The Land of Beautiful Horses

This blog post would have come sooner, but I have spent the weekend stranded in Erfurt studying exactly what architecture students do in their spare time. Just for the record, it involves loud music, beer, and tzaziki.

So those of you who are unfortunate enough to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook will probably be itching with jealousy as you will know that I have been a lucky bastard as I have been in Turkey. By what can only be described as some act of God, I only got a little sunburnt. I wrote a quick blog last week on my weird experiences in Istanbul, but now I would like to write about one of the other places I visited there.

Kapadokya is in central Anatolia, on the Asian side of Turkey. It is also known as Cappacdocia, Kappadokien and The Land of Beautiful Horses (amazingly not camels), and is a place that if you follow any travel pages on Instagram, you will probably see every fucking day of your life. Yes my friends, it’s that place with all of the hot air balloons and funky rocks, and while it is one of the most touristic places in Turkey (second only to Istanbul), it is definitely worth a visit. So, without further tomfoolery (it’s funny because my name is Tom), here’s a quick breakdown of my time there.

Firstly, before you travel to Kapadokya, for the ultimate experience you absolutely must pick up a loco local, preferably vertically challenged, who will insist you try to dance like a Turk and run up every steep incline possible, and likes to sing about how everybody loves them. My Turkish Shortie is, and always will be, Semra from Ankara. Without her, Kapadokya would still have been fantastic, but no way near as hilarious. I know she will read this, so I have to be nice…

You’re closer to Satan and you know it.

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Kapadokya is conveniently divided into three main sections for dumb tourists to navigate (at least my map was), which is convenient for me because now I can conveniently divide up my blog post.

Day one; the red bit – This is probably the most touristic side to the region. From Göreme, the main tourist town in the area, it’s possible to walk to all of the locations, or to take a local magic carp- I mean bus if your legs are too short or you just can’t handle the heat. Just a kilometre from the town is the Open Air Museum, which is impressive for two reasons; firstly the architecture of all of the historical little houses, and secondly to see just how many tourists you can squeeze into each one of them. Even though it is on the beaten track, it is worth a visit, even if only to laugh at tourists tripping over rocks, and to squeeze into tiny holes while strangers awkwardly photograph you.

Now, when you ask for directions to your next location, make sure you ask two people and compare notes, otherwise somebody might, for no particular reason, send you in completely the wrong direction. We did find a cute little church, but maybe spent two hours figuring out what we had done wrong.

Our next location was Pasabag (my racist keyboard won’t let me write it properly as it doesn’t believe Turkish is a real language), also known as Valley of the Monks. This place is special because all of the pointy rock houses have adorable little hats. These are sometimes referred to as Fairy Chimneys, but I found no fairies and I am most disappointed. The geology of this phenomenon works in such a way that there is a hard surface of rock on top of a soft layer of rock, and it has eroded in a peculiar fashion where the hard rock particularly protects the soft rock underneath to create these cool formations over millions of years. It’s pretty fantastic, but once more, it’s absolutely swarming with tourists.

Our highlight for the day was the last main place we visited, Zelve, which requires either a ticket or a museum pass to enter. Within just twenty meters of the entrance we were basically isolated in a series of valleys of dramatic rock formations and forestry. We could hear the nature, we could meander seamlessly through the formations, and we often found ourselves completely alone. What makes Zelve different, apart from the lack of tourists, is that it feels so much more natural and untouched. While a little out of the way, if you go nowhere else in the red bit, do yourself and do me a favour, and spend that time in Zelve. But not too many of you, because that might ruin the ambience.

Day two; the green bit – The green bit is a little more difficult in that there are some long distances to traverse, and, although a little skeptical, we took a tour, and I am pleased that we did. This cost us 80TL, which is roughly 20€ including lunch and entrance fees. Firstly we travelled to Pigeon Valley to take in the views and to quickly reassure everybody else on our tour that we were the loud ones (Claudia might be Latina, but I’m just plain unhinged). From here we travelled to another viewpoint which I may or may not have forgotten the name of but it was also pretty. We visited what our guide described as “The Turkish Grand Canyon, but slightly less grand than the real Grand Canyon” and hiked for about three kilometres along the stunning river in the Ihlara Valley. We finished the day in the underground city of Derinkuyu, bumping our heads and unwillingly staring at each other’s asses as we squeezed through tiny ancient tunnels which served as hiding places for the locals during invasions. There are loads of underground cities to explore, but our guide insisted this one was the best. After the tour, Semra and I scrambled to the top of the rock behind our hostel known as Sunset Point to, well, watch the sunset with a bottle of delicious Kapadokya wine.

Day three; the blue bit – On our third day, Semra and I discovered that we were coincidentally stalking an Indian and a Moroccan girl. We said goodbye at breakfast, then again in the reception, then we saw them at the bus station and took some awkward selfies, and then Semra was photographing them a few hours later from a public bus as we passed them hiking up a hill. I’m still stalking them, just on the Internet instead. Hi guys. Sorry for ruining some of your photos. Your furniture arrangement looks fantastic from the front garden.

We began the day up at Sunset Point again as we awoke to somebody telling a dog “calm down, they’re only balloons” and, after confirming that they actually hadn’t cancelled the flight for once, we literally sprinted to the top to use up all the remaining space on our camera cards.

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We decided to try to battle the blue bit alone again, and contended with the public bus system. We visited Avanos where I realised I was far too tall for Kapadokya as, like an oversized geographically confused Kiwi in an underground pottery shop, I timidly explored some underground pottery shops, very aware of the possibility of smashing everything in my wake. We ate some ice cream and honked at some geese before catching a bus to Ürgüp (this sounds hilarious when pronounced by foreigners (like me)). Here we ate some food, climbed up a big hill, looked round a fancy house and then said goodbye to each other, but were probably too tired and geology-overloaded to really appreciate what we were looking at by then.

The history of the region is really fascinating as it has changed hands and religions so many times since it was first inhabited, from the Persians and the Christians, to the Giraffes and there was something about aliens from Star Wars somewhere along the way. You will find yourself spending a lot of time staring at rocks, but it really is a lot more fun than that phrasing entails. Kapadokya is a perfect few days away from Istanbul and into the mountains, and with a little bit of skill, you can even escape the hordes of tourists and find yourself peacefully nestled in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but the sound of the wind, the birds, and Semra singing “everybody loves me”.

A lot of people have been asking me about how safe it was to travel in Turkey and about the strain of politics over there. This is a very big subject and I will pick this up in my next post to avoid boring you by making this any longer. I’m pretty sure Axel’s beard is already starting to sprout.

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– Tom @ indieroad

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