Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cappadocia: the Land of Fairy Chimneys and Blizzards

Last weekend, we decided to take a road trip to Cappadocia.  The Cappadocia region is a favorite spot among many of our friends who are stationed here at Incirlik, so we were eager to experience it for ourselves.

The unique landscape of Cappadocia was formed about 30 million years ago from erupting volcanoes.  The volcanic eruptions formed "fairy chimneys": tall, cone-shaped rock formations that early inhabitants believed were the chimneys of underground fairy homes. 

The 3 1/2 hour drive to Cappadocia was beautiful.  We drove up, up, up....into breathtaking mountains and clear, sunny skies.  Our arrival into the area of Cappadocia was even more unbelievable.  The fairy chimneys dotting the landscape were so unique and hauntingly beautiful, it felt like we had just landed on another planet. 

We snapped some photos and checked into our hotel.  In the past, inhabitants of Cappadocia carved their homes into the fairy chimneys and volcanic rock formations.  Visitors have the opportunity to experience these cave dwellings for themselves in the local cave hotels.  We stayed at a charming little cave hotel in the Goreme region.  My boys and I had so much fun relaxing in our cozy little cave!
We spent our first day in Cappadocia at the Open Air Museum.  In this outdoor museum, we explored the many chapels and monasteries from the 9th-11th centuries cut out of the volcanic rock formations.  Inside of the chapel were still vibrantly colorful Byzantine frescoes of scenes from the Old and New Testaments.   We finished the day with dinner at a cozy little cafe with meatball soup, Turkish tortellini, and tea.  (The waiter gave Peter "chocolate tea" aka hot cocoa.)

This was a monastery!

The next morning we munched on a Turkish breakfast at our hotel.  When we first arrived here, the idea of  dry bread, fruit, olives, cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes for breakfast did not sound appealing to me.  But I must admit that it has really grown on me and I truly enjoy it now!  It feels much healthier and lighter than an American breakfast. 

We went off the tourist path to the big city of Kayseri about an hour down the road.  Kayseri is the ancient city of Ceasarea Marza, the home of Saint Basil the Great, bishop and doctor of the Church.  Though the city is now a bustling, busy city, Dan hoped that a pilgrimage there would lead us to find something associated Saint Basil and his life there.  We visited a humble archeological museum and then wandered the town a bit.  We eventually got a little lost and were found by a friendly Turkish college student who offered to show us around so he could practice his English.  We soon found that our new friend had alterior motives when he lead us to his "friend's" carpet shop and they started their sales routine.  Annoyed that we had fallen for his trick and unwilling to buy a $700 dollar carpet, we told them "no".  And after about 300 "no's" later, they finally let us go.  We decided that this day ended up being devoted to our "Turkish street smarts education" and vowed that we would never fall for these tricks again. 

After our adventures in Kayseri, we started our drive home.  Soon, we saw big, puffy snowflakes drifting from the sky!  We were thrilled!  We have missed snow while being in this tropical climate.  Soon, the light, puffy snowfall turned into an intense mountain blizzard and our initial elation transformed into nervousness.  Nightfall came early and we found ourselves driving through the mountains in a white-out blizzard at night.  We realized that in Turkey, you cannot just stop at a Holiday Inn off of the interstate (there was not a hotel to be found in the little mountain villages), so we slowly and carefully trudged through the snow.  There was even lightning in this snow storm!  It was the worst blizzard that Dan and I have ever experienced.  It took us 7 hours and lots of prayers to make it home that night.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, this February has been an unforgettable month.  And after an ambulance ride, a hospital stay, and driving through a crazy mountain blizzard, I'm hoping for a calmer, low key month of March.
This is when the blizzard first started.  It was so cold and WINDY!
 I had to hold on to the door so I wouldn't blow away!