Off to Cappadocia

Sept 26
Way early morning departure for the airport on the Asian side.  A swift ride through the streets normally clogged with traffic, over the Bosphorus bridge, past the acres of new housing and modern buildings.  A couple of hours in the airport, a short plane ride over dry and wrinkly terrain, and we arrived in Kayseri, central Anatolia. The heat and the dust strike first. There is lots of industry in Kayseri, in Turkey in general, and much of it seems to be construction related: rock quarries, concrete blocks. With our host Mehmet, we made our way to Goreme, Cappadocia, to stay in his Sultan Suites Hotel, atop a hill. Rooms restored from old cave houses, beautifully appointed.

These were once homes

Old homes, new hotel

Sultan Suites hotel

An abandoned Greek Orthodox church

Mustafa and members of the group

All around us, more construction, or the remains of former cave houses, rectangular holes in the rock.  The abandoned houses often have been converted to pigeon nesting places, with the purpose of collecting their poo, to fertilize the grape vines.  The grapes are used for raisins, and for making pekmez, a syrup made from grapes, water, sugar, and sand, cooked down and strained. Quite wonderful.  On our way to our next day’s activity, Mustafa our guide had us stop quickly when he saw some women making pekmez.  They invited us to participate, and we explored their cave cellar. Everyone is so gracious and open: that is the Turkish way.

Pekmez in the making

Skimming the pekmez

Cecile and hostess

House interior

a garden

the crushing place
into the cellar

and further down…


Mustafa is a wealth knowledge and a great guide. We learned about the Greek/Turkish “population exchange” of 1923, which removed 1.2 million Greek Christians from their homes of hundreds of years, leaving none behind, and brought in 400,000 Turks from Greece. “Population exchange”makes it sound like a transaction, not an evacuation/removal/relocation/exodus. Mustafa was fairly doctrinal about the Armenian “massacre”, and absolute in his opinion about the Turkish approach to the Kurdish “terrorists”.  Dore tried to argue a certain point, but Mustafa was hardline.  An admirer of Ataturk, he is opposed to the current government, which he feels is two faced: catering to the islamists, and turning away from the west socially, while still making deals militarily.

Two concerts: a Mevleni Whirling Dervish ceremony, and a balama player, who played in a beautifully restored cave.  Very difficult to stay awake, as we had gone to the underground city of Kaymakli and the beautiful Ihlara Valley.  The city was dug into the rock, eight storeys down, over a few hundred years. Why? To avoid the Mongol invaders, who would pass through now and again. These cities could house and support 30,000 people for three months at a time! Truly amazing work.  The valley was green, with a river running through it. After a wonderful trout lunch, we powerwalked up the valley. Young boys were in the pistachio trees, shaking them down-sweet and bright green. Too bad we had no more time.  That is the constant refrain. Not enough time!

Kaymakli-the stables

Larry demonstrates the ventilation system

In the kitchens, several storeys below

spices and  nuts
Traffic jam!

Ihlara Valley from above

River-side dining

On the river dining, Clare and Derek

Sharon and Beni

Kathy and Larry

the view from below

flowing water, a luxury

the sound alone is cooling

the sun on the rocks above, the water below