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Moon Walk

July 18, 2007

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The landscape in Cappadocia, Turkey is like nothing else on the planet and took our breath away! Created over sixty million years ago by volcanic activity and erosion to an extreme extent, one can see that process continuing in various stages even today. The vast expanse of cone shaped stone teepees, huge gray pillared  “fairy chimneys” and graceful multi-colored channels and lofty dunes, gives it a surreal lunar feeling or one of being on another planet, like something out of Star Wars.

These bizarre structures attracted a variety of cultures over the centuries, including Hittites, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans, who carved churches, homes, hide-outs, monasteries, fortresses and even whole underground cities into the soft, eerie looking volcanic stone, from the 4th century to the 1950s.

It is quite a large area with the main towns being Gorme, Urgurp and Uchisar. Each area has a very different flavor, but all of it is fascinating. Goreme has long been a favorite place for backpackers although that is changing because it is such a charming, authentic place within walking distance to so much, Urgurp tends to get the most upscale travelers with its high end tourist facilities, and sleepy Uchisar is beloved by the French.

We divided our time between our cave hotel in Gorme and the famous Esbelli Evi in Urgurp that sets the standard for elegant troglodyte accommodations in Cappadocia. As great as that was, I wish we could have also spent some time at a cave hotel in Uchisar as we saw several tempting examples. Each area has something different to offer and it is all delightful.

Many people take balloon rides in Cappadocia at sunrise with a champagne breakfast, as the weather and landscape is perfect for that. We considered it, but decided to pass mainly because Mozart was too short to be able to enjoy it fully so DaVinci would have had to hold her for the whole trip for her to see over the basket. I had no interest in going with my fear of heights.

We did take a really great private tour which I think worked much better for us. The manager at the Local Cave House was kind enough to take us all around the area and we loved all the major sites that we got to see. He would sit in a cool spot while we took our time wandering with our books and cameras or sometimes we hired a local guide at a site.

A highlight was catching the setting sun in beautiful Uchisar where Mozart played violin in her Turkish scarf and poncho, with the magnificent red and purple hues of the undulating landscape in the background that looked like pink and yellow sand dunes. My camera did not capture the astounding beauty, but our memories always will cherish this spectacular scene.

The cave fortress in Uchisar, that looks like a natural castle, is the highest point in the region with panoramic views of this unworldly landscape with Mount Erciyes in the distance. There is an enchanting French owned cave hotel with a pool and restaurant covered in bougainvillea right next to it that we peaked into that was like something out of a magazine.

When we were in the area of multitudinous cone shaped “fairy chimneys” we met a lovely family of artists  from a different part of Turkey, who saw Mozart first and gave her a bunch of fresh cherries which she loves. Turkish people seem to love to cuddle, hug, caress her hair, pinch her cheek and give her things, which Mozart took in stride (as I had prepared her before we got there about cultural differences).

We had been resting in the shade when she had discovered that the trees shading us were all fruit trees and there was a long stick next to one of the trees meant to help get some of the fruit down from the high branches, That led to some playful moments between seeing stone carved churches and giant kooky rock pinnacles.

You will see that most of the time that I was in Cappadocia and some other parts of Turkey that I wore a very light shawl over my camisole top (and of course my ubiquitous washable, foldable, travel sun hat and sunglasses!). It was very hot so I could not bear to wear the very light long sleeve shirts I brought, so chose to cover up by using my gauze scarf.

I don’t know if one really has to cover up as I did see plenty of people (and some were Turkish women) in camisole tops and such. Still the majority of women in some areas are fully covered (legs, arms and hair) even on the hottest days and we even saw a few women covered in all black except their eyes. I just felt more comfortable in more conservative areas being a little more covered out of respect for the culture. Perhaps thats why we met many people and perhaps not. Mozart was certainly a draw as they love children and seemed fascinated by her blond hair that they couldn’t resist touching (altho some Turks are blond too).

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