Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cappadocia Calling

Today I'll blog about a place that some of you may actually have heard of! Five hours of pleasant landscape outside the bus windows took me from Ankara and into the most picturesque mountains of Central Turkey. I stayed in the village of Göreme in Cappadocia, and this was the view I came for:

"Matchless times!" seemed to be the slogan of a five star hotel nearby, and I agree with what they so eagerly are trying to say. (And I think they mean that the place can offer visitors a good time that will be hard to match, and certainly not that Göreme is a smoke-free zone. Far from it.)

Hiking in the many valleys and canyons and across the mountain plateaus of the area is a delight. Rocks here come in colours rarely seen by hikers. While the landscape is rugged, it still has a most feminine feel to it. There's a lot of pink, and there's a Rose Valley, a Red Valley, a Pigeon Valley and a Love Valley. Hello Kitty fans would adore the place!

And as it happens, that's exactly what they do. Following extensive coverage of Turkey in connection with a football match between Turkey and South Korea in the World Cup a few years ago, more than a hundred thousand Korean tourists visit Turkey every year. A great many of them are young women, donning cute t-shirts, giant Paris Hilton sun-glasses and facial expressions that leave little doubt that Göreme is something else than Seoul.

It's fascinating, really, how the South Koreans tourists outnumbered those of other nations (except for Turkey, obviously) almost anywhere I went on this trip. Both nations were occupied by the Mongols once upon a time, so I suppose they have some common history, but still, these are two countries FAR apart in almost every way other than that.

Anyway, hiking is the thing to do out of Göreme, and if you put a few hours of leg-work into it, you'll soon be on your own and out of the way of the masses of tourists. Your day *will* start with tourists all around you, though. You'll be awoken by burst of loud thunder, and if you look outside your window, you might see this:

One morning I counted about 30 hot-air balloons taking short-term visitors to Cappadocia to their heaven and back. This makes Göreme the most intense ballooning destionation in the world. I'd say you should save your balloon money for more solitary sunrise safaris in Kenya or South Africa instead. The best views of Cappadocia can be had on foot anyway!

Wherever you walk, you'll find interesting things to see. This area has been used by people for thousands of years now to hide away from the rest of the world and live peacefully and relatively well. They used to build their houses into the mountains, as the walls are hard, but inside it's very soft, almost sand-like rock.

There are churches, homes and pigeon holes everywhere you go. Sometimes you will find caves with great works of art on the walls, just there for you to admire. There's of course a museum for it as well, but it's much more interesting to explore and discover stuff on your own.

In addition to the ancient views, you can see a living community at work. Like here:

Sun-dried apricots is a local specialty, and in the right season you'll find them all over the place. There are also grapes, apples, citrons and a others of Natures delicacies found in small patches of farmland between the mountains and the "fairy chimneys" Cappadocia is so famous for.

I can't recommend doing any of the day tours running out of Göreme. They all seemed to be designed by some official government tourist bureau, offering exactly the same schedule. While the stops might be fairly interesting, since all the tours do the same stops at the same times, they're all full of tourists and desperate sellers of souvenirs. The rest of the day I suppose it's all quiet... Rent a car and do it on your own, starting a couple of hours before or after the tours!

In Göreme I met Kylie the Kiwi. She's a most energetic and positive woman on her way home to New Zealand from London. Going by bicycle! Next time someone calls me crazy for walking a few hundred kilometres from Oslo to Jotunheimen or whatever, I'll just point them towards Kylie and reclaim my own relative sanity!

Oh well. I've got just over a thousand photos from the trip left to edit (I started at about four thousand!), so I'd better get back to that.

You'll be hearing from me!
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