Monday, 28 March 2011

Cappadocia, Turkey

Tuesday 22 March to Saturday 26 March 2011
After a very enjoyable dinner party for eight onboard Awatea the night before, it was an early start to our five day tour to Konya and Cappadocia.  Firstly a quick trip down the K pontoon to dispose of the large bag of empty bottles (very social crowd at dinner), and then it was off to the bus pick-up.  We were joined by fellow diners Bobby, Giovanni and their son Matthew (Canadian), and Jane & Russell (Kiwi & Brit) now living in Canada – our neighbours here in Marmaris Marina, and then met our other six fellow travellers from Yat Marine on the bus.

We were heading to the religious city of Konya for the night, and en route stoped at Mugla for breakfast and then on to Isparta for lunch, and then travelled through “The Lake District” with a quick stop at a small restaurant on the side of the lake to pick  flowers (toilet stop as it was referred to by our guide) and partake of some Turkish tea.  The terrain was quite mountainous and there was still a lot of snow around.

We arrived at our hotel in Konya around 7.30pm that evening and dinner was provided by the hotel, which was just fine as we were all quite tired.  In the morning we visited the Mevlana Museum – the former lodge of the Whirling Dervishes known for their spinning dance dressed in long white flowing skirts.  Next door was a beautiful Ottoman Mosque with an amazing collection of old Korans, some smaller than the size of a match box.  Of course there were all other sizes dating back to the 6th century, and all beautifully scripted and decorated.

We then travelled across the vast plains of inland Turkey for several hours, and the countryside was virtually treeless and extremely flat.  The land was heavily farmed however there were no fences to be seen, and the odd flock of sheep were under the watchful eye of the shepherd and his dog.  The only workers in the fields appeared to be groups of women, and everything done by hand – almost quite medieval. 

Our first experience in Cappadocia was to visit the Uchisar Castle.  This was atop a large hill and access was through the interior of the hill which had been carved out.  

Talk about cold – we even had snow flakes falling around us.  The view from the top across the valley was very impressive, and gave us our first sight of the cave dwellings which we soon learned were prevalent throughout the area, with communities of thousands living in some locations.

Our accommodation for the next three nights was in the Star Cave Hotel in Goreme.  It was something quite different and our room had literally been carved out of the rock.  

Fortunately there was good heating as it was bitterly cold, but in the morning found this did not apply to the hot water in the shower – last thing you need is a cold shower!  After a few G&T’s and wine with some of our fellow travellers we headed to a local Pide Restaurant – sort of a Turkish version of a pizza, but not too bad. 

The area is renown for hot air ballooning around Cappadocia at dawn, and a few of our group were up early in the morning to experience it, and said it was truely amazing.  From the hotel you could see dozens of balloons drifting across, and hear their burners firing up – quite surreal.  After a wonderful breakfast we set off and went to see the Pasabagi Fairy Chimneys (look like large phalluses) – really amazing!

We then stopped at the Goreme Open Air Museum which has the region’s best collection of painted cave-churches.  Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic stone and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes.  

Lunch was at this incredible cave restaurant which had been carved out of a hillside.  You walked along a long passage into the most amazing domed area surrounded by alcoves, and the whole complex was beautifully finished.  We had the best kebab cooked in a pottery jug and served with rice. During lunch we were entertaining by someone playing a traditional Egyptian harp.

After lunch it was another open air museum at Zelve – Cappadocia’s oldest residential area with hundreds of cave dwellings and several monasteries and churches all decorated with frescoes.  

After a few more stops and more of those ‘phallusus’ – these with huge mushroom tops, we went back to our cave for a much earned rest before dinner.  Dinner was a Turkish night – typical Turkish food starting with a large selection of mezes, then meat kebabs etc., and unlimited drinks which went down well with our fellow yachties.  The evening’s entertainment commenced with a short performance by a group of Whirling Dervishes, and then several folk dances by the girls and some quite aggressive dances by the boys.  

The highlight was a belly dancer who put on a very enjoyable show, and thankfully picked on one of the other members of our group to dance with her.  

Somewhere along the way we managed to score a bottle of raki (Turkish anise flavoured spirit) which proved a very good nightcap on the return to our hotel.

Our last day in Cappadocia started with a trip to the underground city at Derinkuyu, and what an experience.  This underground city is the deepest of Cappadocia and extends 12 levels into the earth. Levels are connected by tunnels and steep staircases winding up to pass through a maze of rooms, kitchen, stables, shops, churches, cemeteries and storage, large enough to hold month long supply of grain.  Large stone disks could be rolled into place to block the passages in the case of an attack. You sure would not want to be claustrophobic, as some of the tunnels were just wide and low enough to virtually crawl through, almost on hands and knees.  They believe these underground cities date back more than 3000 years. 

We then headed up to the Soganli Valley for (you guessed it) more Fairy Chimneys and Cave Churches.  Some of the paths and steps were certainly not for the faint hearted, but worth the effort.  

From the end of the valley for around 30mins we walked along a small trail half way up the hillside to see some more rock churches – literally off the beaten track and very interesting, and ended up at a small restaurant for lunch.  The food was excellent and everything home made, including the butter, cheese, pickles etc.  During our drive back we stopped to view the Valley of Imagination, where some of the sandstone formations resembled animals and the like – you did have to have a good imagination most of the time.  Dinner was at a small local restaurant and being Muslim did not serve alcohol, but Borhan our guide managed to get them to smuggle in some of the local Efes beer and serve it in Coca Cola glasses – all good fun.

On Saturday we had an early breakfast in preparation for our 13 hour journey back to Marmaris.  Apart from the changing landscape, travelling through mountains, plains and forests as we neared the coast, not much else to report.

All in all a most worthwhile and enjoyable trip, and highly recommended as a ‘must see’ destination.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Fish Market, Fethiye, Turkey

The journey to fish market that was postponed by the downpour last Friday finally comes true! I started the day earlier to prepare myself for the set off at 7:30am. The weather was great!
There were so many things in the journey, and it begins with a huge Turkish Village breakfast, the food was sumptuous and well prepared compared to the one we had in town (opposite West Marine). All the food was grown on the small farm, or produced there. Organic, jams, cheeses, breads, etc. It was indeed a magnificent brunch with just so much food.

Our next visit was the Kayakoy, the eeriest ghost town in Turkey, few times in my life have I so physically felt the collective void of a people vanished, the expectant silence that hangs over the empty houses of a missing population, walking through the largest and best preserved ghost town in all of Asia minor was indeed hard to express through the word. The "ghost town" was abandoned by the Greeks in 1920's. The Greeks were actually sent back to Greece, even though they have been living there for over 400 years! This was the time of the Greek/Turkey war. Greece also sent back thousands of Turks who had live for centuries in Greece. Sad thing was that neither country wanted these people back, as really they have live in Greece/Turkey all there lives. All done for the sake of religion I guess. In the village there was 2 churches, and 14 chapels. About 4000 people live in the village. Lot of amazing photos were taken. 

The weather in Turkey is getting warmer compares to my first visit here in January, however you can still see the snow on the mountains. Then onto view an island with so many ruins. We didn't go to the island, but it will be on the list of voyages for AWATEA. It's a huge monastery about 1200 years old.
We also visited the Roman Tombs built into the cliffs of Fethiye town. I climb up and walked into one. Amazing as they are over 2000 years old.

And the last also the most important – The Fish Market in Fethiye. The first market is not just somewhere you go for an alternative eating experience in Fethiye.  You buy the fish from the market, then select your restaurant and they will cook it for you, and what ever way you want it done. Great. We arrived back in the marina at 10.30 pm!