Revisiting Kapadokya’s Charm
Kapadokya has a different kind of tourist than Istanbul or the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. A large number of Japanese and Korean tourists that visit the small town of Goreme every year for its natural wonders and rich history. As a “caravan saray,” or stop on the silk road, Kappadokya, which means “land of beautiful horses” was a sought after place in much of history for its economic gains. The site of the fallout of a former volcano, the ash under the Kapadokyan soil was very rich, producing large and beautiful horses. Until UNESCO declared Kapadokya a world heritage site in the 1980′s much of the area’s economy relied on agriculture, which included potatoes, apricots, etc. The region is actually world famous for its potato crop, as it is a major exporter. Goreme and nearby cities still have agriculture as a significant part of their economies, but now much more of the economy is based in tourism for obvious reasons. Goreme is also a world class destination for hot air ballooning because of Kapadokya’s unusual beauty.
It has been two years since I have been to Kapadokya, and I generally despise tours because of their set schedule and the large groups of tourists that they often prescribe. My mom on the other hand loves them because she likes to hear the history and various information about places. However, I am traveling with my mom this time, so I have to make compromises. We went on the “green tour” arranged by our lovely hostel. We were fortunate enough to get the humorous and entertaining Ilkay Colak (pronounced Cholak in Turkish) to take us around Kapadokya. First we went to the a nice panoramic lookout in which you could see much of Goreme, including all the peculiar ferry chimneys. Then we went to the underground city, which I did not enter because I am a bit claustrophobic.
In Ilhara valley we went hiking and had fish for lunch. We passed a tea garden and other pastoral views along the way. The weather in Goreme is very nice in early July. It’s best to visit Turkey before mid July when it quickly heats up.
Afterwards we visited the original site which inspired George Lucas to make the movie Star Wars. Lucas had originally intended to film the movie in this location, but did not get permission from the Turkish government, so instead shot the film in Tunisia, where a similar replica to Kapadokya exists.
Finally we visited an onyx workshop before going back. I learned onyx comes in four different colors. However, I ended up purchasing Turkish turquoise in an area that is located near Mardin from the very kind and friendly Ali Oksuz. We later had dinner at a nearby restaurant and had delicious maresh dondurma at the panoramic view while we watched the pigeons.
Our accommodation in Kapadokya was truly excellent. We stayed in a cave room in the Anatolia Cave Pension. The room was fantastic, and the breakfast was literally the best breakfast I have ever had at a hostel, including a number of fruits, cheeses, and even organic homemade yogurt. Brit and Bekir were very helpful and friendly. They also set up our hot air balloon experience with Kapadokya Balloon Company.
My mom and I also visited my favorite restaurant in Kapadokya, called Nazar Borek, where we had borek, gozleme, and delicious baklava with dondurma over the next several days.
Before leaving, we by chance met the interesting and delightful Semsettin Kantar, or Shemsi/Shams as he likes to be called. We had to use the credit card machine in his father’s family owned rug shop, “Sultan Carpets.” We hit it off right away. He spends half the year in California in the lovely area of Big Sur, and the other half of the year helping his dad in his shop. An interior designer for boutique hotels, creating authentic Ottoman and other historical ethnic replicas, Shemsi has done his fair share of traveling in Australia, the States, and the Middle East. Shemsi was kind enough to show us the various back rooms of his shop, each with its own them full of amazing rugs and textiles from around Turkey and the Middle East. Each showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship from different peoples and regions, each with their own story of the people and places they came from. One room was Armenian, one Gypsy, one Turkish, one Kurdish, and one from the East, etc…
I am definitely looking forward to future revisits to Goreme. ..