Cappadocia and Turkey Wrap

The guy who sold us this excursion described it as the “Hauptspeise,” versus the “Vorspeisen” we’d also been thinking about. “This is the one to go on,” he said, “if you’re interested in Turkey’s history and culture.” He was right. This was the mother lode, but not without its costs: money as well as time. It costs more than double the rest of the excursions we went on and since it’s an overnight package (with lodging and two meals a day included), you’re very likely wasting lodging and food you paid for at your resort…like we are. And we’re talking about 1200 km at a maximum of 90 km/h, which means a brutal schedule to keep and long, long hours cramped in a bus (guess where I’m writing this from).

But it’s still worth it, in my opinion.

We got started with a 6:30 a.m. pickup on Sunday morning and headed North through the Taurus Mountains. We stopped for breakfast at a rest stop on the far side of the range outside Konya, and it was like walking into a giant mouth whose teeth had never been brushed. Ever. It was clean and apparently well-maintained. But intolerably smelly (at least, to us — no one else seemed to mind or notice).

We continued into downtown Konya to visit the site of an original Islamic Dervish sect, our guide giving us details about the sultan (at the time), his advisor and that guy’s son, who started the movement. He also gave us insight about modern Turkey’s secularism — which is not as straightforward as it might at first seem. Turkey outlawed various religious sects around the time of the Atatürk revolution. What I can’t figure out is that if the government should be separate from religious organizations, why would they interfere with religious sects like the Dervish? Especially ones (such as the Dervish) whose own tenets are ones of patience and tolerance?

But whatever. Inside the “museum” — since it can’t be a mosque, officially, anymore, we saw ancient Korans (some dating back to the 7th Century), carpets, and other artifacts and works of art. Very beautiful stuff — especially the miniature Koran, said to have been handwritten with an eyelash.

We got back on the bus and headed along the Silk Road through wide, flat country, until we needed a break for lunch. It was cheap and tasty in a clean and non-smelly rest stop (with free WLAN, no less!). We began to approach the inactive volcanoes of Cappadocia. We got some panorama shots of the area, viewing the results of millions of years of eruptions of ash and lava and the resulting erosion. Finally, we retired for the night in a quaint hotel made of the same stone as these structures: tuff (Tuffstein), the volcanic ash formed into lightweight and breathable stone over time.

Dinner and breakfast at the hotel was very tasty — much better food than what we’d been getting at the resort. We got a jump on some of the rest of the tourists in the area, visiting an underground city (used for refuge in case of attack and also long-term storage of perishables, given the constant temperatures), and some ancient Orthodox churches set into these same kinds of Tuffstein structures. There are hundreds of these little churches set into the hills, some with very beautifully restored murals. No flash photography was allowed in them and also no tripods were allowed; else I might have some great shots of them here to share.

Then we got back in the bus for the same long trip back in reverse, this time with a stop at a jewelry store and pottery store and a Karavansaray — trading stop on the silk road connecting the Orient with Europe, rather like a small garrison to protect the traders from pirates and give them a sheltered place to rest — dating back to the 12th century. Once more back on the bus for the long ride back across the flat expanse of land between the volcanic hills of Cappadocia and the Taurus Mountains on our way “home” to Antalya.

We finally reached our hotel after about eleven hours of being on-the-go that day. There was a terrific wind/rain storm over night and it didn’t seem likely our afternoon flight would take off the next afternoon…but it all blew over. Here are some parting questions directed at Turkey experts:

  • Is the constant evening woodsmoke smell from wood-fired stoves from all the streetside vendors, or is that a means of heating their homes? Ugh.
  • What days constitute the weekend? Having been there for over a week, and traveling a lot of the same highway stretches on our excursions, we thought we’d be able to detect the traffic ebbs and flows. But not so much.
  • Really? No bacon or any pork at all? Not even in a 99% German resort?
  • What kind of dirty pictures must Nestle have on every single restauranteur in Turkey? I can only assume there is some kind of massive blackmail involved, because who in their right mind would choose to drink Nescafé? Can there really be no middle ground between Turkish Coffee (probably not bad, once you get a taste for the metallic aftertaste that accompanies it) and this sludge?

We got home without incident; our flights and train connections were very pleasantly boring. It’s good to be back here, despite the typical Regensburg wintry mix.

The last slide show for this trip:

17 thoughts on “Cappadocia and Turkey Wrap”

  1. Mom

    I love the rocks! Maybe it’s from a previous life. I could see setting up housekeeping in those little cubes. Read Rick Steve’s Travel as a Political Act for some thoughtful commentary on the Dervishes. His personal response to understanding the philosophy of the Dervish movement was very touching.

    Happy New Year! Welcome home!

    1. cliff1976

      All the structures we entered above ground were churches; not sure what an above-ground carved-out home would be like. Sure looks neat from afar, though.

      The underground city portion that we entered on the other hand was rather cramped. I got to feeling a little claustrophobic particularly in the entrace tunnels. The passageway sure got snug!

  2. ian in hamburg

    Isn’t Capadoccia fascinating? Glad you were able to get a look at it. Where did you stay? We were in Nevsehir, just up the road from Göreme. They say winter is the best time to see the place because the hordes are away, and the caves look the same all year round.

    1. cliff1976

      Sure was!

      We stayed at the Burcu Kaya Hotel in Ortahisar, also not far from Nevşehir and Göreme. The crowds were very reasonable, so they must be right. But I wish we’d had better light while we were there. Late afternoons and early mornings in overcast December conditions didn’t make for optimum snapshots. But oh well.

    2. cliff1976

      And I forgot to mention that our hotel was extremely cute. It’s constructed in Seljuk style from tuff blocks and was quite charming. I wish our hotel in Antalya could have been this nice. The food (dinner and breakfast) was also great — so much better than our resort, because it had flavor. The resort’s food was of high technical quality (that was easy to see), but it never tasted like much.

  3. ian in hamburg

    That cave shot you have – the first one showing a big square hole at left, a smaller one at right – is that at the Derinkulu underground city? (pardon my spelling, going from memory only…) Anyway I bet it is because I have a very similar shot in my slide collection from my trip there 30 years ago. I remember anyway that it was at the end of a long series of channels that you had to almost crawl though. My girlfriend and I, um… lingered there for a while. :-))

    1. cliff1976

      Unfortunately, and this is one of the beefs (beeves?) I have with the tour guide — we got to visit and hear (from the tour guide) a fair amount of stuff, but we didn’t get any paperwork along with the tour (other than the very rough outline of the trip from the brochure). So I’m unclear on the name of the underground city and the modern name of the topside locale (if it differs).

      So, you’re probably right, if it looks familiar to you. The guide did say that this is the most visited section of underground city in the area, because it’s generally accessible (even if you have to squatwalk through some parts), well maintained, and reasonably safe.

      1. ian in hamburg

        We paid about 10 cents each to a man near the entrance, which was in the middle of town in an alleyway, and easy to miss. We had no guide, just an old travel book on Turkey. We were all alone and simply wandered wherever the illuminated passageways led us, and avoided the dark ones.

  4. Jul

    So no whirling, then?

    1. cliff1976

      Not for us. We visited the Mevlana Museum and learned about the whirling, and were offered a chance to witness a private Dervish ceremony — ostensibly complete with whirling — but after finally reaching the hotel in Ortahisar that evening, we were tired and opted out. Also, it was an additional €15 pro Nase and photography would have been prohibited. We opted to sack out at the hotel for an hour before dinner instead. Other members of our tour group went and said it was worth it, but I get the impression they didn’t want to admit they blew €30 and a chance to stretch out on a bed after a long day in our cramped little bus.

  5. Dave

    Jackpot! I’ll definitely be referring to this post if/when I visit Turkey to make sure I go on the right tours. Maybe I’ll go for a night-by-night kind of hotel instead of an all-inclusive package tour to avoid double-paying any hotel nights.

    What would you think about renting a car for a week and driving from place to place by oneself? Would that be a total pain to arrange the hotels in different cities, find my way around, etc (or worse, would it be dangerous)?

    1. cliff1976

      Hi Dave,

      We were continually impressed by the street/road/highway infrastructure wherever we were en route and in all means of transport: rented car, minibus taxi, and tour bus. Road quality, abundance of rest stops / gas stations, and signage were all quite good. Here’s our route over the 10 days we were there (roughly):

      View Larger Map

      We were based outside Side and took the minibus taxi to downtown Side. We took a big tour bus to Antalya, rented a car for a drive down to Olympos, and used the tour group’s medium-sized busses for trips around Perge / Aspendos down to the Finike area, and the Cappadocia trip. I think we’d do what you suggest the next time we visit Turkey and plan to get outside a big city (we’re thinking about Istabul next) — but that requires a LOT more planning in advance, and we were kind of spontaneous about this trip. Biggest lesson we learned: when it comes to package deals, know what you’re getting into. I expect some of that will vary with country/region/agency, but this was our first dip into that pool. I’m not sure we could have learned it any differently than taking the plunge though, since we don’t know anyone else who’s ever done one of these package deals (and perhaps we know why, now).

      1. Dave

        Thanks for the detailed reply. I’ll definitely think about renting a car, then, if/when I make it over there :-) Though I’m hoping this year to get another 8k FF miles and do a free (airfare at least) round-the-world trip compliments of US Airways.

        1. cliff1976

          More food for thought: our car rental (including Vollkaskoversicherung with no deductible, if memory serves) (a several-years-old no-frills 4-door manual Renault sedan) cost €40 a day from a Mom&Pop car rental agency who cousin was the in-house photographer at our resort (not really sure whether a big-name car rental agency would tend to cost you more or less). A tank of gas for that car cost almost double that. On the whole, gas was €0.20-30 more expensive than prices in Germany (as reported by our fellow travelers, since we so rarely buy gas here and therefore don’t pay attention much).

          1. Dave

            Waaah crazy! Gas here is already about €1.30/liter. 1.50 is what it cost here at the height of the oil price insanity.

            Maybe that’s a trip for 4 people… heh. I might know a few takers from my fellow travel lovers.

  6. Jen

    I’ve always thought to do Turkey on a package tour kind of thing – but since reading your experiences I think I’ll be careful about that. Ugh. I don’t do well with tour buses and resorts.

  7. tqe | Adam

    Really? No bacon or any pork at all? Not even in a 99% German resort?

    Funny enough, I flew here on Sky Airlines, which is Turkish, and I’m 99% certain they offered passengers either cheese or ham sandwiches. I didn’t investigate because I was trying to sleep — the rest of the plane was busy eating and buying duty-free smokes.

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