With another month on the hard stand we were within good time to not only finish on time but maybe early enough to spend a few days exploring inland. Ian had built a compression beam for our new bowsprit and the new gennaker and main were all completed. We had Indian Summer polished and I did the antifouling. We had new rudder and rudder tubes built and the sparkling new oventop gave the inside a nice new feel. It was all in a bit of a mess but we went ahead and booked a week’s car hire to go and see more of inland Turkey.
First stop was Pamukkale about 4 hours away. Pamukkale – literally meaning Cotton Castle is the top tourist destination in Turkey and it is a fascinating place. Deep underground beneath the city is a massive source of water that is heated by volcanic lava. The thermal springs that bubble up to the surface bring dissolved white calcium which then cools in the open air forming white travertine terraces of petrified calcium. These fill with the warm water and they appear to cascade down the hill. The water collecting in these pools is said to have great health benefits and people can swim in the main pool. It is a magnificent site and the warm water was so nice to paddle in on a cold February afternoon.
Behind the pools lies Hierapolis – a Roman city which was built to take advantage of the health benefits of the thermal springs. It has a well preserved theatre which can seat up to 10,000 on two levels.
We spent the afternoon wandering through the ruins joined by some local dogs, and climbed up to the top of the theatre where we could see the travertines and the town of Pamukkale below.
The next day we left for Konya – a large town which is the centre of the Whirling Dervish ceremonies – the iconic turkish dance where the men whirl around in their flowing gowns wearing camel felt tombstone shape hats. The town was very ordinary and it was cold- in fact it was snowing when we arrived. I hadn’t driven through snow in over 30 years and I’d forgotten how reminiscent it was of the Starship Enterprise flying through space!
We braved the cold to go to a ceremony. The Whirling Dervish or Sema, perform a Sufi dance and they spin faster and faster seeking to become one with God. There were about 25 of them from a young boy of about 12 to some quite elderly men. It’s actually a form of active meditation and the men belong to the mystical brand of Islam – Sufism. It was very moving watching these men spinning and chanting –
We headed back along the silk road on our way to Cappadoccia early the next day. We were spending a few days here in a cave hotel – never having slept in a cave before we were really looking forward to it. We were not disappointed – it was amazing.
Cappadoccia is a very dry region in central Turkey. It is famous for its extraordinary moon-like landscape with cone-shaped rock formations, fairy chimneys, and hundreds of cave houses which are dotted throughout the area and used to be lived in by troglodytes.
We couldn’t believe our eyes – the landscape was so different to anything we had seen before. After dumping our bags at our hotel we drove out to the Goreme Open Air museum. This museum is a collection of rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries which due to the lack of light have really well preserved frescoes on the walls and ceilings. They also have graves inside them complete with the skeletons.
Back to our hotel and a quick G&T before getting ready for dinner. With so few tourists about, because of the Coronavirus keeping the Chinese away (so we were told) we had our pick of restaurants. We were spoiled for choice but ended up at the Old Cappadocia where Ian had a flaming good meal – literally…
Bed early as we had to be up at 5.30am for our balloon ride at sunrise – so excited.
Unfortunately the balloon ride was cancelled due to the wind – no problem as we can go the next day. We loved our hotel. It was quirky, different and very warm. We had no electricity the next morning, so we had to eat breakfast in the dark as there were no windows in the dining room only a small doorway – it all added to the charm.
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the underground city of Kaymakli. This incredible city housed up 10,000 people and is 10 storeys deep although only the first four are open to the public. There are a few underground cities around Cappadocia where people would hide out from their enemies. I found it a bit claustrophobic and creepy – but it was a fascinating place to see. A labyrinth of tunnels leading to chambers and rooms with storage areas.
We spent about an hour underground getting lost amongst the tunnels so when I spied a blue arrow which meant way out, I followed it and heaved a sigh of relief to see the sky again. I can’t imagine living in an underground city – too claustrophobic for me.
The next village we came across was called Mustafapassa. We liked this village as it didn’t appear to have been totally turned into a tourist town – in fact it is a university town and has a distinctive feeling of being a working town. We found some abandoned cave houses which we explored along with an inquisitive dog, and climbed up to the top of the town to look at the incredible view. We had a local lunch at a cafe and got chatting to some of the uni students who were really happy to practice their English on us.
We also visited Avanos – one of Cappadoccia ‘s main towns which has become famous for its pottery. We found a gentleman who had been potting since he was 14, and he was now 54 and still working all day turning out his pots.
After a long day we were ready to go back and have an early night in preparation for our balloon ride, but we got a phone call telling us it was cancelled again. They said that it will go up at 2.00pm instead so we stayed on for another day. We bought some fabulous cushions and were invited to have lunch in the shop with the owner’s wife which was a lovely gesture.
At 2pm we were picked up from our hotel and taken by bus to the balloon lift off area. There were a few minibus loads of us all excited about our ride. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we were going to get some great viewing. Just as we were about to disembark the driver stopped us all and told us it was cancelled again… so close. We couldn’t wait another day as we were being splashed (boat returned to the water) in 24 hours so we had to leave and head back to Marmaris.
We drove back spending one last night in a town to break the journey and arrived back about 5pm to be told that our splashing had been delayed by at least a day – yeah, we could have stayed on for that extra day and gone up in the balloon after all! One day …….
It had been a really enjoyable trip, we had seen some incredible sites and been treated with such hospitality – but now we were preparing to get back into the water where Indian Summer belongs and head down the coast – more adventures await.