Monday, December 28, 2009

Turkey Overview

We did a total of 8 nights in Turkey - 4 nights in Istanbul, 3 nights in Cappadocia, and 1 night at the airport hotel.  It was a fabulous country and I cannot recommend it enough for a vacation.  I would have loved to visit some of the beaches as well had we been there in warmer weather.

We thought the 4 nights in Istanbul and the 3 nights in Cappadocia was the perfect amount of time.

In Istanbul I'd say there are two different areas you can stay in - Sultanahmet which is near all the historical sites, or Taksim which is near a lot of dining and nightlife.  Taxis are pretty cheap so in my opinion it's not a huge deal which neighborhood you stay in.

Our top list of things to do in Istanbul was the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Blue Mosque.

In Cappadocia we debated between staying in Goreme and Urgup since those are the two most popular towns.  We went with Goreme based on advice from various message boards and were very happy with our choice.

Our top list of things in Cappadocia was the sunrise balloon ride, a hike through one of the valleys to see the landscape up close, and eating a testi kebab.

The Husband's advice is to bring a bottle of Febreze.  People smoke everywhere.  I can't tell you how many cab rides we had where there was a no smoking sign in the cab but the driver was smoking like a chimney.  I did have to dry clean all my coats and sweaters when I got back home which is not something we're used to since our town is now no smoking anywhere indoors.

And by the time you're reading this we will be in Bangkok.  After we return I'll have posts on Thailand, Cambodia, and Tokyo.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cappadocia - Food

We continued eating our way through Cappadocia with a lot of lamb and chicken kebabs and pastries filled with cheese.  We had a delicious lunch on the day tour we booked through our hotel but I don't remember the names of anything.  There was a delicious barley dish and a dessert made with semolina flour along with chicken kebabs that were all wonderful.  All together we had about 6 or 8 dishes.

The best thing we found was something called a testi kebab.  The chicken (or lamb or vegetables) was cooked with peppers, tomatoes, broth, and spices in an earthernware pot.  The pot is sealed off with bread.  To get to your food you have to break the pot open.  Then you can break the bread off the top of the pot and dip it in kebabs and broth on your plate.  I wonder what would happen if I tried to bake that in my oven at home.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cappadocia - Hotel

Our hotel was awesome!  We stayed at the Kelebek Hotel in Goreme.  Our room was in a cave!  It was carved out of one of the fairy chimneys you've seen in so many of the other pictures.

I can't say enough about the Kelebek Hotel.  The service was wonderful.  We arrived very late the first night after the hotel restaurant had closed.  One of the owners drove us into town to a restaurant that was open and then came and picked us up.  The travel agency that is based out of hotel set up all of our excursions while we were in Cappadocia.

Prices for the rooms were very reasonable.  Prices range from 35 Euros for a room with a shared bathroom up to 180 Euros for one of the Presidential Suites.  We opted for a junior suite for 70 Euros.  I likely wouldn't opt for anything larger than the regular sized suites.  Even in November, we spent the little extra time we had at the hotel during the day hanging out on the patio overlooking town.  Plus the internet is only available in the common area.

The only negative was while there is heat in the cave rooms, it wasn't adequate for my cold-blooded veins.  I spent most of my time wrapped in many many layers.  Plus the water in the showers is powered by solar water and doesn't get warm enough in the morning or at night.  This can be solved by getting scrubbed at the Hammam instead of taking a regular shower.

Our room

The couch is actually a stone bench carved into the cave

Only downside was the bathroom was tiny.  And damn that toilet was cold on your butt in the cave.

Entrance to hotel

Entrance to our room


Another patio

Another entrance to Kelebek

Balcony off the reception area

Pool for use in the summer

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cappadocia - Goreme Open Air Museum

The Goreme Open Air Museum is located not far out of town.  We were able to walk there.  We also had the most beautiful day ever as you can see from the sky in our pictures.

First, we hiked the hills across the way from the museum for a little bit.  There are numerous paths and trails to choose from of varying lengths.

The museum itself consists of dwellings and churches from a monastic community built into the caves around 800 - 1200 AD.  It was amazing how many tiny churches were built so close to each other.  Entrance is 15 Turkish Lira.  The Dark Church which has the best preserved frescoes has a separate entrance fee of 8 Turkish Lira.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cappadocia - El Nazar Church Hike

On the way out of Goreme towards the Open Air Museum, we decided to follow a trail we saw.  Down the trail we ended up at the El Nazar Church.  The paintings date from the 11th century.  It's amazing they paintings are still around 1000 years later and that the colors are so vivid.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cappadocia - Kaymakli Underground City

Kaymakli is an ancient city built entirely underground.  Only four stories are open to the public, but the tunnels go up to 10 stories below ground.  I looked down a shaft and couldn't see the bottom.

There are several other underground cities in the area.  They were used mostly for safety to hide from intruders.  The intruders didn't know their way around the underground cities and they could easily be trapped in the tunnels.

We were able to see small chapels and areas where the kitchens were.  It's amazing what the archaeologists and historians are able to tell about about what when on in these underground areas.

This is not a good place to visit if you are claustrophobic.  The tunnels are tiny and there were long sections that you have to walk stooped over.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cappadocia - Pottery

We visited a pottery workshop next on our tour.

The pottery is hand painted and the patterns are so tiny!

We saw a demonstration on the pottery wheel.  Brought back memories of ceramics class in high school and how much my "vases" sucked.

I wanted this set so badly.  The round vessel in the back of the picture can be slung over your shoulder and then wine is poured out.  It was an Ottoman design.  Unfortunately the set was over $500.

Some of the colorful bowls and designs.  Between worries about taking pieces on the plane (although they would ship the expensive items for free) and the cost, we didn't end up buying anything.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cappadocia - Fairy Chimneys

The next stop on our tour was Pasabag or Monk's Valley.  Pasabag is known for it's unique mushroom shaped fairy chimneys that are some of the most distinctive in the area.  They have been carved this way by wind and rain into the very soft rock.  We were able to enter some ancient churches and dwellings that had been carved into the rock.