Monday, 6 February 2012

Cappadocia - 'When I grow up I want to be a tourist'

The coach took us overnight through eastern Turkey to Kayseri where we had to get a connection to Goreme. We arrived in the small hours of the morning and the bus station was deserted and freezing. I got into my sleeping bag and found a comfy bench to sleep on until we could catch an onward bus. Just after I dropped off I felt a tug at my feet, 'want tour?' the man said. I didn't even have to say anything to send him scurrying away, my glare was enough.

We found that Goreme was a backpackers mecca, dozens of hostels, souvenir shops and cafes were jumbled around the little streets, backing into the rock pinnacles. Not since Kathmandu had we been somewhere which catered for backpackers so well - we wouldn't have a problem find a banana pancake here. With a bewildering amount of choice we set out to find a hostel. It was bitterly cold so my only requirement was that it was cosy and warm. We found a great place, maybe not the prettiest, but with a lovely sitting room warmed by a wood burning stove in its centre. With the temperatures outside dropping to below -10°the hostel was far from full but there were enough people about for it not to feel entirely deserted.

We spent the next couple of days walking and exploring the surrounding area, as well as eating a lot. During the day the skies were crystal clear and it was warm enough in the sun to sit outside and take a break. Dwellings have been carved out of the soft rock for centuries, the remnants of which are still well preserved amongst the honey coloured spires. Away from Goreme we met few people. A dog followed us, we called him Dennis. We got quite lost at one point and, as it was late in the day, we decided to retrace our steps. Walking up to the road we hitched back to Goreme. Scrambling about the caves had been fun but the stones could be like walking on ball-bearings, so I was not surprised when Nick, a fellow backpacker staying at our hostel, said that he had fallen and hurt his elbow. I offered him Iburprofen which he appreciated.

In the morning Nick's elbow was no better. After a visit to the doctor a dislocation was diagnosed. He had a second appointment to have it put back. Beforehand he nervously waited by the wood burner. 'It'll be fine', I said, 'they'll do it very quickly'. Once he had left James said, 'it won't be fine, it'll hurt like hell.' Of course I knew that but I couldn't tell him.

We decided to spend a day visiting one of the many underground cities which the region is also known for. Derinkuyu is the largest in the area and could accommodate over 35,000 people throughout it's 11 floors if needed. The steps seemed to lead down into the centre of the world as we descended over 85 m to the lowest floor - do not do this if you suffer from claustrophobia. The city's design included a ventilation system as well as a church, market and meeting hall made of caverns crudely cut out of the rock. I thought the most interesting feature was the defence system. There were huge round stones, like upended millstones, which were positioned ready to block off entrances, Indiana Jones style. The city was a refuge for the inhabitants in times of conflict.

Back at the hostel Nick had his elbow in a bandage. After the doctor had manipulated it back into position he had applied honey to the sore joint. Having it put back had hurt like hell, Nick confirmed. We chatted to the owner of the hostel, a South African with a young daughter. She told us that when her daughter is asked what she wants to be when she grows up she always replies, 'when I grow up I want to be a tourist.'

That evening we sampled the clay pot kebabs, a local dish advertised in most of the restaurants. As a meal it is similar to a casserole, but cooked in a clay pot which acts as a pressure cooker. The top of the pot is then cracked open, luckily expertly done by our waiter, and with a gush of steam the contents hiss and bubble out. It was the perfect warming meal to have on a freezing night. 

The following morning, on the second attempt, James managed to coax me out of bed. We had got up at dawn to watch the hot air balloons - a popular tourist trip here. The sky was filled with 30 colourful balloons which drifted silently across the Cappadocia skyline - well worth the early start.

Sightseeing around the Goreme cave dwellings, Cappadocia 

Morning balloon rides

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