanted make the 12 hour overnight journey just to see one of the oldest vacation destinations, dating back to the Roman period. We were sitting at our hostel pondering this question when we met a UW student from Seattle who convinced us it was a good idea.
Two days later we hopped on the night bus: I was prepared not to sleep. Despite this unfortunate inability, at least I knew I would be comfortable…Turkish buses were amazing. I don’t know why the States don’t step up and do this, but the buses there had individual TV’s and a stewardess type person handing out coffee, tea, water, and treats.
We arrived in Goreme at about 8am and immediately made our way over to the tourist information in order to call Elistar Caves, our accomodation for three nights. Our hostel had free pickup so of course we were going to take advantage of this. Five minutes later, the nice man who helped run Elistar picked us up, and we literally walked two minutes to the hostel. I don’t think we needed the free pickup afterall, but still, it was nice.
We were welcomed by some of the nicest people and breakfast. Elistar, as most of the hotels, hostels, and homes in the area, was a cave. We were in a 12 bed cave dorm room, but it was just Bryan and me for most of the time.
The day was spent sleeping in order to recover from the previous night bus, and then we went on a little hike through Rose Valley. Rose Valley is often described as “fairy Chimney” rock formations, and I think this explains them nicely. There are literally thousands of them scattered everwhere and is the most interesting and wonderful site to see. We walked around and took about a million pictures during sunset and then made our way back to the cave.
This time we were welcomed by our new friend, Billy. At first, it really freaked me out. Bryan went and asked “is there anyway to get a bat out of a cave?” The guy (we’ll call him Lan because we completely forgot his name) simply just laughed. That was it. No words just a laugh. However, I grew to love Billy and soon realized he was more scared of us then we of him. He was actually quite cute. I miss him.
Before going to bed I noticed my right hand was swelling a bit due to some sort of spider bite I received while taking the earlier nap, but I figured it was fine and went to bed. The next morning I woke up and not only was my entire right top hand swollen, but I had the same looking bite on my upper left cheek and it also started to swell. Perfect. Bryan and I looked which poisonous Turkish spider it could possibly be and since I didn’t feel I had organ damage, swollen eyes, or nausea and wasn’t in a coma, we narrowed it down to the six-eyed spider. This spider lives under stone and in the walls and can cause swelling for several days. I also could have just had an allergic reaction to some other weird creature, but I will always prefer to say it was a six-eyed spider. It sounds so much cooler.
So, the six eyed spider did not treat me well throughout the day which was unfortunate because we were going on a day tour throughout Cappadocia, also known as the Green Tour with about 10 other people. I felt fine other than looking like crap. My face slowly got worse and by the end I barely recognized myself.
The tour started at 9am and it began with the underground city. There are over 150 underground cities in Cappadocia. There are multiple theories as to why the underground cities were built but they were used as safe havens during the Persian Achaemenid Empire. While invading armies ran rampant above, the people remained living safely below. The cities were built in soft volcanic rock and had everything from winerys to schools. It was pretty amazing and made me clausterphobic.
Of course, Bryan had to ask about the…facilities. Apparently, all human waste was stored in clay pots until it was safe to bring it back aboveground.
We then drove about an hour before arriving to Ihlara Valley which is also known as the small Grand Canyon. We walked down hundreds of steps before arriving at the bottom of the canyon and then walked through small villages, saw a 1500 year old church in a cave, and finally made it to the restaurant by the river to eat lunch. Bryan had fresh water trout, and I had clay pot cooked chicken casserole. It was delicious.
We then made our way over to what is known as Selime Monastery. The cathedral dates back to 13th century and was basically a sophisicated cave that the monks used to carve their home. Our tour guide pointed out the kitchen, church, meeting rooms, and more. It went pretty high up and there were no barriers of course, so it was quite dangerous at times. I really had to watch my steps mostly because I didn’t want to fall down the random holes in the ground which dropped you one story down.
We walked around the Monastery for a good half hour before making our way to the panoramic view of Goreme and pigeon valley. Stunning.
Later, we went to an onyx workshop where we saw a man carve marble. It was the low point of the tour, but Bryan won a marble egg because he answered the question “What does Cappadocia mean?” In case you all were wondering, it means “The Land of Beautiful Horses”.
Our tour guide was kind enough to stop by a pharmacy to see if I was dying or not. The swelling consistenly got worse and by the end of the day someone actually asked me if the bite was deadly. “I hope not,” I answered. Well, the pharmacists didn’t speak English and didn’t really know what was going on there, so he gave me some sort of topical goop and sent me on my way.
The next day the swelling was still there, so we decided to go to the doctor. Going to the doctor had never been easier. We literally walked in and saw the doctor within five minutes. He spoke a little English and used Google Translate when necessary. He diagnosed it as an insect bite which was to be expected and prescribed medication and another topical goop. We payed a total of $30 total, including the medication. There was no paperwork and no insurance companies involved. Wow.
Later we took some sunset pictures on the top of one of the “fairy chimneys.” After the sun had set I took some night pictures of Goreme. It was a surreal moment as I will never forget the moment when I told Bryan “it feels like we’re walking through never never land in Peter Pan.” See pictures.
As we were leaving Elistar Caves, the nice lady at the hostel who seemed to really like us, gave Bryan another marble egg. She also gave me another book on top of the other one I had exchanged. We then went to say goodbye to Billy, but he had already checked out.
Next stop, back to Istanbul to catch a plane to Bangkok.

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