This past weekend I went to Cappadocia (Kapadokya) about 5 hours from Ankara and while I knew I would enjoy my time there I wasn’t ready for just how great it ended up being. A Turkish classmate from Illinois is currently studying abroad in Istanbul so we decided to meet up for a weekend and Cappadocia became the chosen destination. I had talked to plenty of people before who said that they loved it there so knew I would too.
I set out Friday afternoon by bus – sadly the roads were way more bumpy than my last bus ride to Istanbul so wasn’t able to read – was feeling motion sickness quite quickly, so instead I tried to nap and just listened to music. Best moment of the bus ride – we were driving along and I glanced out the window to see what looked like salt deposits – little did I know that in fact Turkey has its very own Salt Lake! It was quite extraordinary and I was afraid I wouldnt get a picture since I was on the wrong side of the bus, but the Turks know whats up and we did our little half hour pit stop near the lake. Granted this meant me dashing across an interstate to get to the other side to visit the lake – but it was completely worth it (:
Now the bus did a stop over in the city of Nevşehir where I ended up getting off the bus because I thought I had to take a smaller bus to my end destinate of Göreme, but thankfully I asked a really nice Turk when I got off and he was like no no you can stay on the big bus. So I got back on and chit chatted with a Turk and his girlfriend who was visiting from Kazakhstan – really interesting characters all over the place. We made a few stops, to include picking up the back up driver off the side of the road – waited a good 15 minutes for that – Turks just do. We picked up some more passengers and a girl got on and insisted that she have her seat – which also happened to be my seat. Mind you the bus was only 25% full and yet she had to sit in seat 10 – I kinda just rolled my eyes said something sarcastic to myself and moved seats – the bus boy was definitely on my side because he made a hand gesture and said something along the lines of “oh come on it’s not a big deal where you sit the bus is empty”.
Finally arrived about a half hour late and my friend was waiting for me. Got picked up by the hostel owners and was reunited with my friend. We decided to go grab a late dinner (Pide) and a Japanese girl who was in the same room as us came along. She is backpacking the world solo for 8 months and is about 5 months in. Quite BAMF if you ask me – not sure I could do it. But, she was awesome and we continued to hang out for the rest of the weekend.
Post that we were thinking of getting to bed early, but the hostel owners invited us to a local bar so we went there for a drink and I ended up beating one of them in Tavla (backgammon) –> HUGE! Beating a Turk at their own game – it felt amazing and he was quite astounded by it all. What can I say – beginner’s luck (:
Ali was a sore loser
Saturday morning woke up and enjoyed a good Turkish breakfast – I do think that the hard boiled eggs are my favorite part of the Turkish breakfast. I really need to learn how to boil eggs – super easy and yet super hard. Don’t judge me…
While enjoying breakfast other hostel stayers were filtering in and out and that is when things got interesting and the world began to get really small. Turns out there were two guys from Illinois staying in the hostel and to make it even smaller one was a fellow Illini – what are the chances! I mean a random hostel in the middle of Turkey on a random summer weekend – holy canoli!!!! We chit chatted a bit and then we realized ourselves and a whole bunch of the rest of the hostel were actually going on the same tour that day. So on a bus of 15 or 16 people 6 of us ended up being from Illinois (yes we picked up two gals from another hostel who also called Illinois home). The others that made up our group were 2 brothers from South Africa and siblings from New Jersey. We went on the Green Tour which was a day long event and was not only historical and super interesting but completely needed since Cappadocia is a region (not a city) so things are really spread out making transportation a necessity. From viewing and walking through some of the different valleys, exploring an underground city and having lunch by a river the day was enjoyable. While talking with one of the guys from Illinois we figured out that I actually played soccer with his sister at U of I! –> Really less than 6 degrees of separation is a crazy notion but completely and utterly real. I am still shaking my head in disbelief to it all.
Post the tour the group decided to continue the good vibes we had going on and we hit up a restaurant in town together. I enjoyed a good meal of Testi Kebap – Kebap cooked in a clay pot – they actually have to crack the pot open with a hammer so that you can eat it. The waitress had some difficulties with this and the two brothers from South Africa got the bonus of taking huge pieces of pottery out of their food – didn’t harm the food at all and it was big shards to no problems with cutting the throat. Post dinner we continued to chill at the One Way Cafe and smoke Nargile – water pipe. Such a laid back activity. Finally we all came to the realization that we might as well just stay up until 4:30am when 4 of us would be picked up for a hot air balloon tour. At the time it seemed like a good decision…post well I will get there.
So we headed across the street to Fat Boys Bar – a local joint owned by a Turkish and Australian couple. Meat an Australian PADI Divemaster there who was super chill and who talked to me about the tours he runs. He chills out in Cappadocia every summer for a few weeks to help his buddy run the bar –> I was proud to say that I was Open Water Certified in Scuba Diving. We stayed there until about 4am. While some of us played pool others played Cranium. Hip place where we even had a say in the music that was played – a definite must if you ever end up in Göreme. By the time 4:30am rolled around I was super tired but had a hot air balloon tour to go on. Mind you it was pretty darn cold at this hour too. 4 of us got picked up from the shuttle and driven out to our launching place. Myself, my friend and the 2 brothers were the only ones who decided to go on the ride – an expensive activity, but not regretting it one bit. While watching the balloons get prepped by the crew we enjoyed ourselves the standard nescafe – so necessary with the lack of sleep and the freezing temps.
In flight was just breathtaking. When asked post if my stomach was all over the place I realized that it wasn’t – possibly because I was so exhausted I couldn’t exert the energy to worry about that. The pictures I took don’t even give the hot air balloon views justice. Unbelievable – thus far one of the best things I have done in Turkey – heck maybe ever (:
Post that we got back to the hostel around 7am – now I really wanted to sleep, but my body just wouldn’t let me. So I finally ended my 60 hour streak of not showering – gross I know, but staying up all night was not the original plan. The day was spent laying low, grabbing a lunch with the group before the brothers parted, hiking a bit in Love Valley and visiting the Open Air Museum. All enjoyable but my body was soooo tired that even walking took way too much energy. Finally we went back to the hostel where I passed out for a good half hour on the cushions in the common area, 4 of us went and grabbed dinner – manti – a Turkish ravioli (that I found out my host mom makes – super stoked since she said she would make it for me when I come back from the states). Then went to a cafe – but it was super strange because they didnt want to give us menus so we parted and just went back to Fat Boys where we knew we would be welcomed. Taught the siblings from Jersey how to play Tavla and enjoyed myself some Baklava. Then the siblings parted ways and it was just my friend and I – my bus wasnt until midnight so we had a few hours to kill. I ended up falling asleep on the cushions at the bar (granted it was the outside part) and the divemaster gave me the a-ok to do so. There was just no way my eyes were gonna stay open – really the “I can sleep anywhere” rang true for me.
Now for my bus the dude at the ticket counter told me the service bus would come at 11pm —> SO WRONG! So I was out there at the bus station chilling by myself for a good half hour – completely freaking out – before others on the same bus came. Granted I asked like 4 people who were chilling around the station (other drivers, etc) about my ticket to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Minor freakout to say the least. My Korean classmate showed up too (Fatih – he had chosen the same weekend to go to Cappadocia and we had multiple run ins during the week – the first being in the underground city – small world) and we chit chatted in rough Turkish – we were too tired to form proper sentences.
By the time I boarded the bus I was ready to pass out and the lady sitting in the seat next to me was on the save wavelength – I just felt spent. The bus rolled into Ankara around 5:30am. Small problem – the metro doesnt open until 6am so I had a 30 minute waiting period – wanted to save myself $15 by not taking a taxi. Just about passed out on the floor of the metro station but lasted. However, I did pass out on the 20 min metro station and only woke up when the announcement for the last station came on –> thankfully I live at the last station. So I somehow managed to walk the 10 minutes home before crashing in bed for an hour before getting up to go to school – two nights in a row with no/barely any sleep sure does put a toll on the body, but no regrets (:
Class wasn’t horrible but Fatih and I both took advantage of the breaks to get little naps in – our teacher thought we were too funny.
So if you ever come to Turkey make sure that Cappadocia is on your itinerary – because the region has plenty to offer and you just never know what kind of awesome and truly amazing people you will run into!
Reuniting with my Turkish classmate from U of I – loved hanging out with you Sammi
Meeting some great people (Jerry, James, Bhavin, Kinisha, Flora, Kristina, Yuri, Tommy and Patrick) – you guys are fantastic and I am definitely on board for a South African Reunion
Pulling an all nighter for a hot air balloon tour – so much more rewarding than pulling an all nighter for a paper
Running into my current Turkish classmate all over the place
Meeting the fastest India at the 800 meter in the state of Jersey – just for you Bhavin
Being complimented on having nice (clear) Turkish by many Turks that we ran into
Fat Boys letting me crash on their outside cushions so I could get some shut eye
The food –> ALWAYS A PLUS
And of course being questioned on why I am not dating a Turk, being told it is the best way to learn Turkish and that I basically am already a Turk and am just short of my Turkish mate — thank you to my tour guide.
Cheers from abroad and more photos to come (: