Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cappadocia, Turkey, Part 1: Adventures on an ATV

Sam and I arrived bright and early in Cappadocia on Monday morning (there may or may not have been a 9-hour overnight bus involved in this endeavor), but we survived and checked into our lovely cave hotel.

What It's All About:
Cappadocia, Turkey is the place you always see those crazy photos of - the tall, thin, craggy rock formations, tons of rose-colored caves, hot-air balloons, etc.  It's like a totally other alien landscape. Rumor is that the landscape here inspired Star Wars, but George Lucas couldn't film here because Turkey was dangerous in the 1970s, so he had to move filming to Tunisia and recreate the scenes he saw here instead.  It is incredibly surreal-looking.

There are a handful of cities that make up Cappadocia, and we stayed in Goreme, the largest and more budget-friendly city of the lot.  AND YOU CAN STAY IN A CAVE HERE. There are so, so many cave hotels that offer accommodation (props to Sam for booking ours).

Our cave hotel!
Most of the insane-looking caves and landscape were formed from volcanic rock, which makes it "soft" and easily dig-into-able. So people way back when carved homes and churches (oh my god, so many churches) and their lives into these caves. It's also helpful because it is HOT here, like desert-weather = 50 degrees at night, 85 degrees and sunny during the day. And inside the caves stay nice and cool. AND YOU'RE IN A CAVE.  And there's different kinds of caves! Ugh, this is the best place.  There is so, so much to do.

Cave residences!

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Night bus from Pamukkale to Cappadocia, which was around 9-10 hours (this includes like, 10 breaks throughout the night though). I don't mind night buses (I know people do not share this sentiment with me). Give me a sleep mask and earplugs, and I will pass out (it's a talent). Sam, however, does not share this talent.  I woke up in the morning as we arrived, and she had like, 10 stories of things that happened while I was sleeping.
Before our overnight bus endeavor
  • Upon arrival in Goreme, we rented an ATV for the day to explore some of the neighboring sites and towns.  It was SO worth it - there's tons and tons of off-road paths you can follow and most places we went, we were totally alone to explore.  It was seriously like living in Indiana Jones. For 4 hours, we just drove through these desert paths wherever the hell we wanted (well, based on recs of our hotel man...but still exploring!!).
Crazy rock formations of Rose Valley (named for the color they turn at sunset). Do you see how tiny Sam is (on the left) compared to these??


A lot of rocks had little dwellings and caves dug into them. LOOK HOW GIANT THE ROCK IS
In the town of Cavuchin, a church carved into the rock mountain!
Some of the detail carved into the cave rocks
The old village of Cavuchin. People no longer live in these, but these are just chillin' by the side of the road and you can park your super-fly ATV and just go wandering in. SO COOL.
And then we veered off on the wrong trail and ended up at this man's fruit farm, in which he spent 20 minutes chatting with us and showing us his entire fruit farm and giving us fruit from the trees. THE. CUTEST. 
The tiny area of Pasabag, where these rocks are called "fairy chimneys" due to their interesting shape. As my guidebook most helpfully explained, "People are in two camps - they either looks like mushrooms, or phalluses"
On a rock in Pasabag
  • After our 4-hour dusty ATV excursion (seriously, it felt like we were in the Wild, Wild West......or , again, IJ: Raiders of the Lost Ark) - we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum. It's this awesome outdoor museum where you can visit an old cave monastery compound from the 10th century.  There's a ton of churches (again, SO MANY CHURCHES) inside the caves that you can visit with frescoes and paintings on the wall, and it was SO COOL. Cave monks from 900 A.D. They even had kitchens where they carved huge seating areas and communal tables into the rock.  Love it.

Goreme Open Air Museum
Churches, churches everywhere. It was hot as balls outside, but inside the caves were nice and cool. Exceeeept they wouldn't let you take photos inside to preserve the frescoes

Goreme by night

  • By the end of the day, we seriously had seen a million different variation of caves. People lived inside the caves in this area until the 1950s, when a couple of cave collapses happened and the government forced all the people to move out. According to a local, only a couple crazies/artists/writers still live in the caves today.

Convo of the Day:
Not even joking, I've had this exact conversation at least 5 times while I've been in Turkey. EXACT.

Local: "Where are you from??"
Me: "United States"
Local: "That's where you come from?"
Me: "Yes"
Local (suspicious): "But you were born there?"
Me: "Yes"
Local: "But your eyes are slanted/different/long/*uses hands to stretch eyes out to the side*"
Local: "Where were your parents from?"
Me: "Taiwan"

Obviously, I'm sure it's some kind of cultural thing and it's more amusing to me than anything else.  I cannot believe how many times I've had this exact conversation, word-for-word. Everyone wants to know where you're from, always - and not just me, as they ask Sam as well and basically any tourist they come across.  They just seem especially fascinated that I can look Asian and be American.

On a serious note, and on a more general level, the Turkish people are seriously the most hospitable, nicest, most helpful people you will come across.  They ask you questions because they are genuinely interested in your answers and they are fascinated by what you have to say - I can't even count how many lovely, amazing, adorable people we've met over the past week. Even in areas where I'm sure tons and tons of tourists trample through all the time, the people are the best and will go out of their way to help you (albeit while trying to sell you something sometimes, but they are more than happy to step back if you don't want to buy anything).  Sam and I have had a great time recalling all the amazingly helpful/sweet people who go above and beyond to talk to us, interact with us, ask us questions, and help us.  THE BEST.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • This is a Turkish tea (called chai in Turkish).  They always serve them in these adorably tiny glasses, it's always piping hot, and people drink them like it's their job here.  Everywhere you go, people are drinking these in cafes, or there are people dropping off a tray of them to the business owners, or what have you. 
Turkish tea, complete with sugar cube

Lastly, not that I'm advertising my blog on my own blog, but you're gonna wanna stay tuned for the next post when we go HOT AIR BALLOONING AT SUNRISE ABOVE ALL OF CAPPADOCIA AND MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER. 

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