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A few days in Cappadocia

The first rays of the sun break through the bushes in which we sleep this night. But it is not the sun that is waking us up but a strange noise heard occasionally from above our heads. We are a little disoriented – what is it? We look up and everything is made clear. In the sky there are six balloons…

It would be just great to be able to fly in one, but – that is decidedly beyond our financial reach. About EUR 110 per a flight which lasts a little longer than an hour. That is definitely too much. But it is all right. We gather our things and look for some place to spend the next night at, and then set off to roam a little in Göreme.

Cappadocia is exactly as we have imagined. We are not disappointed in the least. Astounding tuff formations which arose thousands of years ago as a result of volcano eruptions. The view makes a tremendous impression. Especially in the afternoon, when the sun lights up the pale rocks, forming curious shadows.

The first day goes by very peacefully. We go for a walk in a rather non-commercial valley, far from the hordes of tourists who flood the Love Valley or the Rose Valley. By the evening we have come to Uchisar – a small village towered over by a rock citadel which gives a panoramic view of the vicinity.

The world is very small, especially when you are far from home. Quite accidentally, while walking through the streets of Göreme, we meet Michał (he wrote us through Odyssei.com in April as he wanted to join us in Iran). Michał spent the whole July traveling with his acquaintances around Turkey, and his journey began on the train on which we were returning the day before our setting off from Warsaw. On that train we met for the first time. We talked a little about the route we would take together in Iran. Such coincidences make the journey even more fantastic and the incident in Göreme was not the last one.

In the evening we go to visit Michał and his six acquaintances. We spend the evening very nicely on the terrace of their hostel, sitting on Turkish cushions under the starry sky, and eating a juicy watermelon.

We devote the next few days to a more substantial study of Cappadocia and its history. We visit an open air museum listed by Unesco, in Derinkuyu, with its underground city, and we reach the third greatest caravanserai preserved to our day.

Having been educated in the field of tourism, it was the more important for me to see the structure as I learned about caravanserais during my studies and my thesis advisor dr Alejziak drilled us on them. Caravanserais can be described as a primitive form hotels. They were located chiefly along the Silk Road. Tired merchants traveling that trade route stopped in caravanserais for rest, to feed the camels, and to pray, before moving on. We chose one that was completely abandoned, without crowds of tourists around, so as to feel the atmosphere of the old times, in peace and quiet. The times we could imagine ourselves to be in are indeed old as that caravaserai was built between 1231 and 1239, which makes it even more magical. Looking at the decorations, maiolicas, and the remains of the mosque, one can imagine the times when the caravanserai was full of camels, various goods, and the noise of arriving traders. Amazing…

We reached Derinkuyu late in the evening, after dark, because for a long time there was no car going in our direction. In the end we stopped a truck with silage and it so happened that I could not squeeze into the cabin. Thus, I had to ride under the curtain on the trailer – incredible atmosphere :)

Thanks to Michał and his friends who gave us a word about a good place to sleep in Derinkuyu we did not waste any time looking for one. We directed our first steps to the park, saw the Atatürk monument, and found a lovely grass plot surrounded with a hedge on each side. We broke through the hedge and spent the night peacefully there. We did have two night adventures, though. First, I heard Alicja bustling busily about her “bedding”. It turned out that, from time to time, small droplets of resin fell from the trees. So she pulled the cover of the backpack over herself and slept on. I and Marta dismissed the thing and in the morning we had to clean the sleeping bags, and Marta had to unstick her hair :)

But the better adventure was still awaiting us. It happened two hours later. We suddenly wake up and see a creature coming toward us. Our first thought – a rat. It turned out, though, that the rat had spines and there was only the apple missing for us to be 100% sure it was a hedgehog, or rather – a hedgehog and the family :) Plus, there was the standard alarm clock of a muezzin chant, only this time from tape and at full volume so it was a wonder the loudspeakers did not burst out.

Early in the morning, before the arrival of the first tourist coaches, we went to the underground city. I will put it shortly – it did not knock me off my socks. It is true, the city is a unique place, but in my opinion it is not worth the expenditure of 15 Turkish lira. Having visited the city and breakfasted we try to thumb up a ride toward Kayseri Province. Nothing comes and the sun is burning, it is merciless, 38°C. So, we go to hide under a tree on the central square of the town and take a little rest on our sleeping pads. We have made a consensus that we would wait until midday for the increased road traffic, as it was Sunday. During the few hours of waiting we were accosted by so many people that we lost track of who was who. We were a definite attraction and had very pleasant talks, especially in German, with the older guys. We played the ball with kids which in the end turned against us as we could hardly keep them off when we finally had to go. Therefore, we ended up hitching collectively in a group of 10 :) Actually, when it comes to Turkish children, although we do not know their language and they only know Turkish, it is still easier to communicate with them than with the Turkish adults.

Derinkuyu children did not quite understand where we were coming from and where we were going, nor who we really were, but they were keenly interested in it. They thought of tourists as people who pour out of coaches, visit the underground city, buy souvenirs at the stalls around and climb onto the coaches again, without ever venturing to penetrate into the sleepy town itself. We were a curiosity just as the kids were a curiosity to us. One of the boys – interestingly, most roguish one – brought an atlas of historical Turkey from home, with Europe and Asia in it. In this way it was easier for them to understand where we had arrived from. We believe we managed to establish some rapport with the kids, as proven by home-made cookies brought in the hand by the smallest and dirtiest of the boys. A few cookies fell on the ground on the way but he picked them up and offered to us with the sincerest smile in the world, snot shining at the edge of the mouth. “We are the world we are the people!”

In the end, we landed in Kayseri in the evening, as Barti was already heading there from Istanbul. He spent the whole night on the way, so we slept in a park again, or rather, in a garden of a restaurant, watched over by the security and the policemen on guard there. Actually, they offered us the place themselves, saying that it would be safer, and so it was. In the morning, after a short exchange of SMS messages, the laughing Barti appeared as usual with his gigantic backpack and, after we have agreed on the key points of the traveling schedule, we divided into two teams and set off for Göreme, as Bart wanted to see the heart of Cappadocia. As he is a geographer and holds the torch of education at the Jagiellonian University, we could not refuse. We arrived in Göreme in no time. I and Alicja in 3 cars, Mart and Barti together with a doctor whose destination was just outside Kayseri but who was so charmed by them that he headed straight to Göreme exceeding his intended mileage by 120 km.

Today we set off toward Kurdistan so we will probably lose touch with the world for a few days…

P. S. To return to the topic of Kayseri, it is a big city not popular among tourists as it does not boast too many attractions, which does not mean it is not interesting. In the very city center there is a huge bazaar to which I went, off course, with the purpose of buying a headscarf and a tunic. Bazaars in Turkey are very different from Polish ones – they are simply huge, one-story buildings with rows of shops clustered in groups according to the type of goods sold. Everything has its place but it is also easy to get lost as they are veritable labyrinths! The task I have assigned myself, that is, shopping, was made more difficult by the fact that no-one in the bazaar spoke any language other than Turkish and the sellers looked at me as if I were an alien. After the fourth or fifth shop I got a little bit tired of explaining with gestures the same thing over and again: a tunic, long, with long sleeves – not to mention explaining the color and the size. A curious thing is that I was always served by a woman and the man present in each shop did not so much as wink in my direction. In the end, I achieved a half-success as I only bought the headscarf, which was much easier.

With Marta we also decided to go to some clothes shops. In one of them we tried, non-verbally, to explain to the seller what we were interested in but somehow we could not express ourselves. The seller called for a friend but our conversation with her ended in a similar way so another woman came, and another one, and, after 10 minutes or so, we stood surrounded with a circle of shop assistants who observed us with interest as we shook our hands and what not, like monkeys, to convey to them at least something from our meaning. Our efforts were not in vain. Marta left the shop with a blue tunic.

It was a great and educational experience and, in fact, I had a lot of fun there, although after the shopping I was quite exhausted.

O autorze: Andrzej Budnik

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