In true morning after drinking fashion we did not get up on time. Instead we woke up late and in turn were late getting out the door. Unfortunately for us, getting a later start out of Ankara resulted in a much longer drive to Cappadocia than we had planned. As it was the day before the beginning of Bayram, a three-day festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, everybody and their mom, literally, were on the road trying to get to their holiday destination. It felt like any anywhere else in the world on the day before a holiday, tons of traffic with manic, bordering on psychotic drivers filling the roads. As I mentioned before traffic in Turkey is a scary affair, but traffic on the day before the biggest holiday of the year leaving the capitol was a level all its own. I kept having flashbacks to the time we tried to drive from Orange County to San Diego on Thanksgiving one year the horror, oh the horror… What should have been around a 3hr drive instead took us closer to 5.5hrs. Finally after a few pit stops and stretch breaks where we were all wondering if we were ever going to make it, the landscape transitioned from all farms to a more lunar looking landscape, and then like out of a mirage our first glimpses of the fairy chimneys began to appear!
Of course we had to stop and look out over the Göreme Valley at the first pullout we could find. It was like nowhere I have ever seen before. I’ve seen the beautiful hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in Utah, but this was not like those. Here the rock caps resemble mushrooms or pyramids, and many have been carved out to be dwellings for people so you’ll see a window or a door scattered about the rocks. It is utterly bizarre and utterly fantastic. There is no question why they refer to the structures here as fairy chimneys, they look like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. For me it was love at first sight. If I ever have the chance to return to Cappadocia I would not hesitate a second in going.
For our trip we stayed at the Mithra Caves Hotel in Göreme Valley. Being the most touristy of the valleys in the Cappadocia region, there are tons of small hotels. As we worked our way through the small lanes trying to follow both Google maps and the road signs we managed to find the hotel at the upper backside of the valley. Waiting to greet was when we parked was the sweetest momma dog who of course we had to pet and give some food/water before checking in. With our room sorted and a tour of the hotel done we were ready for some exploration. We didn’t want to drive because there was only sporadic street parking and the city was busy on account of the holiday, so we walked into the city of Göreme and over to the lookout point. The road leading to the lookout isn’t clearly marked so we took a few wrong turns, but eventually we worked our way up to the top. This way we got a view of the size and layout of the city, and some much needed exercise. From there a few illegal trails branch out and we decided to continue exploring.
On the backside of the hill we had climbed was another, less populated valley. Here a few small farms and ranchettes dotted the scenery, and we were able to see what life used to like here in Cappadocia before all the tourist mayhem. The area also looked out towards the Red and Rose Valleys that were so vibrant in the late afternoon light they looked like the scenery in an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. After taking our turn on the viewing platform we were ready for dinner and then to relax at the hotel. We took a short walk to see what our dining options were before getting a pide at Cappadocia Pide House. Sitting outside waiting for our food we noticed an old man had climbed into one of the trees lining the sidewalk and his family was below with a big blanket. Fairly certain he wasn’t planning to jump into the blanket we watched as he began shaking the tree and fruit fall into the waiting blanket. One of the waitresses at our restaurant headed over and grabbed a bowl full of these fruits and brought them to our table. Turns out they were Persian mulberries. This was the first time either Jared or I had eaten mullberries and they were perfectly ripe so they exploded with sweet flavor. The pide’s themselves were alright, but the highlight of dinner were the mulberries.
With the sun setting we went back to the hotel to watch from its western terrace, and when it was tucked behind the mountains for the night we moved to the larger north facing terrace for some çay and narghile. We sat on there for hours enjoying the apple flavored hookah and tea watching the city of Göreme transition to its night life. Many of the other hotel terraces were illuminated and the mosque in town glowed green. It was a peaceful end to our day and before we knew it we were off to bed. With a 3:15am wake up call the next day we all wanted some sleep.