Saturday, October 30, 2010

Göreme, Cappadocia - Fairy Chimneys and Trogolyte Living

Posted by Melissa

September 14-16, 2010
Late this evening we boarded the overnight bus to Cappadocia.  I had hoped for some empty seats so that I could stretch out a bit and maybe get some sleep, but NO, this bus is full!  So a wide awake nine hour ride for me (yes, Thane slept), winding through big towns, little villages, curving roads through the hills, and then, blessedly, watching the sun rise - we'd soon be there!  I guess you've figured out that I can't sleep sitting up - not in cars, on planes or buses.  It was worth the all-nighter though, to catch the first few glimpses of this surreal, magical, fairytale land as we pulled into Göreme.
Göreme is another Unesco World Heritage Site (we try to see as many Unesco sites as we can in our travels).  Looking around, it is easy to see why this spectacular landscape with its rock carved churches, troglodyte villages and underground towns, should be treasured and protected for future generations.
Rock cut Roman tomb, in the center of town
We spent our first day wandering around, getting our bearings and marveling at the numerous cave dwellings and pigeon houses carved into the sandstone hillsides.
View from the roof top patio in our hotel
At work, roof top terrace
Dinner was a delicious bowl of beef güveç and delicious flatbread for Thane and a lamb roll-up plus salad for me.  Yum!
We watched the moon rise over a minaret next to the Roman tomb fairy chimney as we ate this dinner in the warm evening air at our little sidewalk cafe. .  .  .  What can I say but "Magical"?

We were able to check into our home away from home, The Star Cave Hotel, the next morning (we had arrived a day early after leaving the mosquitoes in Pamukkale behind).  We were soooo excited, we were going to sleep in a cave room!  Real troglodyte living for us! AND - we have eight days here!!
Our front door - Room 104
All of the etching/carvings on the wall and the niches in the wall are original to this old cave room. The owner added only the lighting.
Interior - Our room
This room (pic below) is located on the upper level of the hotel. The only access is via the wood ladder leaning on the rock. Thane was checking it out, but I prefer a walk in, not a climb-up room.

The Star Cave has a large, out door lounge area covered in pillows and rugs, just right for reading on a hot afternoon.
or for a good game of Tavla with Ahmet.  He won!
and of course, a little internet time, researching travel options and getting caught up with family and friends.

After a day of checking out the local area, we road the local dolmuş to nearby Uçhisar.... 
Uçhisar street scene
... to climb the Uçhisar Castle! Yep, to the top of this we go!!

Fairy Chimney seen while hiking up Uçhisar Castle
Almost there!  Hi Thane!  Wave to the camera!!

Woo Hoo!!!  Made it to the top! - The highest point in Cappadocia!

The panoramic view is spectacular!

These Byzantine graves are carved into the top of the castle mountain.

Because climbing the castle was just not enough exercise for the day we decided to hike back to Göreme through Pigeon Valley which connects the two towns. But first - lunch in this little cafe with views that go forever.

Street scene below the cafe
We walked the dusty trails, past houses like this (this one is for sale!)
and more fairy chimneys (this one is occupied)
through the canyon and home.  But, not before making lots of wrong turns and ending up in places where only mountain goats could get through and other places where I had to walk like a crab on all fours to keep from sliding down the loose, sandstone slope.  Once was enough for me in this canyon!

Up next: More Göreme, a hike in another valley to a little campsite and garden for a picnic lunch with Ahmet, a visit to an underground city, a visit to a Byzantine monastic settlement and pilgrimage site, AND a WEDDING!! ~ I may need two more blog posts to cover it all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pamukkale: Travertine Hiking and Healing Waters

Posted by Melissa
September 13, 2010
Today we rode our first long distance bus in Turkey. We found the bus to be very nice with reclining seats, an attendant who served us tea, Nescafe (if you want American style coffee here it will be instant Nescafe), sodas and small snacks. After snacks, the attendant came around with the ever present, lemon water that Turks love to use to freshen up, splashing it on hands, arms and face. It is quite effective and definitely made me feel fresher. Our destination: Pamukkale and the ruins of Hierapolis.

This photo shows the town with the travertine terraces of Pamukkale in the background.

We stayed at The Allgau Pension, a very inexpensive little place (30 Turkish lira or about $20 US including breakfast for both of us). The room was a no frills, clean room with a bed and small bath - shower head in the middle of the wall. That's about it, no desk, no chairs, no dresser, but clean and functional.

The pool here looks very refreshing in the pic, but it was actually so milky that we could not see the bottom. It is filled with water coming off the nearby travertine terraces, however it flows though an open ditch along side the road for about a mile or so before entering the pool. Although I saw a few people swimming, it just didn't appeal to me much.

These little treehouses were located in the garden of our hotel.  It looks as though they may have been open air rental rooms in the past, but now they were quite rickety and didn't seem to be in use.

Just another stone building along the walk to lunch.

Tap water in most places in Turkey is not considered clean enough to drink, therefore nearly EVERYONE buys bottled water. If you have a large refillable water dispenser in your house, it's not a real problem, but while traveling we, like most all others, have to buy our water in smaller, disposable bottles. We are very careful to buy the biggest we can carry and refill our little personal size bottles.

Although Turkey does many things very well, sometimes better than the US, the lack of potable water in homes leads to a disposal nightmare. I'm not sure what the solution is though, in the US we waste clean filtered water on lawns and toilets and in Turkey, there is the mess of the empty bottles.We stumbled upon this stash of empty bottles along side the road. Sad...

Before our hike up the travertines , we stopped for lunch of at a little restaurant with a lovely breeze and delicious gozleme. We mentioned gozleme in a prior post but I wanted to post a couple better pics for you. It reminds me of a very thin tortilla. The dough part is made fresh, rolled thin with a small dowel to about a 24" diameter, then sprinkled with toppings and cooked on a large metal pan, typically with a wood or coal fire beneath. Delicious and very inexpensive at about 4-10 TL or $3 to $7 depending on where it's purchased.
The one above has cheese and meat sauce and the one below has spinach and cheese.

With full bellies and the hot sun shining on us, we started our hike up the blindingly white travertine hill. Hmm, no one told me we'd be hiking THROUGH the water.

This spot is about midway up the hill. We're all moving pretty slow - no shoes are allowed and the rock is slippery in places and hurts your feet in other places. The water was cooling and felt great though on this hot day when temps pushed 100. Despite the hot weather, we saw several women covered in conservative coat type garments. They, like us, had to take their shoes off though - Risque!

There were several small pools along the walk up the hill. I loved this pic with a bikini clad young girl and a fully covered woman, both enjoying the water.

These terraced pools on the way up are now off limits for swimming as excessive use was damaging them.

Yay! We made it to the top. This is the view looking back to the town, pools, and valley below.

The reward for all good hikers?? Swimming in this amazing pool with marble ruins scattered underwater! The natural, hot spring waters have a high mineral content and are said to have healing powers. I am a believer! It soothed my body, soul and hot tired feet. I felt a distinct peacefulness as I paddled and floated away the afternoon.

There are also significant ruins here of the ancient city of Hieropolis, founded sometime between the 4th and the 2nd century BC. We strolled through them on our way back down the hill, taking the long way home rather than hike back down the travertine.  Sorry though, no pics of them. You'll just have to go there yourself!

As our readers already know, we are traveling  s  l  o  w  l  y   on this trip.   Although many people recommend going to Pamukkale as a day trip, we planned to stay here for two nights to enjoy the scenery. After being eaten alive by mosquitos and finding that there was really nothing to do or see here other than what we had already done. We checked out a day early, boarded an overnight bus and headed off to Cappadocia.

Up Next: The Surreal Landscape of Cappadocia  Here is a sneak peak.

Tuesday Market at Tire

Posted by Thane

September 7, 2010
About a half an hours dolmus ride from Selçuk is a small village where the locals purchase most their needs for the week. We were told that in Tire (pronounced Tee-ray) we would find most women in traditional dress and very few tourists. We started to see this as we rode the dolmus out of town and stopped at each small settlement along the way to pick up Tuesday shoppers.

We wandered off into the congested, covered streets to find everything from clothing, fruits and vegetables, lace and dry goods to the donkey saddle maker.

Melissa found it hard to not purchase something with so many beautiful things available. But if we buy anything, we have to eliminate something else in our already stuffed backpacks. If we can't eat it, drink it or store it digitally we probably just have to look.

While some of the local shoppers rested their feet,
we stopped by the one of the many old Mosques in town for a respite from the crowds and noise.

We strolled past the men having tea and discussions outside the Mosque and wandered down little back streets with beautiful colors on our way back to the dolmus stand for our ride back to Selçuk.

We stayed a couple more days in Selçuk enjoying the town and going to the beach.

Next up: Pamukkale, a Unesco World Heritage Site with hot springs, travertine pools and the Sacred Pool at Hierapolis.