Europe

Raki Attack in Cappadocia, Turkey


Wednesday, May 19th, 2004: Cappadocia, Turkey

N 38°
E 034°

Greg gently shakes me at 7:00 a.m. The bus is in the station. I discover that Greg and I have had the best night’s sleep of our group. Others have gotten off the bus are various stops through the night, have watched the police go through the bus asking all the Turks (but none of the tourists – we must be very obvious even when asleep) for their IDs. I guess Greg and I have done more red-eyes than others, and have figured out the routine (a very simple routine, actually: go to your doctor and tell him or her that you are going on a trip that will involve a number of red-eyes – it works for us!)

Seeking Refuge

Long before Constantine converted to Christianity and Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium became the centre of Christianity, Cappadocia was a region where Christians in this part of Asia sought refuge, carving homes and underground cities into the soft tufa rock. Humans lived in cave homes more or less continuously until after WWII. We are shuttled a few kilometres to a small town, where we will stay for 2 nights. Although as a group we all look ready for bed, we have a busy day ahead of us touring Cappadocia – Kapodokya in Turkish. This area is famous for its strange landscape, made of tufa from 2 volcanic explosions, overlaid with basalt, which have eroded differently, so that there are these pillars with hats everywhere.

Red Carpet Treatment

We move from fascinating sight to fascinating sight, climbing hills and going into valleys until the early afternoon, when we are taken to a carpet cooperative, for as if the Cappadocia region were not travel-worthy enough on its own, it is also a centre of world-class hand-made carpet manufacture. We tour the establishment, seeing yarns being dyed with natural dyes, seeing silk-worm cocoons being soaked and then spun into thread, and watching women weave the various types of carpets. Finally, we are shown scores of carpets, and we succumb, buying a beautiful gold hall runner. A few more stops – at a valley in which the eroded rocks resemble animals, at the longest river in Turkey, and it is finally, late in the afternoon, time to go back to the hotel for our naps, for the day is a long way from being over.

Turkish Dancing is Not Complete Without a Belly Dancer!

After naps and hot showers (showers are for afternoons in Turkey, because hot water is dependent on sunny days, not hot water heaters) we all gather at 8:30 for the short trip back to the main town of the region, where we will have dinner and watch a show of traditional Turkish dancing. The dancing, and the traditional costumes, are wonderful. As is often the case with traditional dancing, the men’s dances are very athletic, many of them similar to Russian dances. No evening of Turkish dancing would be complete without a belly dancer! We are amazed at the stamina of the dancer – she goes for a good 30 minutes. By the time we get back to our hotel, it is midnight and Erin, Jan, Frank, Haluk, Greg and I have all gotten our 2nd winds. So we head out to a club that Haluk knows, where they play music from the 70s and 80s. There are only a few people in the place when we arrive, but that quickly changes, and soon the place is hopping.

We are among the very few tourists present – most of the patrons are locals, which makes for an enjoyable hour or so, until we are finally driven out by the smoke.

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