Friday, August 21, 2015

Cappadocia: Day One

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After two great days in Istanbul, we shared a taxi with Jason early in the morning (we heard the morning call to prayer which is sung at sunrise) to the airport.  I wish I could say the early mornings get easier, but they don't.  I promise.  Jason boarded a plane to Bulgaria, while we hopped on a plane to Cappadocia.  Again, it was only an hour plane ride and we shortly landed in a very small airport in the middle of nowhere (actually, Nevsihir, but really, nowhere).

We took the airport shuttle to our hotel and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. The Blue Moon Cave Hotel is located right in the heart of Goreme, the little town of Cappadocia. It was walking distance to all of the bars, restaurants and a short distance to lots of hiking.  The man at the front desk excitedly greeted us and little did we know, he would be this anxious to help us every time he saw us over the next few days.  He showed us to our room and we reassured him that if we needed anything, he'd be the first person we'd ask.

Since it was only nine o'clock and we had an exhausting few days, we  chose to nap.  Maybe some people would have jumped on this opportunity to get an early start to the day, but not us Hogans.  We're nappers and proud of it. And let me tell you, it was worth it.  We woke up around greeted the day around 11:00 feeling ready to conquer the world. Or at least Cappadocia. 

We grabbed a quick meal of Gozleme, which is the Turkish equivalent of a crepe before heading out to the Open Air Museum.  A little bit of Turkish history to explain the attractions of Cappadocia.  Long, long ago, the people of Cappadocia realized that the stone in their caves was soft enough to carve into.  They began making Greek Orthodox churches in caves and there is estimated to be 400-600 cave churches in the area.

 When reading up on Cappadocia, the Open Air Museum was the number one recommended attraction and everyone said it was not to miss. There is a path that takes you around the caves, but you can climb into a lot of them and see the paintings that were done, some dating back to the 11th century.  We weren't able to take pictures of a lot of them, but I'm telling you, it was cool. 

Take a seat at my table....

We ran into some friends on our way back 

After the Open Air Museum, we wanted to do some hiking, so we headed to Goreme National Park. This was not an easy hike and I was definitely glad that I had chosen to wear my tennis shoes and not my sneakers.  Part of the reason it was so hard was because it was so dry and dusty.

Right around the halfway point on our hike, we started to hear thunder.  I love how convenient that was.  Too far to turn around, but equally as far to the end. Convenient, really.   The thunder was far away and we didn't see any lightening, so we pushed on, running into other people who were coming from the opposite direction as us and in the same predicament.

About 30 minutes after we heard our first claps of thunder, we reached a cafe located near the top of a mountain.  By cafe, I mean little hut with a table and benches covered by some tarp.  The man asked if we wanted anything to drink and I accepted the offer of some pomegranate juice.  He whipped out his juicer and one of the pomegranates and juiced it right there in front of me.  Being the spoiled juice drinker that I am, I struggled through the pulpiness and luke warm temperate (personally, I like my juice to be chilled).  That being said, it was so fresh and sweet that store bought juice couldn't compare.  As I was drinking up my last sips of juice, the rain arrived.  And, boy, did it come! It poured for about five minutes, which was calming to watch from under our tarp.  As we were waiting out the storm, two women ran up from the trail.  We found out that they were from outside of DC and travelling through Turkey for a couple of weeks. I always get excited to meet people from the United States, especially on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Turkey.

After five minutes of downpour, the rain let up and basically stopped, so we ventured out.  It was actually better to hike after the rain because the rain got rid of a lot of dust and it was much easier to go downhill.

When we finished, we were both a little tired, but it was nothing that an adult in moderate shape couldn't do.  It didn't require a ton of climbing (although some) and there weren't any steep drop offs for those with a fear of heights (like myself).  Since it had been so hot and dry, we drank a ton of water.  It was a lot of fun, though, and a great way to see the city of Goreme and the surrounding area.

Once we got back to the hotel, we showered and relaxed for a bit before heading out for dinner.   Always eager to offer a suggestion, the front desk man recommended Sirahne, which turned out to be delicious and had a great view of the city. 

The big dish in Cappadocia (and Turkey really, but not quite as much) is the clay pot dishes.  They put vegetables and meat in the clay pot and then cook it in an oven.  When it is time to serve the dish, they crack open the pot and let the food spill out.  When I say it's delicious, I mean don't-take-a-breath-while-you-inhale-the-food delicious. Along with the side of rice, hummus and pita that comes with the 

We finished off the meal with Turkish tea and headed out to the Red, Red Wine Bar, which was highly recommended but nothing but mediocre.  After a drink, we made our way back to the hotel, but not before running into this at the restaurant next to our hotel.

Roasted lamb, anyone?

As we were walking home, the owner of the restaurant asked if we were from Russia.  When we asked why, he said that Mike dressed like a Russian.  Do Russians wear jeans and polos?  I don't know.

We were very glad to have an early night in bed, but knew that we would be greeted with an early alarm for our next adventure, hot air ballooning!