The main thing to see in Cappadocia is the fairy chimneys. Basically, they are geographical oddities caused by layers of ash from ancient volcanoes covering the land, solidifying and then eroding over time. The result is varying types of conical shaped rock formations. In addition, some of these formations were carved out by and inhabited by ancient peoples (we’re talking 3,000 BC here) up until 40 years ago, when the government moved them out for safety reasons. So basically people were living in caves. For like, a really long time. Here are some of the chimneys:
Since this is (theoretically) a PG-13 blog, I'm not even going to talk about what I really think some of these chimneys look like. Nope, gonna stay right. out. of. the. gutter.
I've thought of a new website concept: photosbystrangers.com. It would be a blog entirely dedicated to the crappy photos that strangers take when you ask them to take your photo. A classic example.
From the Greek Island of Mykonos. I think they speak for themselves.
Pamukkale AKA Hierodatus is an ancient ruin built on a hillside. The geography is unique because of giant calcified terraces on its hillside. This was cause by ancient volcanoes erupting and shifting the earth, causing highly mineralized water to run down the side of the hill. The minerals cause the water to calcify and the entire mountain to be covered in white and blue pools.
Before the government stepped in and this became a protected World Heritage site, these pools, whose waters are considered restorative, were tapped by the surrounding hotels. There is even one hotel at the base of the terraces, directly in view. This tapping of the area’s natural mineral springs has caused the destruction of large portions of the terraces. At this point, the surviving terraces are, as I said, protected by UNESCO. It’s sad to see that within a very short time (the springs only became a destination within the last thirty years), what a negative impact people can have on the environment. It makes you appreciate the movement toward conservation at home, though we all know there is certainly more that can be done.
Ok, so here’s the part where I completely fall off my high horse. After a day at the terraces and one nasty sunburn later (I’m not complaining…ok maybe I am), we made our way to our hotel, exhausted, sunburned and in need of a good rest. On our ride over, we began to realize that most of the hotels in the area offered pools that tapped the mineral water. And sure enough, so did ours. Oy. Although my distain for sucking the planet of its natural resources is pretty high, I have to admit, lounging around in the mineral water and mud bath didn’t feel too bad either. And while I’d probably reconsider using a hotel that used the natural spring water if I were to go again, the fact is, that they were already offering the pool to their guests and we were already there. Oh well. No one’s perfect.
Along with the pools and mud bath, the hotel also offered an array of spa treatments, one of which was the fish foot pedicure. You better believe I was in. If you haven’t heard about this, basically it’s a tub full of fish who naturally feed off of dead skin cells on your body. You put your feet in the tub and they swim right over and start lunching on your feet. While it is unavailable in the States due to an inability to sanitize the fish according to health standards, I have seen it available in Asia and in Europe. So I was all in. It sort of tickled and you had to keep your feet perfectly still. Lots of fun and totally worth the 5 Euro. Win.
Gulet cruises involve a lot of lounging, reading and swimming in the Aegean sea. Strenuous, indeed. Highly recommended.
I really love libraries. No, like really. I don’t know if I have mentioned it on here yet, but if this is the first time, get used to it, because it probably won’t be the last time either. But seriously. What is there not to love about them? You can go in and get free books. Free. Books. And free internet. That’s pretty darn cool. So it should come as no surprise to you that the highlight of Ephesus for me was the giant library.
Ephesus will probably go down as a highlight of the trip in and of itself, mainly because of a little old man named Cengis (pronounced “Jingus). Despite the fact that Cengis looks like a little old man, he is actually a big man on campus, if you will. He was the chief archaeologist at Ephesus for 41 years and is virtually an encyclopedia of knowledge on the ruins. He would hobble along (he had a cane – bonus!) telling us about the statue he found in a hole and carried in his back pack for two kilometers or picking up what appeared to be random rocks on the ground, only to explain that it was actually a piece of fresco or an ancient iron nail.
Because of his status, he was allowed to take us into some restricted areas, some of which haven’t been excavated yet. We also took a look at a special terrace area, which has been covered by a huge, permanent indoor-outdoor covering. It was incredible. This part of the city consisted of houses, in which some of the city’s more important residents lived. One was the home of a religious official, who had his own private, heated, Turkish bathhouse, and a giant atrium. Everything had been tiled in various types of stone; some were cut so thin that researchers still do not know how they cut them. In addition, there were elaborate mosaics and frescoes on the walls and even some indoor plumbing. I’d say it was pretty good to be an important guy in Ephesus.
Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor. As such, it was a very large city and an important center. Which is why I bring up the library. At the time, there were only three major libraries in the world: Alexandria, Pergamom and – you guessed it – Ephesus. This wasn’t just any library, it was the library and was on par with the most famous of all the ancient libraries in the world. To stand in the place where scholars and volumes once stood was thrilling. And if saying that makes me a nerd, then I don’t want to be cool.
So as you might expect from a place like Turkey, where human history can be dated back to the Neolithic period (something like 8,000 years ago), there are a lot of old things to see. Particularly ruins. And while in some places, going to a ruin feels like the obligatory nod to the travel-book itinerarty, here in Turkey, there are some pretty cool-arse ruins. Ephesus (Efes) is just one of those amazing archaeological sites. So we put it in our itinerary. Since Ephesus is in the middle of nowhere, we had to stay in the nearby village of Selcuk.
Well, that’s where we met Mustafa. There was a really lovely terrace on the top of the hotel, where you could look at the beautiful countryside (which felt a little like Tuscany), have a cold beverage and get dinner. This was Mustafa’s territory. Mustafa is the head chef at the terrace restaurant and, in my fantasies, secretly a classically trained chef, with all the makings of brilliant career, but never made it out of Selcuk because of some tragic story. That, or he’s just a guy from a small town who likes his drinks and happens to be good at cooking. I think I’ll go with the former.
But did I tell you about the food? Mustafa narrowed in on us early on when we were having a little pre-dinner apero. He came and chatted us up, told us off all the offerings from the kitchen, showed us his mise en place, gave us a sampling of the beautiful fresh tomatoes that seem to be ubiquitous in this country and, of course, convinced us to have dinner there – Chef’s menu.
So eat there we certainly did. It was awesome. Mezes - Turkish vegetable dishes eaten at the beginning of the meal - then a variety of meat filled us up. After the sun set and about half way through the meal, the lights went out in the city and we ate by candle and moonlight.
So before we even had the chance to see any ruins, the Turkish table came alive to us, courtesy of a guy (and great chef) named Mustafa.