Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve in Göreme

By Claire
With great anticipation we continued our journey to Göreme in the region of Cappadocia, arriving 2.5 hours after leaving Konya. We chose Göreme because of its central location in the area and we were really pleased with our decision.

Our first view of Cappadocia as we arrived in Göreme

Squealing with delight and with our heads on a swivel, we found the Pashahan Hotel easily and received a warm greeting from 33 year old owner Sergio, (real name Sedat). His name is a nickname he picked up while an exchange student in Rome. His real name is Sedat but he is Sergio to everyone. We were ushered to our fantastic stone room then invited upstairs for tea.

He sat with us and, using a map, explained the area—there are three main regions within Cappadocia—and marked his recommendations of activities for our 3 days. First up: The Göreme Open Air Museum. We set off on foot, somewhat bundled up. It was a bright, sunny day, but cold, and we felt like we were in the mountains. Along the way we were constantly thrilled and fascinated by what we saw, marveling at what nature and humans can do.

Motorcycle parking

The Open Air Museum was a huge surprise in spite of our high expectations. It looks like another planet. We spent about 2 hours hiking around and going inside the cave houses and churches from the 10th to 13th century with well preserved frescos, especially The Dark Church which had an extra charge to go in. Well worth it but no photos allowed!

One of several churches we were able to enter

Chuck in the refectory

Pictures and words really cannot capture the views in this area. I simply recommend that you get on a plane and come to Turkey and visit Cappadocia.

These looked like Christmas trees to me. One was decorated with pots, the other with prayer notes. We were definitely in a Christmas mood and kept pinching ourselves that we were here and that it was Christmas time.

Next, we noticed these horse stables, making use of the caves.

One of the reasons we loved being in Göreme is that it is surrounded by cave houses. Here’s one with a garage.

By now it was time for lunch. Walking around this cute, small, friendly town we chose a place that offered pide (Turkish pizza) and soup. Naturally we started with tea. The soup we ordered was lentil but what came was light green, delicious with a hint of mint. We don’t know what it was but we loved it. We were also given a huge basket of very hot bread, the best we’ve had in Turkey so far. The vegetarian pide was wonderful. They are made in the shape of a long canoe, about 2.5 feet. It arrived cut up and ready to eat. Yum! A fantastic lunch for 17 TL (€7.65).

We wandered around town, once again almost tourist free due to the time of year. Have I mentioned that this is a great time of year to travel? Soon it was time for tea again so we went into a place with lots of people. As it turned out, I was the only woman among about 25 men. Some were playing a game we later found out was called “OK” using tiles similar to Mahjong but with numbers on them. Others were just talking or reading the paper. I felt a little uncomfortable wondering if I had wandered into a “boys club”. But, a handsome man bowed to me, saying “merhaba (hello), welcome.” I was touched by that as I often am of the many kindnesses I have experienced in this country.

The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, as long as you were in the sun. We eventually went back to our room and both took a bath! What a treat. We relaxed and read our Kindles, Chuck attempting the 1734 George Sale translation of the Koran (Al-Qur’an). I’m reading a Sci-Fi novel called Bad Monkeys.

Later on, we went out for dinner and found a cozy, warm little place with a wood stove going full blast. I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered soup and this time had real lentil soup. Chuck ordered a kebab plate that looked delicious for 8 TL (€3.60).

We visited with an Australian fellow who has been traveling on his own for the past 15 months. It was fun to find someone speaking English.

Back in our room, we slept like well taken care of babies.

Chuck in front of our room

Reverse hallway view

Downstairs lounging area

I am so glad Diane let me know by email that Cappadocia was the highlight of her trip to Turkey. We were wavering about doing this trip. Many miles, hotels and meals out. I can't imagine not having seen this. Thank you Diane!

A wise man remembers his friends at all times; a fool, only when he has need of them. ~ Turkish Proverb

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