Ok, for some reason I have been putting this blog off forever. Spring has sprung here in Michigan and I am trying to stay as active as possible, or at least that is the excuse I am going with. I decided on a whim to travel to Turkey in March. The flight was cheap and looked interesting as I could knock both Europe and Asia off the list at the same time. Turkey is the only country I know of that actually sits in two continents. That is a random bit of information, which will be running rampant in this blog.
The title of this blog is from a song by They Might be Giants called Istanbul. Here is the video. It constantly ran through my head as I walked the streets of the historic city. I will sprinkle the history of Turkey throughout but let’s start with the most important things.
- The “symbol” seen here is a gay reference. When I learned this I thought at first they meant the thumbs up, and I had been using that all the time. I was relieved when demonstrated as I don’t think anyone uses the symbol anymore in the US and if they did, they also would probably be considered gay.
2. If you point the soles of your shoes at someone it is considered an insult. So in the picture below, the person off camera to the left is really getting a mouthful from me right now.
Now that we got that covered we can move on. Here is the Itinerary I planned out for this whirlwind adventure.
It was an intense first day. I planned on catching a bus to Chicago at 7am, then taking the Metro out to Midway where I would try to catch a flight the Atlanta, then on to Amsterdam and finally Istanbul. At the airport at Istanbul I would take the subway to the bus station and take a 16 hr bus ride to my first stop. This meant that I left Ann Arbor at 7am Wednesday and would not get to destination until Friday afternoon.
I started out with a poor decision by staying out till 630am the night before drinking with friends. On the way to Chicago the bus felt like it was slinking along like a snake and I came close to puking multiple times. I was unable to keep my eyes closed. To make matters worse the person a few rows up would not shut up
At the predetermined rest stop I said something out loud about how I wanted to eliminate him and everyone around me echoed the same sentiments. I laughed because we were all stewing inside just waiting for a chance to commiserate. I said I was concerned about telling the guy something because I did not want to make everyone uncomfortable. They assured me that we were all on the same team and the abuse came to an end when we started up again. I will also mention that we got hit with a huge snowstorm that morning and I was not sure if we would make it. It is always a gamble when choosing between the train and bus. They each break down about 50% of time. We made it to Chicago, but 45 minutes late, meaning I had to rush to get on the subway out to Midway, barely making my flight. Why did I not fly out of Detroit you ask? Because it was $200 cheaper. I knew from experience that I would probably end up regretting that decision, but that is a story for the end of the trip to keep you reading.
A quick stop in Atlanta and we were off to Amsterdam. I ran into a girl from Michigan behind me on flight to Amsterdam and we switched seats so we could chat about nursing, play hangman and struggle through the 8 hr flight together because the movie (Battleship) was killin’ me. I was happy to find out that beer was complimentary on International flights. So I made sure that everyone in my row was requesting a beer at least once an hour. They were not drinking but I assured them that I would relieve them of that burden. By the time we hit Amsterdam I was feelin’ pretty good. I had no idea what day or time it was. I only had 30 minutes layover here to catch flight. This was a point of debate with me. I was hoping my flight would get into Amsterdam late so that I would miss flight to Istanbul and be forced to spend night in Amsterdam. Even if flight was on time I could take my time getting to other gate and then as gate closed I would run up to counter and beg them to let me on. They would say no and I would have same result. The tricky part is that if you did miss your flight due to your fault they simply don’t put you on standby on next flight; they make you buy a whole new ticket. They are wise to my game. It turns out my flight to Istanbul was delayed so I had no outs.
I landed in Istanbul and made my way to the subway that reached the main Otogar, or bus station. Let the fun begin.
For some reason I could not stop talking in broken Spanish. When I have been in a foreign country it is usually Spanish speaking so that is my fallback. So now I look really bad as I am speaking broken Spanish in a country that speaks limited English. The whole trip, I was never able to correct this. People attack you in Istanbul if you are a tourist. Even though I look like a homeless man it did not deter them. At the bus station, I learned the hard way that they just want to get your money and get you on a bus, the fact that the bus they put you on is not your destination is inconsequential.
I told some kid I needed Goreme, a town in the middle of Turkey in a region called Cappadocia. He led me over to a bus company and they sold me a ticket. I headed for the bus and on my way bought some Lamb roll up
When I got on the bus the driver looked at my ticket and motioned that he was not going to that town. He led me back to the salesman and they argued for a few minutes and then the pissed off driver led me back to the bus. At this point I knew I was screwed, but I was too tired to care. We left Istanbul and drove into the night. We stopped every 4 hours at these bus stops where people use the bathroom and buy snacks. As with all the countries I visit you had to pay 1 Lira to use the Water Closet here. Not sure what that says about my travel choices.
The aisles were lined with boxes of Turkish Delight. Small candies of all sorts and fashions that I regret to say I never sampled. I came back to the parking lot and all the busses looked the same. I panicked a bit as my luggage was on one of these buses. After about 3 tries I found my bus and settled back in. It is a bit cramped in these buses, especially with a less than hygienic Turk riding next to me. For a country famous for Turkish Baths it does not seem that anyone takes them.
I awoke to us arriving in the town of Kayseri. I stayed on the bus as everyone got off. Then the driver told me to get off as it was the last stop. I showed him my ticket to Gerome, but that did not seem to be his problem. It was like catching a bus from Detroit to Chicago and ending up in Cincinnati and having them say, “Oh, sorry about that” or more accurately, “Get off the bus!”
I climbed off the bus and went inside to the company’s booth (think rental car stand at airport). They did not speak English. I showed them ticket. They eventually found me a bus to Nevsehir, which was a little closer. At this point I had been travelling for 30 some hours and was too exhausted to care too much. At Nevsehir there was no one there that could help me. I got out of the bus station and the wind and sand was whipping like I was on the planet Tatooine. Some guy motioned me over to get in this van with him. Seems like a good idea. The van had the name of the bus company I had used originally. I get in and the guy tells the driver to take me to Gerome. The driver and he argue for 20 minutes and then we take off. We go like 20 minutes and the guy who argued on my behalf got off. WTF! Then about 2 blocks later the driver tells me to get out!
So I am standing on this street corner in some random city. I keep saying the name of the town and eventually someone takes pity and shows me where to catch a bus there. I finally arrive in the Cappadocia town of Gerome
This town has a lot of history to it, but right now I am looking for my hotel, the Flintstones Cave Hostel. It is pretty quiet as tourist season does not hit for another 2 months. They give me a decent room and I shower and drop my bags to go exploring.
I have no iea what this thing in the bathroom is used for, but I used it as a toilet even thought here was a westernized toilet in the opposite corner.
The history of Cappadocia reads like the chapter page in an ancient history textbook. Through the ages, the Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Rome, The Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and Turkey have all governed this region of Central Anatolia. Probably the best known feature of Cappadocia, found in its very heart, are the fairy chimneys of Goreme and its surrounding villages. Sedimentary rocks, formed from volcanic material between 9 and 3 million years ago, were eroded by wind and rain into minaret and pillar forms. From these the people of the region carved distinctive houses, churches and monasteries, some dating back to the Roman Empire.
The Gerome Open Air Museum is the hot spot to see many of the cave frescos and such with depictions of Jesus, Mary and the rest of the family. I will break down the ebb and flow of different cultures in Turkey in tomorrow’s blog.
Next I boarded a city bus to the town of Cavusin
If you open the map you can see the circuitous route I took Southeast through the Red valley and Gulludere toward where there is a red dot and it says Camping.
Below is another map that shows the Cappadocia region from a little farther out.
Some of these dwellings mentioned before as fairy chimneys are also called pigeon dwellings because of all the pockets carved out for their pet pigeons. It addition the pigeons are also used for communication and the bones used as needles.
Here is a map of the hiking area I pretty much followed the yellow path. I should have followed the yellow to the blue then to the green and then come back on the red to the yellow again. Make sense?
Many Christians used these cave dwellings as refuge during a time of persecution. It was originally called the land of fairy chimneys because even before the caves were carved the volcanic rock looked like something created by a mystical creature or alien.
I ended up on some main road and had to hike back to my hotel in Gerome
I stopped downtown on way back to hostel and had some sort of beef stew in a restaurant overlooking the main drag
I crashed hard and did not wake up until 2am. I climbed out of bed to grab a couple shots from the roof before returning to my slumber
A busy first day. Tomorrow I go on a tour of the area and will break down the history of the area and the country in general