Loading Map...

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

Written on: Tuesday July 21st, 2009

It must have been eight or nine years ago that I had first, legitamately, considered traveling to Turkey.  At that time it was my strong desire to see Cappadocia, the incredibly bizarre land where the natural rock formations looked like they belonged in a Greatful Dead video.  As our bus arrived at dawn into Gerome, I reflected on that fact and truly appreciated how lucky I was to be here now.  Stepping off the bus and looking around the city was an eerie spectacle: there were many rock towers right in the town, and the early morning light combined with my lack of sleep made them appear surreal.

This was to be Brita's last night on her visit; consequently, she offerred to splurge and pay for a nicer room rather than stay in a hostel.  I most certainly did not resist, and was anxious to see what the town had to offer.  After inquiring at the completely worthless tourist information office, we chose to see a room in a new complex of the Kelebek Hotel overlooking the city.  While inspecting the rooms I had to bite the insides of my cheeks so as not to give away my appreciation for this place.  It was gorgeous!  Cut into the side of the rock and utilizing some of the city's natural fairy towers for its own rooms, this place was unique.  We chose the room we wanted and settled in for a few hours' nap before exploring the town. 

No sooner had I closed my eyes than I heard, "ffuuuuuuuuuuhhh....ffuuuuuuuuuuuhh". 

What the hell....wait!  I know THAT sound!  I grabbed Brita and my camera before lunging for the door.  When I opened the door I saw exactly what I had expected to...only a lot closer than I had expected.  The hot air balloon was flying RIGHT over our room!  Too cool!  I snapped some photos and returned the wave that we received from some of the passengers in the balloon basket.  Looking out across the horizon, I spotted four different balloons sailing over various parts of town, their respective passengers undoubtedly loving their lives at this moment.  When the excitement finally passed, we returned to the room to get the slumber we so desparately needed after the all night bus ride.

Awaking a few hours later, we felt much better.  We even managed to get on the tail end of the complimentary breakfast before heading off to explore.  We did this first by walking through town, jaws dropping at the simply unimaginable rock formations.  Despite the heat, we decided to rent mountain bikes to more efficiently tour the area.  After finally negotiating an acceptable deal with the irate shop owner (don't ever tell a Turkish guy that the bikes he is trying to rent are shit), we followed our map barely out of town to the Open Air Museum.  A World heritage Site, this 'museum' was actually a collection of early Christain churches cut as caves into the natural rock formations.   The churches themselves were tiny and dark, but the exterior views more than made up for that fact, even if some had a little manmade help in preserving their look.  From the museum we continued on riding throughout the area, stopping frequently to trek amongst the rocks and get our own appreciation away from the sheep.

Returning to the room, we changed and sat atop the terrace dining area to have a glass of wine, eat some stuffed grape leaves and watch the sunset throw abstract colors across the abstract landscape.  A restaurant was chosen for dinner based largely on the reputation of the nightly guitarist playing and singing traditional Turkish songs.  Both the food and the music did not disappoint.  The night ended with me over emphatically trying to explain the Fat Albert theme to Brita, who had never heard of the cartoon.  One of the few local pubs in town was named Fat Boys, and the mascot was a dead-on ringer for Mr. Albert himelf.

The next morning was a bit sad....Brita was leaving.  We had a wonderful time together, and I could only thank her for coming to meet me on holiday, and of course to wish her much success with her new employment.

That left a simple yet difficult to answer question: what was I going to do next?  I decided to stay in town for at least a couple more nights, so I hunted down a hostel and planned to hit the internet never-endingly until I came up with a suitable plan for the remainder of my trip. 

I had four weeks left, or thereabouts, and I really wanted to go back to the Middle East.  As I feverishly researched the region, I came up with the fact that the Lebanon to Syria to Jordan to Isreal was the only way to realistically visits the sights from my current location.  The problem was Syria.  They required a visa to be obtained from one's country of residence.  Obviousy that wasn't going to happen.  The loophole was that they would offer visas at the border for anybody coming from Lebanon.  That was my in!  And a Lebanese visa could be purchased by an American traveller at the border.  So all I needed was a cheap ticket from Istanbul to Beirut.  That's where it all fell apart.  There was nothing even close to within range, and although I contemplated just visiting Jordan alone, or possibly Jordan and Isreal, the frustration with the difficulty in obtaining information on the region in general starting steering me away, saving that visit for another day. 

Looking into alternative options, I came across Cyprus.  It was close, warm, supposedly had good beaches and, most importantly, had very reasonably priced tickets into and out of the Turkish side.  Why not...I'll go there for a spell.  With the flight to Cyprus secured a few days from now, I was afforded some relaxation in Turkey.  And the Köse Pension was not a bad place to relax.  Owned by a very outgoing Scotish woman, the place offered a beautiful pool, homemade dinners and a laid back vibe.  I even had my own room.  It was a wonderful opportunity to start the latest (and last) book that I had been carrying around for way too long.

After a couple nights of hanging around the pension in the day and meeting both local folks and other travellers at night, I came across the Swiss contingent staying in my dorm.  Four sisters recently arrived from Zurich.  They were really nice and invited me to join them on a bike tour through the area.  That sounded grand, and four of us (one sister bailed on the biking) set off for the rental shop.  The biked were slightly better than the ones Brita and I had, but certainly were in dire need of maintenance.  We headed out of town for about 45 minutes, working our way around to the rose valley, when sister number three had enough.  So we accompanied her back to the dorm and took a dip in the pool.  It was crazy hot outside, and riding wasn't helping anybody cool down.  The water was crisp and refreshing, and suddenly I was very happy to be off the bike.  But the other two sisters were still motivated, so we scarfed a quick lunch and headed back to the road.  This time we went past the Open Air Museum, where Brita and I were earlier in the week.  We eventually made it to the top of the obnoxious hill despite the chains falling off all three of our bikes.  We continued on into what for me was uncharted territory.  Before loong we found ourselves at a lookout point, hovering over a massive canyon of beautifully bizzarre rock formations.  This is spectacular!! 

But the girls were not even close to tired, so we decided to hike up a nearby mountain to get a different perspective of the area.  We made it to the top and even celebrated with a sip of wine and some recetly purchased dried fruit.  It was exhilerating! 

Heading back down the mountain, we hopped back on the bikes and BIKED into the mountains.  Supposedly there were walking trails, and my thought process was, if one could walk on a trail, one could ride on a trail!  The first section was steep, and we had to walk our bikes up and then down.  But soon I determined that it was ridable.  And it was exceptional!  The ominous looking rocks came to a narrow valley at their intersection, allowing just enough room for a single rider.  The terrain was smooth but steep, and I had to ride the brakes through much of the beginning.  Soon it opened up and instantly became one of the best places I had ever ridden.  The scenery was out of this world, and the track was fun as hell, with numerous challenging places that gave me quite a scare as I approached and quite a thrill as I rode on through.  The ride through this canyon alone took about two hours, emptying into a vast open horse ranch.  Since the girls were big time into horses (they had a week long, cross country horse trip planned in a couple days), we stopped to check them out and talk with the owners.  A final mile back to town capped our six hour spectacular ride!  We had dinner together that night, sharing memories from a wonderfully fun day.

The next afternoon I was slated to leave Turkey.  I packed up my bags and lounged by the pool throughout the day.  By the time my bus arrived, I was reflecting on how amazing my time in Turkey had been...certainly a highlight of the trip!