Google ‘where to go in Turkey’, and the top hit is almost always Pamukkale or Cappadocia.
Hopefully it’s clear why.
We decided to stop by the Cappadocia region, staying in the town of Goreme for about 24 hours, on our whirlwind trip across the country from Istanbul (flights in, very cheap) to Dalaman (flights out, very cheap).
We arrived in the afternoon, transferred (slowly) to our hotel in the town of Goreme with a kind but slightly racist driver (who informed us that Australians, rather than Indians and Chinese, are a good kind of tourist (Sameer’s system of responding to the ‘Where are you from’ mostly involved either saying London or letting me say Australia and staying quiet)), and settled in to our cave hotel.
After a quick coffee, and a run through the town, we set out very briefly to ‘see some rocks’…
… which was nice enough, but soon became pretty dark and a little cold.
I – having perhaps read on too many warning blogs about not hiking in Cappadocia after dark- was convinced that we would stumble and die out in the wilderness, so encouraged our scouting mission to make a quick return to the town.
Before we got a chance to even see ‘Love Valley’.
Which, in case the name doesn’t betray it, is basically a valley filled with penis rocks.
(It’s like I didn’t even want our trip to be romantic).
Our return to town turned a bit hairy as the sun set and wild dogs started howling, and then became actively tense when one dog started following us, but also decided that his pack (now us) was going to having words with other packs (as well as every car that passed us).
Sameer’s life has involved a lot more dog attacks than mine, so he was quite well trained for the situation (keep moving, no eye contact etc etc), but the joint concern about what the dogs were doing, and about whether ‘our’ dog was going to get run over, made for a rather tense experience.
In an attempt to both ditch our new pack member, and to get warm, we turned into one of the first restaurants in town, which luckily ended up being a fairly great choice:
An actual fire, some nice tukish mezze food and lamb hearts, a special local dish that is baked in a clay container (and emptied ceremoniously), and a hot nesty honey syrup dessert.
By the time we were full and warm, outside had turned to snow.
So we walked on fairly quickly, past a few cats snuggled into shops and restaurants, and met up with our own hotel’s cuddly cat – who quickly made a home on my lap, and had bitey opinions when I eventually tried to leave her to go inside.
From our balcony the next morning, the sky looked quite clear, which almost made us question the decision processes that had led the the balloons to stay on the ground.
The main tourist attraction of Cappadocia is its incredible natural rock formations, but the main secondary tourist attraction is the thousands of hot air balloons that take flight so that tourists can peer at these rocks from above.
When initially planning our trip, I felt that the balloon part was likely too expensive and too much of a gimick, so originally suggested to Sameer that we go, but didn’t fly.
That opinion changed when my mum described Cappadocia ballooning as one of her top travel experiences, and shared some incredible photos from her own voyage.
So we decided to also fly.
That plan fell apart the afternoon we arrived, simply because it had been predicted that the weather conditions would not be good enough to allow safe departure the next morning.
Weirdly, in my mind (and, I think because of the initial plans to go and just take photos of the balloons from the ground), even when I heard that we wouldn’t fly, I still kind of expected to see other balloons.
And even when I accepted that no ballons would be seen except for the ones scattered throughout all the gift shops, I still kind of expected the hiking to look like the summery photos I’d seen online.
Which wasn’t exactly how it went down.
We set off on our hiking adventures, past the main tourist attractions of the town (^ I assume the cat and the hand-flag are both well loved), and along the road to the nature.
And then… it started to get misty.
Which felt kind of cute as we walked along the road to where the hiking path was supposed to begin…
…But soon enough, became a real visibility problem.
Not for hiking per se; we could still very much see where we were going, and nothing was too dangerous.
But if I’m honest, I’m not really someone who enjoys hiking just for the sake of hiking. I like to see pretty things, and am willing to walk to see them. But walking for miles in the mist doesn’t really bring me joy.
Sure, there’s something very ’70s sci fi’ about large shapes looming in the mist. Cappadocia was definitely giving its very best in ‘Day of the Triffids’ feels.
But the problem was, it wasn’t really giving Cappadocia feels
^behold my sulky face in that last photo.
Luckily for me, Sameer is filled with energy, and before I was able to give up and call the whole Cappadocia experiment a failure, he had darted up a hill, urging me to follow.
And finally, we got some views.
… as well as a chance to actually feel like we could explore.
The rock formations of the area are fairly soft, and have probably been worked on- dug out and made into caves and houses- since as early as the Bronze age. More recently, houses, churches and caves were built as part of searches for solitude and refuge from persecution.
From this point out, you’re gonna see a lot of rock.
After a bit of wandering, and a lot of photographing, we decided to make a move towards the Open Air Museum, which includes a lot of beautiful old cave churches.
Unfortunately, most of them won’t let you take photos inside, so I only managed to get some shots from the first one we went into.
All up, I think it’s worth the (not too hefty) charge, but also feel it’s a bit of a shame that you can’t take photos.
Sometimes I worry that I take too many photos of things- that maybe it’s better to just be in the moment and look and absorb.
But overall, I think my brain works better this way- I like the sorting and reflecting and thinking and writing, as part of the appreciation and memory process. Although I’m always behind in my blog writing and photo editing, looking back on all of the blogs from the past 10 years living outside of Australia does give me a lot of joy, and I’m happy that they’ll continue to exist as prompts for my fading memories.
Because we had a flight out of Goreme in the evening, we pretty soon reached the point in time of rushing back to the hotel to wait for our transfer to the airport.
We’ll probably have to go back to Goreme some time. Maybe when it’s not so cold, and hopefully when the balloons are flying and the ground is slightly less covered in mist.
26-27 December, 2022