Turkey – Day 5 – Ankara to Goreme (Cappadocia)

Davut at Tur-ista had made reservations for us on Nevsihir Bus Lines under the name ‘Jennifer’ for the 11:00 to Goreme. We had to be at the train station by ten to pick up our tickets and pay, so we enjoyed a relatively late lie-in and were down at breakfast by just after eight. Breakfast was already laid out on plates; you picked your plate and your drink from one of the dispensers and had your breakfast.

Steve and I agreed that this was the most disappointing breakfast yet in Turkey – the items on the plate were quite stale and the things that might have been meant to be hot were most definitely NOT. We hypothesised that Seker Bayrami starting tonight might be the reason there were cookies of various kinds on the plate (a little slice of cake seemed fairly usual), and perhaps the breakfasts had been laid out before dawn (when religious persons would have eaten) which would explain the coldness and some of the staleness… but those cookies were like rocks. The only non-tea drink available was a fairly nasty Tang-like substance. It’s actually too bad, because I would otherwise unconditionally recommend the Otel Ogelturk.

The staff at the hotel were particularly helpful: when we asked which minibus to catch to the otogar (bus station), one of the porters actually walked us all the way around the block to the stop, waited with us for the bus and then instructed the bus driver where we were to be let off. I guess he must have been adamant, since when we got to the otogar, a couple of young men who had arrived at the same time as us told us with no small urgency that we were to disembark.

Once at the ‘asti’ (terminal), we went through the metal detectors and found the desk for the bus line – number 51 of some 90 bus desks! Tickets were cheap: some 18L each for a 4.5 hour bus ride! Greyhound could learn from Turkish bus lines. We kicked around the bus station drinking tea in a little cafeteria with a very grumpy waiter (I think he was mad that everyone only wanted tea).

When we got on the bus, we were pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness and comfyness of the seats. Apparently Mercedes has a factory in Turkey especially for the purpose of making excellent Turkish buses – again, Greyhound needs a lesson!

We rolled through Anatolian countryside, admiring the golden, rolling hills for about oh, fifteen minutes? before the porter came around with water. And tea. And Coke. And moist towelettes. And chocolates. And cake. And water again. And juice. After an hour, we stopped at a little roadside market for lunch. The Australian woman in front of me in line ordered a ‘borek’, a little cheese-filled pastry. She was charged 2.50L for her pastry. I ordered two borek, two water and two tea please (iki borek, iki su ve iki chai, lutfen) in my rather crappy Turkish. I was expecting to be charged at least seven or eight lira for this, but I was only charged five! I guess it pays to make an effort with the language.

The only problem with the bus tour is that after filling us up with lunch and all sorts of liquid, the bus didn’t stop again for a bathroom break for some three hours! Ack!

Unlike Greyhounds, there is no on-board washroom. Ah well, I guess there is no such thing as perfection.

To distract ourselves, we learned to count all the way up to five, and a few more important words (like ‘seftali’ for peach juice, instead of being limited to visne – cherry).

Once we arrived at the Nevsihir otogar, we weren’t sure if we’d be transferred to a little bus to take us the rest of the way into Goreme. I took the opportunity to dash for a tuvalet – five minutes! said the driver. That wouldn’t have been a problem except some bright mind turned out the light in the lady’s room (bayan salonu or bayanlar) while I was in there. Groping in the dark in a bathroom with a hole is not the best thing ever.

When I returned to the bus, everyone was waiting for me. Oh, well, it’s their own fault for not stopping earlier! Apparently the big bus was going to take us all the way into Goreme.

Goreme was only fifteen or so kilometres outside of Nevsihir, and even though we knew we were headed to a land of fairy chimneys and hoodoos, there were no signs of that magical landscape for the first 10 or so kilometres. Out of nowhere, in Uchisar, there appeared the ‘Uchisar Castle’, a honeycombed monolith of rock, accompanied, naturally, by a string of roadside souvenier stands and the requisite camel with a ladder standing beside it.

A few minutes later, we were plunging down the steep road into Goreme Village, which is a scene of wonder after wonder: fairy chimneys and houses cut into the rock and everywhere the signs of village life. The village of Goreme is located at the mouth of the Pigeon Valley, which looks as if someone stretched apart the land to create a fissure, in which are the houses and hoodoos and a tiny little creek that was left behind after the tearing.

The bus dropped us off at the otogar, where there were a few bus terminals, a little café, a bank machine and a tourist information booth. A man approached us asking if we had a hotel, and we replied we did. When presented with the name of the hotel, he went to the information booth, spoke in rapid Turkish to the man behind the desk and we were informed that the man was calling our hotel to have them pick us up. Awww! The helpfulness of Turkish people is a wonderful thing.

It seemed like seconds later that our host, Andor from the Panorama Cave Pension, pulled up in a little white car (there are lots of white cars in Turkey). He drove us rapidly up a narrow sidestreet on the eastern wall of the valley, turned a sharp right, and there we were at our new home.

Even though we had expressly asked Davut to NOT get us a cave room (being concerned about the state of my lungs since the wedding bronchitis debacle), we were in the last available room which was not only a cave, but one that sat some two feet below the level of the terrace. It was beautifully appointed with kilims, ceiling-tassel-decorations and its own little rock-couch covered in cushions, but it was still underground. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a choice on that night, but we resolved to get moved for the following night.

I need to reiterate here that there was nothing wrong with the room for a normal person: in fact, it was lovely and comfy. The problem is that the air didn’t feel entirely dry (though only one corner smelt even a tiny bit of must) and I just knew my lungs would object. We felt a bit silly being the only people in Cappadocia who didn’t want a cave room!

The terrace itself at the Panorama Cave Pansyion (also known as Yellow Roses, somehow, inexplicably) was absolutely amazing. They don’t call it the Panorama for nothing! The terrace itself was a beautiful mosaic of marble tiles and pieces, all in soft golds and creams. The low wall marked the edge of a little cliff that gave way onto houses below, and, looking out, showed a scene of the whole of Goreme town nestled in the entrance of the valley. As we were right below the cliff edge on our side, we looked right out over the cliffs on the far side of the town.

I immediately set up camp under the grape arbour (tiny little seedy sweet grapes) to play on the computer and get caught up.

We met a few other guests that night: Kevin, a very nice Australian man (from Byron Bay, which was Steve’s least favourite place in Oz); Al and Rene, two Canadians from Edmonton off on a tour of the Mediterranean, Cappadocia and Africa; Lisa, a Canadian from Barrie who was desperate for a balloon ride; and two couples, one from Thailand and one from Korea who we didn’t get to talk to much. We also met Andor’s wife, a Japanese woman named Magumi who met Andor at a hotel – they were married three months ago (ah, young love!). The other owner of the pension was a recaltricant Russian man, who seemed to not do a lot during the day, and his wife, who worked tirelessly but whose name we never learned. Their kids, a teenage girl and a younger boy were very cute.

Other than the terrace, there was also a common area/room which was a wooden structure built to one side of the terrace. This had couches, chairs and the family’s television.

Steve and I lingered over sunset on the terrace, and decided after dark to run down to the village for dinner. This sounds more difficult that it was, since it was only about a five-minute walk.

Consulting the Bible (Lonely Planet), we decided to have dinner at Alaturca, which came recommended. We did not, unfortunately, make reservations, and it was the first day of the Seker Beyrami holiday… but the kind (and busy) waiters found us a tiny table in a corner of the restaurant . We had the Turkish ravioli (in yoghurt sauce) and a lamb stew of some sort – both were delicious. The bread was free and frequent, and Steve also enjoyed a very good baklava.

On the way back up to the guesthouse, we – ok, I – stopped in a little shop where there appeared to be a number of plain cotton shirts without sequins. Jackpot! I was able to find a black cotton longsleeves shirt with nary a sequin to be seen. Yay!

Were I to come to Turkey again, I would be sure to bring a few more lightweight long-sleeved shirts as the plain (slightly low cut) tshirts I had made me feel a little uncomfy. I would also be sure to bring closed-toe shoes, as almost no Turkish people I saw were wearing sandals. Now, that may well be because it is October for them, and the time for wearing sandals is past, but…

We staggered back up to the hill, replete with purchases and good food, and fell into our very comfortable bed by nine pm. Another delightful day in Turkey!

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