Turkey is an extraordinary land. They seem to have everything there. They have seas and mountains, sun and snow, modern cities as well as ancient ruins. And above all, they still have really amazing landscape. Make a wish and simply choose the right direction and you'll find what you're looking for. Our direction was clear, we had to meet up with Karossi in Ankara, making the best of our route, getting to see both, the nature and the history. It wasn't a big challenge. Ancient sites are not exactly hard to find there, as they seem to be spread all over the map of Turkey. And so are the most picturesque nature spots. All we had to do is stop the car in the right moments.
The weather was perfect. There was no sign of snow on the roads and the days were sunny, although a bit chilly. We decided to check how it looks like in the higher regions of the country and headed for the Nemrut Dagi, an amazing volcanic crater. The road was pretty curvy and bumpy, but the view from the top was definitely worth the ride. Everything was covered with fresh snow and once again, we were the only people around. We decided to take advantage of it by making a round trip through all the small lakes. It was stunning.
We were not really in a hurry, so we decided to enjoy the ride and check out all the historical places we could find on our way. We were climbing to the temples and tombs, watching monuments and carvings, driving through ancient bridges, which were still strong enough to hold the car packed with 3 people and all our baggage. I have to say I was impressed.
Since it was getting dark pretty early, we were spending evenings in different cities enjoying fantastic local food and very good beer. It is hard to just go and drink a beer in Turkey. Pubs, the way we know them are not easy to find in many places. And normally, when you order a drink you will additionally be presented with a hole assortment of food. You will get fresh fruits, vegetable sticks, nuts and delicious sweets. But often you may get even more... I have already heard a few stories about how people went to get a drink in different places in Central Asia and ended running away from a lap dance or even more direct offers, but I always believed they were simply choosing the wrong places. One evening I had the chance to see how it works myself.
We entered a nice looking restaurant, with live music and good food. It was recommended by a friend we met earlier that day. He was a nice guy and the place looked good too, so I was not expecting anything unusual. Only David had his doubts. But the place was full with girls of different ages, dressed casually and looking nothing like top models, so I though he was a bit oversensitive. And the live music was nice too. The lights went out, people were singing and dancing and before we noticed we were also standing in the middle of the place, trying to learn some traditional Turkish dances. Only then did I notice that the nice girls, who even introduced themselves to us, are somehow going from table to table, either being sent away or instantly landing in the arms of a guy sitting there. Some couples were also disappearing quickly, only to come back separately a moment after. After a while we had no doubts, we ended up in a brothel. Moreover, we were actually having good time there. The best moment came together with a policeman. Suddenly someone shouted something and the whole places turned into a chaos. We were totally surprised and had no idea what's up until someone told us “police, no problem”. In less than a minute all cigarettes and ashtrays were gone (it turned out it was a non smoking place), the air was sprayed to cover the smell and all girls changed tables, looking as if they came there with a group of friends, totally innocent. And there we were, sitting in a corner of a brothel, laughing so hard we could hardly breathe.
With this valuable new experience and few memories we will probably never share with anyone else we continued our journey. Kilometer by kilometer, stone by stone we were getting closer to the expected highlight of our trip, Cappadocia
We were told it is the most touristic place in the entire country and I can tell you, it was not an overstatement. We were traveling way out of season and have hardly seen any foreign tourists so far. Hotels were nearly empty and the room prices were a real bargain. But we quickly found out, it would be slightly different this time. We were heading to Göreme, the most famous of all Cappadocian villages and the closer we were getting the more huge tourist buses were passing us by. To get to the center we had to drive next to the most popular open air museum, where we could really understand what we're up against. There were lines of buses trying to find a place to park, letting hundreds of people in and out without a break. They all looked like one huge colorful river. No wonder that the first few hotels we tried were fully booked. But we were told not to worry, as it was low season and there are not so many tourist in the city. If that's not so many, then I guess I don't want to know how the place looks during the peak season...
But true enough we managed to find a nice accommodation without much trouble. Every second building was a hotel and the rates were actually reasonable, so we decided to allow ourselves some real luxury. We have booked The Flinstones Cave Hotel, which was supposed to serve the best breakfast in the area (and it did!). But it was actually offering much more. The room was a cave, cut into the face of the rock. But it was far from stone age standards. We had a king size bed and a huge bathroom with shower and jacuzzi. We felt a bit out of place remembering the nights we spend in a lousy hostel dormitory or crappy soviet hotel. I don't even want to know how much a room like this would have cost in a high season or in Western Europe. I was glad it fit our budget and enjoyed every minute we spent there. Though, fortunately or unfortunately, Cappadocia had so much to offer, that we spent most of the time outside. The place is simply stunningly beautiful. It's more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. No matter how full and touristic it gets it is absolutely fantastic and incomparable with anything else I have seen so far. For me it was love from first sight.
We decided to start the trip by visiting the open air museum, which is mostly famous for the well preserved cave churches. We went there early in the morning, hopping to avoid crowds, but it didn't really work out. I believe this place is simply always full. So if you want to enter any of the churches or other buildings you have to wait your turn. But it goes pretty quickly, as there are special workers, who make sure no group stays inside for longer than 3 minutes. It makes you fell a bit like a small bottle on a factory line, being moved with all the other bottles form one station to another in precisely described periods of time. Shortly said, it was disgusting. But the place was magnificent anyway. Only that after a while we gave up entering the buildings and focused on the breathtaking scenery.
I guess the best word to describe the Cappadocia is “impressive”. Before we came there I was expecting to see a few caves and some nice ancient buildings. But the place is enormous and full of stones turned into palaces, churches, homes or anything else you may imagine. There are even entire underground cities, with common spaces, food storages and their own water supply systems. It is absolutely unbelievable. So even if it is “a bit packed” and food prices are way higher than anywhere else, it is still definitely worth a visit!