Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The tourism-ad-like frame shots in the Turkish slapstick movie “Boss Wants A Happy Ending” (Patron Mutlu Son Istiyor) which I painstakingly watched presented a trip-provoking prevue of the historical Cappadocia region of Turkey.   Clean, clear shots, it provided a glimpse of the beautiful landscape and what tourists expect to see and experience.  Who doesn’t dream of coming to Cappadocia?  It’s a magical place for adventure-seeking travelers in the know.  For those who don't know yet, you're missing a lot, and I mean a lot!

Recently, I’ve seen the Palm d’Or winning dramatic film “Winter Sleep” (Kis Uykusu) directed by one of my favorite Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.  These guys know how to make good movies just as they have good writers, I've read a lot of novels penned by Elif Shafak and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.  I would recommend "The Forty Rules of Love" which affected me a lot and "The Bastard of Istanbul" for a start and the nobel prize winning author Orhan Pamuk's gripping novel "My Name is Red" and "Snow".

Anyways, the nostalgic movie was a depiction of the divide between rich and poor in Turkey, the perplexing relationship between the main character with his wife and his sister, and his insensitivity towards his community.  Location of this film was also in the same region but unlike the previously-mentioned flick, this one conveys its melancholic side.  Perhaps because the story itself is nostalgic.  The camera’s short and long-range zooms depicts a somewhat despondent yet stunning personality of the place that reminded me of my third (or fourth?) visit to Goreme – a town where most travelers use as a base in exploring the Cappadocia Region.

We took a bus at the Buyuk Otogar (Grand Terminal in Bayrampasa) in Istanbul before midnight, arrived at Nevsehir early in the morning, and from there we reached Goreme by minibus.  There are several bus companies that ply the Istanbul – Nevsehir route.  I used to take the Metro Turizm bus company but it was around the Bayram Festival (Sacrifice Feast) and most buses were full except for the Inci Bus company which I don’t really highly recommend if only there are available seats with the big companies such as Metro Turizm or Varan or Ulusoy.  Fare ranges from TL60 to 75 depending on the company.  But if you fancy flying which is less stressful and getting there faster is a preference, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, Atlas Jet or Onur Air flies to two airports in this region – the Kayseri’s Erkilet Airport and Nevsehir Cappadocia Airport, the latter is the nearest one to Goreme.  You can always phone your accommodation in Goreme to arrange a (shared) van to pick you up at the airport direct to your hotel or hostel at TL25 or 30 per head.  Also, remember that there are two airports in Istanbul – the Sabiha Gokcen Airport and Ataturk Airport, again, the latter is nearer to the city whereas the former is farther and tricky to get to, make sure you know where your flight is emanating from.

Arriving in Goreme.

My gut was wrenching in excitement as our bus stopped at Nevsehir central bus terminal, it’s not the final destination though as we’re heading to the town of Goreme, still about 15 minutes drive away.  I did not waste my time during the 10 minutes stop at the terminal, I immediately bought our tickets back to Istanbul as I don’t want to get stuck in Goreme, it’s the peak season after all.  I felt excited not much for myself but for my travel companion friend who’s traveling first time in Turkey.  Our bus from Istanbul arranged for the connecting minibus that took us from Nevsehir terminal to Goreme.  That’s the good thing about this country, just leave it up to the bus lines to take you up to your final destination which decreases the anxiety of traveling.  I've experienced it several times with several buses and all the time I get anxious while planning yet when I get there - and in actual - it's a lot easy than planned.

I have found one of those authentic cave accommodations on the internet which I booked prior to our arrival, the Star Cave Pansiyon and Hotel.  When staying in this town, a part of the Cappadocian experience is sleeping in one of the cave lodgings which this region is famous for and there are plenty to choose from.  It could have been a castle-in-the-sky ambience staying at that picturesque mountaintop chic hotel (Hotel Othello) in the movie “Winter Sleep” but as I found out, it wasn’t an actual hotel, it is in fact one of those beautiful cave dwellings around Uchisar, some kilometers from Goreme.
Our twin cave room at Star Cave Hotel and Pansiyon.
At the balcony of the cave hotel.

Our room at the pansiyon was a typical Anatolian cave, literally a hole in the wall, hewn out of a giant boulder of soft rock beautifully and naturally formed by volcanic deposits caused by the eruption of ancient volcanoes millions of years ago.  Furnished with beds and local carpets and kilims, very basic with an ensuite marble bathroom located on the second level accessible through the same carved rock stairs.  A common balcony overlooks the gorgeous rock formations around town and the hot-air balloons hovering over the horizon during the early hours of the morning.

The common area where the breakfast is served is spacious and heaving with plants, fruit-bearing trees and flowers, many tables and chairs. There are colorful large pillows that you can throw and laze around, in fact there are enough space in the common area for all the guests with a view of the rock formation and the valley. You can have your hot or cold beverages including the famous Efes beer while surfing the net, wifi is free. They even provide I think 2 of their laptops for guests use. You can leave your luggage upon checking out as most buses depart in the evening.

The common area where one can just sit and relax.

I didn’t expect much out of EUR28 or something that we’ve paid so I was surprised that – in my opinion – we got more value.  It was also the first time I’ve seen a room in this town with so many electrical outlets that you can use to plug-in your laptop, recharge your camera batteries, mobile phone, etc.. at one time – I think, about 4 outlets including the one inside the toilet.

The place was truly quaint and the manager of the place - Ramazan (I don’t really know if he’s the owner or one of the owner?) was helpful, although I’ve to be honest – and in my observation - he seem to be moody or more precisely his friendliness level fluctuates from the time of our arrival to departure, nicest on arrival - nice in between – care less in the mid – then pick-up again on being nice during departure.

View of the town from the hotel.

Around Goreme town.

Then again, a lot of hotels in the area have similar pattern as I’ve discovered, others were even worse. He even took us back to the bus station. Maybe he is just trying to internalize his well-pronounced notion that as guests you own the place, so feel free.

The breakfast was good and filling, although they run out of bread the second morning, or it arrived late? Amusingly, I’ve spotted two Asian female guests pocketing a couple of boiled eggs in addition to what they had on their plates.  What a cost-saving idea.  Clever girls!

Most accommodations in Goreme offer the same set of group tours for visitors who don’t have their own vehicle and on a budget.  Here are some of them:

1.    Red Tour – includes a visit to the Goreme Open-Air Museum, Uchisar Castle, Cavusin Old Greek Village, Pasabagi Fairy Chimneys, Avanos Pottery Demonstraton, Devrent Valley and Urgup Wine Tasting.
2.  Green Tour - Goreme Panaroma, Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Belisirma Village,  Selime Monastery, Uchisar Pigeon Valley.
3.   Blue Tour – Mustafapasa, Keslik Monastery, Taskinpasa Madrasah, Sobessos Ancient City Excavation Area, Soganli Valley Rock Churches, Kaymakli Underground City.
4.   Hot Air Balloon Flight – done usually at dawn or in the early hours of morning.  The 60-minute (or less) airlift on a basket that could accommodate 8 to 20 people up over the charming valleys and hills overlooking the rock formations.  Champagne will be served after the flight along with a personal certificate (that you’ve done the balloon flight).

On tours 1 to 3, basically, you’ll be joining a group of tourists and all the tours include pick-up and drop-off service from/to hotel on an airconditioned van, licensed English speaking guide, Lunch,  admission fees.  We used to have a charming lady guide when I joined one of those tours long way back.

Panorama of Goreme town.

One of the nice cave hotel in Goreme town.

Booking on the spot upon arrival usually costs less, I've seen lots online advertised in EUR and remember that EUR is higher.  So if you see EUR50 online, it's got to be TL50 on the spot.  You can even bargain.  Rates of the above tours are from TL50 to 70 depends on the tour, whereas the balloon flight cost from EUR110 to 150, depends on the number of participants on the basket.  Costly but it's worth it.

I’ve done two of the tours before and the balloon flight years back so I decided to skip it.  I let my friend join the Green Tour as he has not done any yet, and a lot of the itineraries on the tours are far from the town and from each other, and while he's out, I will DIY hike to Uchisar Castle.


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