4/6/90

I got up at 4:00am and in the cold darkness just before dawn, walked up the ridge behind the pension to watch the sunrise. It was an overcast morning and a few spots of misty rain were falling as I stood on the ridgetop with the sounds of awakening birds and animals echoing up from the valley. At 4:20 the mournful sound of the Muzzins1 began to ring out from the mosques of Göreme and in the clear, still air even the calls from the nearby town of Urgip, 9km away, were audible.

The sunrise never happened so I went back down to the pension and went back to bed for 2½ hours.We had breakfast on the terrace of the pension then headed off down the hill to the village and from there we walked 1km out of town past small fields of grain and vegetables in amongst clusters of strangely shaped pinnacles to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This small, abandoned village contains the greatest concentration of cave dwellings in Cappadocia. The churches, convents , houses and monasteries are all hewn out of the soft volcanic rock called tufa (or tuff) which was spewed from the huge volcanic peak of Erciyes Daği, which lies about 100 kilometres from Göreme, around 150 million years ago.

Frescoes and columns, Byzantine Monastery, Goreme.

The dwellings are the legacy of Cappadocian Christianity from the Byzantine Empire and were built by monks between the 4th and 10th centuries. The monks inhabited the village until the formation of modern Turkey in the 1920s. The churches are decorated with frescoes, many of them in remarkably good condition. 

Byzantine Refectory where the monks chowed down, Goreme.

We spent 2 hours exploring the area then clambered down into the valley below the museum and walked out to the road through a quiet and peaceful orchard. We crossed the road and walked up into the head of a tiny valley where many cave dwellings were visible in the surrounding pinnacles amongst neatly tilled fields. There were no tourists here and we sat at the top of a small hill watching a half a dozen men, women and children working at their farm plots. Mark and Kath joined us and a short while later another American, a girl called Kelly came and sat with us too.

The 5 of us walked down past the farmers and the children gave us some fruit to eat. It wasn’t ripe but we pretended to eat and enjoy it. We wandered down the valley towards a strangely-eroded cliff then tried to follow a gully leading up into a maze of gullies. Eventually, we were stopped by a sheer cliff so we turned back and returned to Göreme. 

Playing Turkish Music, Goreme. L-R: Kath, Mark, Ferg.

In the evening, we had a meal at the pension followed by some plinky-plink Turkish music. Kelly came up for a beer with us then Linda and I walked her back to her pension, stopping for a glass of çay on the way.  
 
1 Muzzins call the faithful to prayer five times per day in the Muslim world.

Your intrepid travellers in Cappadocia.

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It was nearly 10:00 before we woke up so we hurriedly showered then packed and checked out. The hotel bill came to 70,000TL (a mere £15) and we caught a dolmüs out to the bus station and bought tickets to Goremё for 8,000TL each: student price!

We bought a drink each and sat on the steps outside the terminal talking to other travellers while we filled in the 2½ hours until the bus left at 2:30. The 3 hour trip top Göreme was across wide rolling plains etched with the patterns and colours of intense agriculture. From rolling, fertile hill country we crested a ridge and before us was spread out the most amazing landscape we had ever seen. The valley was a maze of twisted rock formations, eroded gullies and towering pinnacles: hundreds of thousands of them stretching as far as we could see. On the opposite side of the valley the hillsides were a multitude of eroded cliffs and canyons coloured pink and red in the late afternoon sun.

The Goreme Valley, Cappadocia.

The bus dropped us off on the side of the road in Göreme and we walked up the hill to a pension called Kele’s Cave. On the way we met the 4 Aussies from Denizli and we had a bit of a chat with them then carried on up the hill and checked in to the pension. Both Linda and I, and Mark and Kath1, got rooms hollowed out of the rock and the view out over Göreme was spectacular. After we had settled in, we walked down to the centre of town and had a feast of exquisite Turkish food for less than £2-50 each, then went back to the pension and sat in the bar, also hollowed out of solid rock, talking, playing some Turkish musical instruments and listening to Chris de Burgh and Tracy Chapman on the stereo.

1Two Canadians we had met on the bus.

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DENİZLİ TO KONYA We got up at 8:30 and sat out on the patio for an hour or so drinking tea and talking. Sulieman took Linda and I along with 2 Germans into town to look around and to change money.

At the bank we changed £50 for 282,000TL and sat and drank çay1 while we talked to an old man and woman from out in the country. Sulieman had to show the Germans some jewellery shops so Linda and I spent an hour or so looking at leather jackets then bought a kebab each and waited for them outside the Post Office.

Once we were back at the pension we collected our gear then sat on the floor of the office playing backgammon. Sulieman and his family invited us in for a meal, eaten on the floor from communal bowls of yoghurt, tomatoes, bread, fried potatoes, eggplant and peppers. After we had eaten we settled our account on my Visa and Sulieman asked us to come back and work for him for a month, if not this year then next! We said we might. He ran us down to the bus station and we fished him 3 Canadian tourists. In return, he got 5,000TL knocked off each of our fares to Konya and we said goodbye.

The bus was a large and comfortable Mercedes and once we left Denizli we headed out past Pamukkale and up a long, wide valley. The bus made its first meal stop after only 20 minutes at a roadhouse and as it was cold and beginning to rain I grabbed some warmer clothes and our shoes out of the packs.

As the bus travelled further inland we passed through areas of intense-farmed land, the crops healthy and well irrigated by networks of elevated concrete channels. The patterns and colours were of greens and browns, and the lush orderliness of the crops was a stark contrast with the brown rocks of the scrubby and rugged hills on the sides of the valleys. At one point we passed a salt lake called Acigöl Golu, then later on in the afternoon, after passing through a series of torrential downpours, we crossed over a pass and emerged above the beautiful Egidir Golu. The storm clouds were breaking up and letting patches of late afternoon light through to illuminate the pale blue waters of the lake while all around, the broken shapes of the mountains were cast into deep blue shadow with the black storm clouds obscuring their tops and in places rolling down to the lower slopes. 

On the right hand side of the road a huge and broken cliff face towered over a heavily-guarded army base and the small village of Egirdir which was built on a tiny peninsula jutting out at the base of the cliffs. As we drove up the eastern side of the lake, the lightshow playing on the water from the sun and clouds was both spectacular and beautiful and the mist-shrouded bulk of the mountain range beyond formed a gloomy and foreboding backdrop.

We left the lake after about ½ an hour and headed north-east up a long valley, gradually turning to the south-east as we crested a rise and began descending another valley through the village of Sakikaraazac and along the easter shore of Beysehir Golu. On the far side of the lake rose the snow-capped summit of the 3,000 metre Mt. Yeneser, just visible in the gathering dusk.

Soon after nightfall we stopped at a roadhouse for tea then Linda and I both slept for the last 1 ½ hours of the journey.

Konya is a large city, its origins rooted deep in the long history of Turkey and our first glimpse of it was as a sprawling mass of lights as we crested a pass above the city.

Once we had left the bus we were surprised not to be mobbed by touts with offers of rooms so we asked at a desk in the bus station where we could find hotels then caught a Dolmus into Mevlana: the city centre. We checked into a hotel called the Otel Mevlana along with an English couple who had been on the same dolmüs2 and shortly after that we crashed out exhausted. 

1The Turkish word for tea is written as çay but is pronounced “chai” just as in other languages. As well as the usual black tea, sweetened with sugar but not containing milk, Turkish çay is often made from apples. The taste of elma çayi (Apple Tea) is one of those redolent memory-generators that has stayed with me to this day, reminding me of sunny Turkish cafes, old men smoking hubbles, and busy streets where boys run to and fro with silver trays laden with small glasses of fragrant çay.

2A dolmüs is a shared taxi, usually a van of some kind. The name derives from “dolma” , the traditional Turkish stuffed vine leaves. A dolmüs is always stuffed with passengers! 

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KUSADASI TO DENIZLI The alarm went again at 6:30 and we showered then packed up our gear and departed. I managed to haggle the room rated down to 40,000TL with the bleary-eyed clerk and he hailed us a taxi. It cost 5,600TL to get out to the bus station and we paid 13,000TL each (£3) for our tickets to Denizli, the nearest town to Pamukkale. 

The bus, which left at 8:15am, was large and comfy and after we had got going a man came around with scented water for everyone to freshen up with. As soon as we left the coast the landscape changed to rugged, scrubby hills deeply scarred by gullies and cliffs. Much of the lower slopes were cultivated with crops of wheat and barley while further up, rows of olive trees followed the contours.

Once we had crossed The first range of hills we descended into a fertile and intensively farmed valley. Some of the paddocks were being tilled by large groups of people which probably indicated co-op farms. Some of the land was irrigated by elevated concrete channels but most of them were dry.  As we moved further inland the strip of fertile land on the valley floors grew narrower and by the time we reached Denizli at around 11:45am, the country was dry and windswept although we had still passed through large acreages of crops.

As soon as we got off the bus we were besieged with offers of trips to Pamukkale¹ several given in appalling Aussie accents!²  We ignored them all and walked out of the bus terminal but one guy persisted and gave us some good reasons not to stay in Pamukkale but to stay in Denizli instead. So we agreed on a price of 20,000TL and I checked at the tourist office where I was told that camping at Pamukkale would cost 15 to 20,000 as well.

Pension Denizli³ was in a quiet little backstreet right next to a mosque. The owner, Suleyman, was determined to get across to us that we shouldn’t worry about being ripped off in Turkey and went out of his way to make us welcome. After we had settled into our room we decided to walk into town for a look at the Bazaar. It was a 20-minute walk into town and we spent an hour or so going to a few banks trying to get money on my Visa card to buy a leather jacket at some stage. The only bank that would do it couldn’t get through to Istanbul to check so no luck there.

The bazaar was quite big but not very interesting so we trudged back to the pension, stopping on the way to the ripped off over some food and drink and tea but it was only £1 involved so no worries.

In the evening after tea, we sat and talked with a group of Australians who were also staying in the Pension.

¹The white mineral terraces of Pamukkale were the reason that we had come to Denizli. Our plan was to camp at Pamukkale but that turned out to not be an option.

²A common ruse employed by salesmen all over Turkey was to adopt the accent of the country that they assumed you came from based on hearing you speak. Most of them knew the name of at least one city in various countries and would claim to have friends/relatives in “Melabourne”, ”Auckaland”, ”Seedanee” or wherever.

³The word “pension” is pronounced “pen-see-onee” and refers to a small accommodation house.

29/5/90

The alarm went off at 6:00am but we decided to stay for another day to let Linda recover from the stomach bug rather than travel to Pamukkale which was our original plan. So we just dozed the morning and most of the afternoon away. About 3pm I went out for a walk up the hill and around some of the narrow streets where the locals live. I had a wander through the bazaar and ate a kebab sitting on a wall outside a mosque.

Back at the hotel, I had a shower and we talked for a while then I went out to a little sidewalk café full of locals and sat drinking apple tea while writing up this story. By the time I had drunk 2 glasses of tea, it was after 9:00 and sunset was well underway so I walked down to the harbour and sat on the rocks amongst the locals who were there fishing. Out on the nearby wharf a ferry was setting sail for Rhodes, accompanied by a pilot boat. As the sun dipped into the haze I walked back to the hotel.

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TÜRKIYE I woke up at 6:00 as the ferry docked at Samos Island, the closest Greek island to Turkey. Outside, the sun was blazing down and the architecture of the buildings nestled in the pine-clad hills had changed from the rounded, white-washed Greek style to sturdier, larger structures with red-tiled roofs.

An unexpected bonus onboard was free hot showers which we availed ourselves to while the ferry made the last 1½ hour journey to Kusadasi.  Once we had docked we had a 2-hour wait aboard the ferry to have our passports stamped then we disembarked and after spending some time in an information office we set off to find a hotel. We changed £20 at a rate of 4,372.59 TURKISH LIRA which gave us 87,000TL then after about 20 minutes of looking we found a cheap hotel for 25,000TL (about  £5).

After we had settled in we went out and had some lunch then wandered around the town which is an obvious tourist trap. We went into a leather shop and had a cup of apple tea with the salesmen while they tried their hardest to sell me a leather jacket then talked for a while with a carpet salesman. We ended up sitting out on the breakwater and it was such a hot day we decided to go to the beach. We walked back to the hotel and got our swimming gear and caught a Dolmus (shared taxi) out to “Ladies Beach” for a fare of 750TL or about 50p.

The beach was crammed with German tourists looking like beached whales washed up by the murky water. We found a spot on the sand and took turns swimming in the choppy water which was full of sand and weed but was beautifully warm. We spent an hour and a half there then caught a Dolmus back into town. We changed another £80 for 349,000TL then went back to the hotel for a shower. After relaxing for an hour or so we went across the road for a slap-up meal which cost us 50,000TL, about £12.

Later that night though, Linda came down with a bad attack of the shits and spewing so perhaps something in that meal wasn’t so good after all!  

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GREECE TO TURKEY We spent about two hours after we got up repacking our gear and breaking camp then walked up to Marpissa where we sat in the howling wind for an hour while we waited for the bus.

Once we had made the trip over the hill to Parikia we dropped our packs off at a left luggage place then took our passports around to the ferry office and left them there¹. With the whole day to fill in, we went from bar to bar and from shady spot to shady spot. Several ferries came and went, depositing loads of fresh-faced tourists and taking away loads of frazzled ones.

We had tea at a beach-side restaurant and watched our last Greek sunset fade into the Aegean to be replaced by a shimmering first quarter moon. As darkness fell we collected our packs and walked down to the ferry terminal and sat on the dock waiting for our departure time to roll around.

The ferry Ariadne arrived at eleven o’clock and we boarded along with quite a crowd of others, mainly Aussies, a group of them very pissed and making complete fools of themselves. We went straight to the “O” Class lounge and stretched out on the floor to get some sleep. 

¹The passports needed to be held by Immigration until we went to board our ferry to Turkey.

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Part of a letter we wrote home from the ferry to Turkey. The line about the company “going under”  referred to the failed New Zealand company Ariadne, chaired by a smirking wide-boy called Bruce Judge. Having been one of the overvalued companies leading the mid-8os share boom, it had crashed spectacularly in 1987, taking with it the life’s savings of many people.