As a travel enthusiast, I have always utilized my free time in researching new places and looking for unique things to do on my trips. The name of ‘Turkey’ always made me visualise the picture of the beautiful, Hagia Sophia which is pretty much the face of the country. I think of gigantic flying balloons streaming over exceptional landscapes (pictures of which stand out every time I open my Instagram account.) On a little bit of more research, it came to my surprise that Turkey had another amazing thing to offer in an area called Cappadocia. Cappadocia is a large piece of land covered by the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir within the Central Anatolian region. Located at the heart of the country, this region is probably the most fascinating landscape one can expect to see in Turkey. The geographical formation of the Cappadocia region is one of the most amazing wonders of the world. It was the result of natural forces at war during intense volcanic activities. Millions of years ago, ancient volcanic eruptions covered this expanse with thick volcanic ash, which eventually solidified into a soft rock—called ‘tuff’—tens of meters thick. Wind and water went to work on this plateau, leaving only the harder elements behind to form a fairy tale landscape full of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys which made the region truly unique in every possible sense.
Back in January, while planning my Turkey trip, I had included only Istanbul in my list since I had wanted to visit Dubai within the same trip but due to the limited number of days and the large distance between Istanbul and Cappadocia, I was forced to make a tough choice. But as the trip dates came closer, in the month of March, Turkey faced its worst nightmare when the country was hit by two major terrorist attacks in Istanbul city, less than two weeks apart. This unfortunate event affected the tourism industry and the locals were also terrified to welcome any stranger in their neighbourhoods. The series of bomb blasts made me rethink my route because that
would involve me getting to enjoy a longer stay in Istanbul. My local friends from Istanbul advised me not to come as it wasn’t the best time to travel. But my heart was not ready to give up on this trip and given the time left in hand and the limited flexibility on changing the destination at the last moment due to visa requirements on my passport, I was put me in a really tense situation. It was only then that I decided on an efficient solution: rather than giving up on the country, I could stay in Cappadocia for the first few days of my trip and come visit Istanbul only on the last day, to see the famous Hagia Sophia and some other famous attractions of the city before jetting off to Dubai. With a lot of encouragement from my local friends and a quick response from my Couch surfing host in Cappadocia, Ayse, I was all set with a modified itinerary of my trip.
Routed through the Greek city of Athens, my flight landed in Istanbul on an early morning. I was already able to sense the difference in my surroundings and the people because of the previous week’s events. There were extra security checks at the airport and a series of unusual questions from the immigration officer along with which, he gave clear indications of what the country was going through. My connecting flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia was to the airport of Nevşehir. Nevşehir is the main province in the Cappadocia region and also one of the two airports within that area. The province has many small towns and cities and some of the biggest and most famous ones from the tourist’s point of view are Ürgüp , Goreme, and Avanos. I chose to stay in Goreme (25 kms from Airport) because that’s where the heart of Cappadocia is (it had also been suggested by a friend who had been there before). My couch surfing host was Ayse, a wonderful person who had already booked my pickup vehicle from the airport to her place before my arrival and which cost me only 25 Lira (5£). I got to know that she and her friend Lufte had renovated their parents’ house and opened its doors for travellers from all over the world. The reason for doing so was because they couldn’t manage to travel the world due to personal reasons and this was how they wanted to make friends from all over the world in return. We had home-cooked dinner with Ayse’s grandparents who lived on the ground floor of the house.
On further discussion with Ayse, I got to know that most of the young people in Cappadocia region get degrees in tourism and hospitality and work all over the country as travel representatives and consultants. It was amazing for me to see how everyone in the region had such a passion for travelling and promoting the beauty and wonders of their own region. Ayse was no less. She had a degree in tourism as well and since Turkey had been facing a big tourism crisis since the last few months, she had lost her job and was waiting for a new one. She was kind enough to extend her tourism contacts to make my trip comfortable and did all the bookings for the ‘must dos’ in Cappadocia for me. She also got me discounted prices on everything because of down season thanks to which, I was on cloud nine. I will be posting more about my activities in Cappadocia in my later posts.
The entire region of Cappadocia is full of rich history. Over the next three days of my stay, I learned so much about the region that it is hard for me to summarize everything within a few lines here. As I keep saying, I am not someone with a specific interest in History but I do enjoy ancient facts and the stories behind them. Cappadocia was full of stories to tell and the most fascinating fact that I got to know was that the provinces had been a religious refuge for Christians who used to run away from the Roman Empire to practice their religion during the early days. It was astonishing to see how an Islamic major country governed by an Islamic government puts so much of effort into protecting the rich history of Christianity based at the heart of it. I wonder how we judge each other without knowing each others’ stories but how a small thing as this can change the mentality of the people and be used as an example to teach the lesson of equality to the world.
In Turkey, you can pay in Euro or the Turkish Lira. Both are accepted widely which gives you more flexibility if you are coming from Europe. In terms of the night life, the towns were pretty dull because it was low season and there aren’t many bars or clubs in the town. An interesting thing happened to me when I went to a local pub to have some drinks and spend some time thinking by myself. A couple of girls sitting on the next table were discussing about how travelling solo is a great idea and how their life has changed thanks to it, etc. I couldn’t resist but join them and soon the introduction turned into a free-flowing conversation and we ended up spending hours in the pub. Emma and Joyce were travelling alone and had met on a trip. Emma was from Oxford, England and Joyce was from the US. Travelling is like a magnet for those who do it and that was a pretty new sight to me as well because I usually don’t see myself as someone who just eavesdrops on someone’s conversations and then joins them, ending up making some great friends from there. Travelling is something you don’t need any qualification to start. Just buy a ticket, pack your bags and leave. Don’t look back. It will surely change your life.
Till next time…Keep wandering.