Saying good-bye to Turkey トルコさよなら
The last few days of the trip were very long travel days. From Pamukkale to Cappadocia was around 10 hours while Cappadocia back to Istanbul (including a quick stop in Ankara to see the national history museum) was almost 12 hours. The quality of the roads leaves quite a bit to be desired in Turkey. We were amazed at how many transport trucks we saw on the sides of the (so called) highway.
As we travelled further inland and through the mountains the temperature dropped significantly. By the time we had reached our hotel in Ürgüp, the temperature was around -9° C but sunny. Actually, we really couldn’t complain about any of the weather conditions throughout the entire trip and in all honesty, after leaving Hong Kong’s 20° C December temperature it was nice to be somewhere where there was an actual winter.
We passed through some interesting places on the way to Cappadocia. Akşehir is famous for being the place where a legendary hodja named Nasreddin settled in the 13th century. He was a bit of an eccentric who apparently rode around on his donkey facing backward in order to see where he had been. He was also famous for dispensing all sorts of wisdom. We also passed through Konya which is not only where Nasreddin hodja eventually died but is apparently the birthplace of the Sufi whirling dervish dancers. We also stopped briefly at Sultanhani which at one point had been a trade post on the old Silk Road route. One of the buildings hotel/ trading posts still exists.
Cappadocia (or as I learned, it could be Capadocia, Capadoccia or even Kapadokya) is actually a triangular region between Ürgüp, Avanos and Nevşihir. It’s most famous for the unusual rock formations commonly called “fairy chimneys” and the dwellings and churches built into the soft volcanic rock by early Christians beginning around 1800 years ago. We went to the Göreme open air museum and I have to admit, they were fascinating and despite some damage to the paintings inside the churches, the colours were amazingly vivid.
We visited a carpet seller near the end of the day. Mehmet deals primarily in the woven wool kilim style carpets made by the Kurdish nomads of Eastern Turkey. Many of these are antiques as they were never really made to be sold but used by the nomads who made them; some really beautiful works. I really hadn’t planned on buying anything there but on a whim, a few of us went up to the other store rooms. Nathan pulled out a very unique piece right off the bat which we both fell in love with. After looking through a couple of dozen other pieces, it came down to this one. Mehmet even checked to see if there was another one like it or similar to it anywhere else in his shop. Nothing. This was the only one like it in the several hundred pieces he had available. Mehmet had told us earlier that a carpet is something you don’t buy just to have, you have to love it. Well, since Nathan had discovered it, I gave him first crack at it. After twenty minutes of us deferring back and forth and Mehmet even dropping the price, it was finally suggested that the only way we were going decide this was to do a coin toss. So, that’s what we did. I called it, the coin was tossed, I won. Yay, me!
Finally, that evening we all went out to a “Turkish night”. Some of us got into the mood by getting dressed up in some traditional Turkish gear. The traditional drink of Turkey is raki. It’s similar to Greek ouzo in that it’s clear and anise flavoured. It can be drunk straight though at 90 proof it’s like drinking jet fuel so water is normally added. The water turns it milky so raki is often referred to as tiger’s milk because after a few drinks that’s what you’ll feel like.
There were dances performed from all the regions of Turkey, beginning with the Sufi whirling dervishes. There were belly dancers and finally dances from the Caucasus region which was a big surprise for me since the dances were identical to the traditional Ukrainian dances I was familiar with. I guess there has been a lot of cultural sharing throughout the region in the past. It was a good way to finish off the tour.