Monday, June 22, 2009

A Vacation from the Vacation

Warning - I actually have some free time and free internet WITH and English keyboard, so this post will be a long one!

I find on these longer trips, it's useful to schedule yourself a break. In thinking about it, I don't know that I actually need the one we have today - I think I could keep going through the end of this week without a problem. Still, we have extra time in Cappadocia and I have some things that I need to get done.

It's about 11:00 in the morning here. After sleeping in until delicious 8:30, which we both wanted to do after two days of getting up at 4, we got breakfast and then packed up. The room we're currently in wasn't available all three nights, so we're switching rooms sometime today.

Jason headed out for a few hikes - there are a variety of valleys around that are good for that. I believe he was going to hike the Semi (Sami?) and the Love Valley this morning (If you're wondering, I believe the Love Valley is so named because of the phallic-shapes rocks throughout it. That's my guess, anyway). We're going to meet for lunch in town, then he talked about going on a third hike through Pigeon Valley afterwards.

As for me, my to-do list includes
- checking on the room transfer arrangements
- checking on our airport shuttle for tomorrow
- looking up some information on things we've wondered about (the Ephesian Artemis and "tufa")
- making up an expenses list so we can figure out who owes who what
- memorizing, memorizing, memorizing (so much for the whole "I'll be relaxing in the Mediterranian - I'll have plenty of time to memorize my lines for 'Waves'". Yeah, no. I should have known myself as a traveler better than that - I don't do "free time" in my travels any more than I do it in the classroom. Consequently, my pages and pages of text to learn have been weighing on my mind. I'm hoping that if I sit down and focus and get at least the "Protector" and the "Undivided Attention" poems under my belt, that will help me feel better the rest of the week.)
- catching up on my blogging

We have talked about river rafting or horseback riding as well, but I'm starting to feel the pinch of traveling. Both would be fun, but I think I need to be more frugal and practical about what I can actually afford to do. I've already allowed myself a few splurges this week (the carpet, the hot air balloon ride, the hotel here), and I should be more practial. Fortunately, Jason feels the same way.

Speaking of which, I should point out here, for all of you who were laying bets on how long it would take, that traveling together has worked very well. No fights, no arguments, no storming off to Versailles in a temper (although, to be fair, Emily and I had traveled together for more than a month before that one, and Jason and I have only been at this for a little more than a week). Aside from being good friends, it might help that the trip has just gone uneventfully smoothly. We were discussing this yesterday - how it's a shame in one way that there hasn't been any real issues or disasters on this trip, since those make the best stories. Perhaps something will happen before the end to give us a really good tale to tell, because otherwise, we'll only have dull reckonings from this excusion. (I offered to sprain my ankle on the hike yesterday and force him to carry me home on piggyback (and for those of you who know us both, that's quite the image, isn't it?), but he declined the offer. Can't imagine why!)

Speaking of the hike yesterday, let me tell you about that.

Adam, Jimmy's brother and business partner at Jimmy's Place in Selcuk, is (surprise!) also a travel agent. He offered to book our excusions in Goreme, and the prices were just a little lower than those we had each researched beforehand, so we took him up on the deal.

Yesterday was our full day for that. We started, as I previously posted, with the hot air balloon ride. At 9:30, after breakfasting and such, we were picked up in one of those large white vans that scurry about everywhere here, packed with tourists (it's called a dolmus, which, as Rick Steves points out, should not be confused with dolmas, even though they're both stuffed). After picking up five Koreans and one woman from Colorado Springs who's stationed through the Air Force in Turkey at the moment, we picked up our guide, Esra, and set off south.

The first stop was a panoramic view on a cliff top. Esra, who is the cute little (maybe 5 feet tall?) Turkish woman who just graduated as a tour guide last month, dutifully explained that she would tell us about what we were seeing first, then we would have time to take pictures. The moment the door of the van opened, though, the Koreans scattered and the military woman wandered away to take close-up shots of the wildflowers, leaving Jason and me standing next to the flustered Esra, like the good, dutiful students we are. She tried to gather the group, then gave up as each time she managed to get 4 or 5 of them together, another one would wander off. She finally delivered her speech to Jason and I alone, before turning to round up the others so we could leave for the next place.

Next stop was the underground city. Comprised of a series of tunnels and rooms that extend eight stories down into the earth, this was pretty cool. It was crowded with tour groups, but Esra did a nice job leading us through and explaing the different rooms. The city was built originally by the Christians who had settled in Cappadocia as a refuge for times of attack. Eventually, though, they gave up and moved into the underground city permanently. Being a fortress, the stairs and tunnels were narrow and so short that there were times I was crouching with my knees under my chin as I navigated paths. It's not because the people were short - it was to slow down the enemies. There were also large round stones in the walls at intervals that could be rolled across to completely block the passage, if the people needed to fall back but block the enemy. The stones each had a hole cut in the middle for a spear to be thrust through to stab people with. Very Indiana-Jonesy, and very cool. I don't have any iPhone pictures I can post right now, since the light was so low in the caves, but I took several with my other camera and will get them up when I get home.

Outside of the city, there were some little old Turkish women selling souveniers. Jason and I looked at buying something, and had actually talked the women into selling us two for 4 lira, but when we handed her the coins, she gripped the bag tightly to her and demanded one more lira. One of the other sellers looked disapprovingly on at her as we tried to get our souveniers for the agreed price, since this action was pretty scummy. Eventually, I pried our money out of the woman's fist and we walked away back to the dolmas, expecting her to recant with every step. She never did, though. I'm certainly not heartbroken about it, since we'll be at the Grand Bazaar in a few days.

We next drove to the Green Valley (I think it was called that), where we hiked two kilometers through the canyon along a little river. After a brief respite at an improvised riverside cafe, we hiked the same path back to the van. Lunch was served at a restaurant set up in the river - our table was on a little strip of land in the middle of the river. It was lovely, aside from the gnats. Lunch included some naan-like bread, lentil soup, a salad, clay-pot-baked chicken and vegetables with bulger wheat, and watermelon. After lunch, a monastary.

This was another structure carved in to the volcanic rock formations. I'll post some pictures from there in just a moment. The cave rooms were a lot like the ones Jason and I had seen the day before at the Goreme Open Air Museum, but this one was not as restricted in where we could wander. We climbed up the rocks along a narrow and slick path that had been the entrance for camels along the Silk Road to the chambers that held kitchens, living rooms, look-out towers, and even a cathedral-like chapel. We looked down (way, way down) at our tiny little dolmas parked on the street below, next to the tomb of one of the sultan's wives. Once Esra rounded up the group again, we made our way down the perilous rocks.

We drove onward for about an hour, all of us dozing off in our seats. We pulled up at the last stop, a place that overlooks Pigeon Valley. And, imagine this! Right across the street was an onyx Factory! That gave us a tour! And then offered to sell us jewlery and such for very reasonable prices! (I had wondered whether the inevitable sales pitch would be for carpets or for something else.) At least I learned that the word "turquiose" comes from "Turkis Quartz."

Pigeon Valley is so named because of the myriad of little holes carved into the rocks for the flocks of pigeons to nest in. The people who settled here used the pigeon's waste for fertilizer, and the birds still abound in that area.

The dolmus drove back to Goreme, and Jason and I got out in the town center so he could buy some film (yes, film). We walked back up to the hotel and Jason took a shower while I went for a dip in the pool. We got some dinner at the hotel, then sat on the sultan-esque cushiony corner again and talked about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings. Around 11:30, exhausted, we turned in for the night.

I'm glad we booked the tour - we saw and understood a lot more than Jason and I would have had we ventured out on our own.

And now I've probably been monopolizing this computer for far too long. I'll post some of my pictures from yesterday and then get to memorzing.

I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, that your Father's Days were spectaular (especially for my own dear Daddums, who is the best father in all the world), and I'll be in touch again soon!

P.S. Trixie - thank you for the recommendation! We found the restaurant you mentioned and are planning on it for dinner tonight. The Lonely Planet guidebook doesn't say much about Goreme, so we really appreciated the tip!

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