Cappadocia: It’s a Wrap…
We leave Cappadocia with, as the cliché has it, heavy hearts. But also some excitement. Yes, even with a hellish overnight bus journey ahead of us.
Because our next stop is Istanbul, the capital of world empires for around 1500 years, a city bigger than New York or London, and somewhere we pretty much fell in love with in the full throes of an epic travel cockup.
In fact, I’m as stoked about Istanbul as I was about Beirut or Beijing, and that’s saying something.
Mind you, Cappadocia has really lived up to the hype.
We’ve scrambled through tiny, Byzantine rock-cut churches, some frescoes still as bright as the day they were painted, even a millennium or so on. We’ve explored miniature monasteries, nunneries and hermitages carved surreally high into the tuff rock to serve secretive communities as small as five or ten people, now reduced to gloomy caverns.
We’ve explored one of the tens of “underground cities” that litter the region, most likely home to Christians fleeing first persecution then barbarian invasion, depressing, dark and dismal warrens that wind in some cases eight storeys below the ground.
Or were they cities? Some think they were used as military bases, and that as waves of invaders swept out of Asia, headed for the prize of Constantinople, Byzantine armies would disappear beneath the ground and then emerge behind their lines…
We’ve wandered down valleys lined with old cave dwellings, converted into dove cotes to provide guano for the fields, stayed under the jagged “castle” of Uchisar and deep in a cave in Goreme.
Zac’s climbed trees to eat fresh apricots, and filled his face with baklava below the old town of Urgup.
We’ve seen Selime, AKA “The Star Wars Film Place!”, which looks so like the Sand People’s dwellings in the original Star Wars that locals wrongly believe it was filmed there. (I thought Coober Pedy, too, could stand for Tatooine: but George Lucas filmed the scenes in Tunisia and Death Valley.)
We’ve wandered along the Ihlara Valley, green with olive trees and fresh corn, driven several hundred miles through acres of golden plain, and soared in a hot air balloon above phallic rocks and ice cream valleys.
We haven’t seen the Hittite settlements (I’m saving my “borderline inexplicable, badly damaged but very ancient ruin” token up for Troy), we haven’t ridden horses or toured a winery, but I kinda feel we’ve juiced the place.
And, boy, are we excited about Istanbul. Particularly if our flat comes through…