around the world takes us to the moon
Pros: friendly people, most surreal
place, Istanbul-wonderful city
Cappadocia and Nemrut Dag, Turkey
Thursday, Oct 23, 2003 05:28
Click here to view with our classic map
I doubt we will ever forget arriving in Cappadocia, Turkey. For
starters, we had taken a 12 hour, overnight bus to "the Cappaodica
region," unsure exactly which city we would arrive in due to
translation difficulties. We had somehow managed to fall dead asleep
when, in complete darkness someone shook me awake, barked out that
we had arrived, and then proceeded to escort just Susan and I off
the bus in a rush, grabbing our bags and unceremoniously dumping
them on the roadside. The bus then took off with a roar, leaving
the two of us entirely alone.
Then there was the landscape. Susan's first mumbled words were,
"This looks like the moon." All around us were these towering
columns of rock, some of which oddly had windows in their sides.
It was absolutely still and obviously very, very early in the morning,
and although it was clear were in a city of some sort given the
buildings tucked in between these weird rock formations, I thought
maybe I should have planned a bit more before heading off directly
to the interior of Turkey.
But no need to fear. Someone eventually wandered up to us, explained
we were in the city of Goreme -- where I was aiming for, score one
for Sharad -- and then sent us off to a very nice hotel which fortunately
had a room free.
After several days here, we can say that without a doubt Cappaodica
is the most surreal place we have ever been to. The land here once
had a huge volcanic eruption that covered everything with soft volcanic
lava, ash and rock. The rock was so soft that it was easily eroded
away leaving fantastic shapes -- including one area called, uh,
"Penis Valley." It's a strange place. People have been
carving homes and villages out of the rock for over a thousand years,
many of which exist to this day. We spent hours walking in secluded
valleys where a small opening to a cave takes you into a vast multistory
complex with whole churches inside, complete with cathedral like
columns. Many early Christians came here fleeing Roman persecution,
and painted beautiful frescos right into the cave ceilings. There
are also many underground cities spread throughout Cappadocia, built
to protect villagers from invaders. It was amazing to see how complete
they were, with homes, wineries, and even stables to support the
villagers for up to six months at a time while the invaders just
wondered where everyone had gone off to. In short, Cappaodica looks
like it is from out of this world -- and, unsurprisingly, one of
the scenes from Star Wars was filmed here. Its difficult to explain
without seeing it for yourself, and pictures simply cannot do it
The people here are great too, just like virtually everywhere we
have been: very laid back and relaxed, and they make Cappaodica
one of those places you come for three days and can stay for a month.
We didn't have time for that, unfortunately, but we did manage to
see our first familiar face on the trip so far. Cecili Sessions,
a friend of Susan's from residency, is stationed in Turkey, so she
really couldn't get out of seeing us. It was great catching up on
things, and Susan loved talking medicine to someone who actually
understood what she was saying.
After a few relaxing days here, we decided to plunge deeper into
Turkey to see the famous giant heads of Nemrut Dag. Okay, we hadn't
actually ever heard of Nemrut Dag before, but a picture of it was
on the front of our guidebook. As we headed further east, we felt
like we were really leaving western civilization behind us. Certainly
no more internet cafes, practically no one speaks English, no idea
how to get around town, and on top of it all we had entered the
land of pit toilets. I had to handle all the transactions since
no one would really talk to Susan. There was even this ridiculous
situation when we tried buy cold medication. She attempted to start
a conversation with the pharmacist, who kept looking at me the entire
time. Since of course I had no idea what we needed, we settled on
a strange game of telephone where Susan would tell me in English
what the name of the medication we needed, I would then repeat in
English what she had just said to some nice man who insisted he
spoke English, who would then engage in a conversation in Turkish
with the pharmacist which to our untrained ear sounded something
like "I have no idea what these crazy foreigners want."
We never did get our medicine, but eventually found a very helpful
tourist information guy who said I didn't look too sick and put
us on bus to Nemrut Dag in no time.
The heads of Nemrut Dags are a series of statues surrounding an
ancient, pyramid-like funerary mound for some famous king whose
name escape me, and is almost 75 meters high. Seriously big. To
get there we followed this winding path up a desolate mountain for
four hours. The heads are all that's left of these huge statues
of Gods and Kings that watched over Turkey. The heads alone were
taller than Susan and it was great seeing another beautiful sunset
with these ancient heads surrounding us.
We had been looking very forward to Turkey after travelling through
Europe, particularly to a bit of rougher and more exciting travel,
and it has not disappointed. But no trip to Turkey is complete without
visiting Constantinople, aka Byzantium, and now known as Istanbul.
So we changed directions and headed west on yet another overnight
bus. Oh joy!