Cappadocia – a winter wonderland

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Cappadocia welcomed me back with some gorgeous weather.  For the first two days, we had beautiful blue skies and a lovely 21-22 degrees during the day.  T-shirt weather!  Within hours of arriving, I had dropped my bags off at the hotel where I was initially staying and was soon off on a hike through Rose Valley – lovely!

Cave church in Rose Valley

Cave church in Rose Valley

Rose and Red Valley

Rose and Red Valley

But then the rain came, and the temps dropped.  Significantly.  Life in Cappadocia is not fun when it’s raining and cold.  And it seems to rain a lot in winter time.  How I will manage to get through a full winter here, I have no idea!  Anyone planning to come visit should aim for spring or autumn. Just sayin’.

To make it worse, I got sick.  Not in a serious way, but just a lousy rotten cold that I blame on the guy sitting across the aisle from me on the long flight here.  I’m sure the force of his sneezes propelled the plane along ensuring that we had an early arrival.  During the flight I was wishing for a facemask and an umbrella.

I have been cold- and sickness-free for at least a year and a half, something that I can attribute to my rather low-stress lifestyle these days and not sitting every day amongst a bunch of germ-laden people in a stuffy air-conditioned office (no offence intended!), so I wasn’t impressed to now come down with a cold.  But it wasn’t just a cold – I also developed a diabolically itchy rash all over my stomach, and the cold turned into a chest infection with accompanying ear infection which I knew would need antibiotics to shake off.

And then the ear-ache kicked in.  I don’t think I have had an ear ache since I was a kid – and I have horrible memories of crying myself to sleep at night with the pain.  The one ear was blocked so that I couldn’t hear out of it, and the pain was setting in.   I wasn’t a happy chappy (chappess?).

The Turks that I have met here have no tolerance for sickness.  If they sniff or cough, they’re off to the hospital.  Not to a GP, but to the hospital.  I hate going to the doctors but I knew that it was time to bite the bullet and haul myself in to see someone.

Off to the doctor

I asked three friends where I should go – and I got three different answers.  There are at least 3 hospitals in nearby Nevşehir (private, public and a money-spinning touristy one), and a smaller A&E clinic in Avanos, near where I live.    I was happy to wait until Monday morning to go, when one of my friends offered to take me, but another insisted on sending his employee Mustafa (who lives near me) to pick me up and take me to the Avanos clinic on Sunday night.  This will be interesting, I thought, as even though I know Mustafa fairly well he speaks very little English, and I was told that the doctor probably wouldn’t speak English either.

I typed up my symptoms into Google Translate into my phone and hoped that it did a respectable Turkish translation job for me.

We arrive at the clinic and walk straight into the doctor’s room.  No reception, no waiting… It felt like we had snuck in the back door.  Mustafa explained my situation, the doctor poked a stick down my throat, checked my ears, said something in Turkish and starting writing out a prescription – and I was out the door again 3 minutes later.   The only information the doctor asked of me was my name, my father’s name (!), and my age.  (The father’s name is very important in Turkey for some unknown reason – it’s asked on every official form, even hotel registrations).

Walking back to the car, I remembered that I hadn’t paid.  “No, no money.” Mustafa said.  Really?  Apparently this was a government-run clinic and that these clinics are free.  “Turkey good” I said, giving the thumbs up, and he laughed.

Avanos Pharmacy  (photo from internet)

Avanos Pharmacy (photo from internet)

Next, he took me to the late night pharmacy.    This was just a pokey little shop covered with glass display cabinets holding the medicines.  I handed the prescription over, and the pharmacist whipped around grabbing three boxes out of her cabinets:  cold medicine, antibiotics and ear drops.   All this for 16 TL (about NZD$8).   Seriously – is that all?  “Turkey very good” I said again, giving another thumbs up.  Mustafa’s mouth fell open when I told him how much this little sojourn would have cost me back home in NZ.  Obviously it won’t be worth trying to claw anything back on all the travel insurance that I buy.

A typical looking pharmacy (photo from internet)

A typical looking pharmacy (photo from internet)

I was back home 20 minutes later.  That has got to be the quickest and cheapest doctor’s visit for me ever.  I was grateful that Mustafa came along with me, even though his English was limited – it certainly made the process much easier.  He told me to take his phone number, and to call him if I had any problems.  “It doesn’t matter, 10pm, 2am, 4am – if you have problem, you call.  You alone.  No mama, no papa.  I am mama, papa for you.”   How incredibly sweet – especially as he is probably half my age!  But it’s also indicative of the incredibly generous and friendly Turkish hospitality.

 - all for 16TL ($8NZD)

My drugs – all for 16TL ($8NZD)

Back in my apartment, I studied the boxes and the instructions, all in Turkish.  Google came to the rescue again as I looked up each of the drugs to confirm what they had given me, and to confirm that I had understood the dosage instructions. No problems there – it all looked OK.

I don’t tend to self-pity toooo much over a cold, but I knew it was wise to stay inside rather than venture out often with the cold, wet weather we were having.  I was getting cabin – fever and it didn’t make for the best first week or so back here. I mean, there are only so many movies that you can watch without going stir-crazy!

And then the snow came!

Just as I’m feeling well enough to venture out again, my friend, Efe invited me to join them on one of the tours that they take, known as the Red Tour.  I had been wanting to take some photos one some of the sites on this tour to use in a hotel information book that I am putting together so this was a good opportunity.   I was actually asleep when he called to say they had a vacancy, so I had to jump out of bed and quickly get organised to get there in time.

Views of Uçhisar

First stop – the castle of Uçhisar

It wasn’t until I walked out of the apartment that I realised that it was snowing!!  A fairly decent snow that was sticking, not just melting and turning into mush.  I was getting my wish to see Cappadocia under a layer of snow – but oh my god, it was cold!   Temps during the day were showing -2 degrees, but “feels like -6”.  I thought it felt like -22 especially when the wind picked up.

Freezing cold in Uçhisar'

Freezing cold in Uçhisar

Uçhisar is the highest point seen in all of Cappadocia, and is one of the three rock castles in the area.  Because of it’s height, it’s the first area to get snow, and usually has the most spectacular views.  Unfortunately, the views of the castle were mostly obscured by fog but across the road, we got a great view of Honey valley, usually a golden honey colour, but today, it was monochrome.  (The photo below fascinates me -it looks as those I took a black and white photo, but this was taken with normal camera settings).

Views at Uçhisar

Views at Uçhisar

Evil eyes hanging in tree

Evil eyes hanging in tree

From  Uçhisar, we headed back down to Goreme to see the open air museum.  Basically it’s an ancient monastic complex of old rock-cut churches and monasteries dating back to the 10-12th centuries, with very nicely preserved, colourful frescoes painted inside. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos inside the most of the churches so I have no examples to share other than the less interesting one shown below.

Dark Church in Göreme Open-Air Museum

Dark Church in Göreme Open-Air Museum

Church in Göreme Open-Air Museum

Church in Göreme Open-Air Museum

From the Museum, we made our way to Ürgüp, a town which is quickly becoming one of my favourites to visit – mostly because I have now met a few ex-pats that live there as well as a couple of Turkish friends.  The fairy chimneys below are outside the town, and are essentially the iconic representation of Cappadocia – these chimneys feature in many logos, advertisements, etc for the area.

There are some tourists that come along and think that these chimneys (along with others found in the area) have been ‘created’ by the locals, and it was they who put the ‘hat’ on top of them.  Not so.  These land formations are the result of ancient volcanic activity and subsequent salt water lakes, weather etc that have eroded the softer rock away, and left the harder basalt top layer, now so precariously perched on top of the chimneys.  Over time, as the softer bottom rock continues to erode, these hats will no doubt see their demise.

Fairy chimneys in Ürgüp

Fairy chimneys in Ürgüp

While in Ürgüp, we also stopped at a local winery.  I think I may have mentioned this before, but winemaking in Turkey goes back to the days of Noah’s Ark.  When the boat supposedly ‘landed’, Noah and his family jumped out and one of the first things they did was to plant a vineyard.  Smart guy as Turkey continues to make what I think are pretty decent wines.  And that’s rather surprising for a Muslim country where they are supposedly prohibited from drinking.  But Turkey is somewhat more liberal than other countries and many chose to ignore this prohibition.  As a compromise, they make up for it at the Friday prayers in the mosque.  Actually, the Turks tend to prefer Raki which is something akin to the Greek Ouzo.  There isn’t a lot for the Turks to do in Cappadocia so many a-nights, especially in summer, is spent driving in to the valleys with their mates, cooking BBQ kuzu (lamb) and knocking back the Raki.  This does nothing to help improve their driving skills a few hours later, I might add, but I digress….

After sampling the wine and buying some very aromatic mulled wine mix, our tour group were taken to Paşabağ, another area famous for it’s fairy chimneys.  It’s quite a picturesque area but today, with the gray overcast I didn’t find it so inspiring.  And it was later in the afternoon, and getting bloody cold!

Valley view in Paşabağ

Valley view in Paşabağ

Paşabağ fairy chimneys and kangal dogs

Paşabağ fairy chimneys and kangal dogs

You’ll see in the photos above and below the kangal dogs – these are wild dogs that tend to just wander around.  I believe they may have been shepherd’s dogs in days gone by (or their offspring) and you find them roaming everywhere.  Not just in Cappadocia, but elsewhere in Turkey, too – even in parks in Istanbul.  They are generally perceived to be harmless although visitors are told to be a bit more cautious in winter time when food is scarce.  I believe locals may feed some of the dogs scraps, and they scavenge whatever they can find, but I honestly don’t know how they survive.  It’s a pity as they are often beautiful large dogs, and I have found them to be generally friendly – they’ll follow along and keep you company as you walk through the valleys.  There was a news report not so long ago about the body of a woman found in some rural part of Turkey.  Turns out she was attacked and killed by wild dogs.   Not so nice.

Paşabağ fairy chimneys and kangal dogs

Paşabağ fairy chimneys and kangal dogs

Snow-covered ancient village of Çavuşin

Our little tour finished up in Çavuşin, my favourite little town in Cappadocia.  The town was inhabited by Greeks, but they moved out when there was a large-scale population exchange of 2 million Turks and Greeks back in 1923.  All the Greeks returned to Greece, and the Turks living in Greece returned back to Turkey.

Ruins in Çavuşin

Ruins in Çavuşin

Spring flowers in Çavuşin

Spring flowers in Çavuşin

I posted the photo above on Facebook and a friend pointed out how many of the houses in the background looked like faces.  I now see a face from the movie Scream, and a duck.  Now that I’ve seen them, I can’t “un-see” them.  Anyone else spot the faces?

Hotel Update

As per my previous post, I mentioned that I had come back to Cappadocia to manage a small boutique hotel for a year.  The hotel is undergoing renovations – and was supposed to be ready to open at the end of April.  I don’t see that happening, and finally got them to admit that it may be more like end of May – they are working on Turkish time., of course.  This is starting to concern me obviously ( I need to start earning an income!) and it leaves me in a holding pattern for a few months.  So now I am starting to think about other trips that I can do to explore Turkey and fill in time.  The hotel renovations just might become another blog update!

Safranbolu – land of the cake tin houses

Tonight I am heading to Safranbolu for a few days, a small village of picturesque 200-300 year old restored Ottoman houses.  I was supposed to go last night but I had a blonde moment when booking the buses yesterday.  I was to take the night bus to Ankara (5 hours) and then another bus from Ankara to Safranbolu (3 hours or so), getting me there around 11am.  The bus left my town of Avanos at midnight.  A half hour before, I walked out the door and walked the 800m to the bus station.  I arrived o find that there were no buses waiting.  Apparently I had booked the 12.15pm bus – which had left about 12 hours before.  I’d like to say that we had a miscommunication with my lack of Turkish, but I knew immediately I had screwed it up.  I suddenly recalled writing down 12.00pm for the girl doing the booking -not 12.00am – a stupid mistake.  It was my bad luck that there were buses at both times, and I showed up for the wrong one.  I walked the 800m back to the apartment, and crawled into bed.  After buying another ticket this morning (they showed no mercy and wouldn’t just reissue the ticket) I am now booked on tonight’s bus.  For sure.

If you haven’t had your fill of Cappadocia landscape photos, check out some more in the slideshow below.

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About BusyLizzy

Normally I live in NZ but having re-discovered the joys of independent travel over the last few years, I decided it was 'now or never' and am taking some time out to see what the world has to offer.
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6 Responses to Cappadocia – a winter wonderland

  1. Charmaine says:

    So amazing to see those ancient houses still there. What a shame you weren’t allowed to take photos inside the churches. It looks absolutely gorgeous with snow everywhere. Stay Safe xo

  2. Charmaine says:

    Forgot to say…hope you’re feeling better and why are there evil eyes in the tree?

    • BusyLizzy says:

      I’m feeling much better now, Charmaine. Have finished he antibiotics.. and thinking about it now, this is probably the first night that I haven’t still had a niggling cough. Regarding the evil eyes… if someone gives you the ‘evil eye’ (ie a hostile or malevolent glare) you are likely to be cursed with injury or bad luck. The hanging blue ‘evil eyes’ are meant to repel the curse. People have them hanging over their front door or somewhere on the front of their house, in their car, etc. But in the touristy areas, you will see trees full of them – I guess because the tourists (like me) want to to take photos of them! They are not just a Turkish thing – also found in Greece, and apparently Iran. Afghanistan, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries.

  3. Angie says:

    Glad you’re on the mend Lisa. So pretty! Lucky you getting snow (apart from freezing). Hope they don’t delay too many months on hotel – I mean imagine not having to work for a wee bit longer! 😛
    Looks just like “Winter Sleep” movie I saw at NZ Film Festival last year – if you’re interested here’s the trailer: http://www.nziff.co.nz/2014/auckland/winter-sleep/

    • BusyLizzy says:

      Winter Sleep was filmed in Cappadocia, not far from here, in a town called Ürgüp – I even recognised one of the landscape scenes! I started the movie when I was in Australia, but fell asleep. You reminded me of it, so I watched the entire movie last night. My problem was that this time I was trying so hard to understand the Turkish (mostly unsuccessfully, I might add!) that I kept missing stuff in the movie! But it really portrayed local life really well I thought.

  4. Pingback: Cappadocia – A winter wonderland (Video) - Busy...Travelling

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