Trip to Turkey

When my uncle was planning on coming to Germany in December he wanted to experience some other part of Europe as well, since he would already be there. And I was to come along. After some brainstorming the decision was made: We would go on a trip to Turkey! (“Only” three hours away from Germany, by plane…)
Since it would be a rather short trip (just ten nights) everything had to be planned carefully. Tom provided a valuable source of information and really helped us with choosing the route and the destinations!
Then, finally, the long anticipated day came (this also ment my first time to Asia!). We flew to Istanbul and on to Kayseri, from where we took a shuttle and arrived at our cave hotel in Cappadocia late at night. It was a really nice place with big rooms carved out of the soft sandstone that is so typical for the area.
When we awoke the next morning we were awestruck: We had arrived in a yellow/orange deserty landscape that might well have been the set for a Star Wars movie. There were pointed rocks, “fairy chimneys”, that seemed to be growing out of the ground in and around the small village we had found ourselves in. Many of them had holes of different sizes and shapes.

After a Turkish breakfast with rolls, cheese, olives and dried fruit we went to explore the area, hiking the whole day on narrow trails through lovely valleys. We discovered that all the holes were doors or windows to man made caves. Many were just simple rooms, but there were abandoned mansions with nice views and churches with impressive wall and roof painting as well. The weather was sunny and warm (for December) and it seemed like we had the area more or less for ourselves. We spent the next day on similar adventures, finding many more interesting and beautiful places. It is hard to imagine that one can get enough of a place like this – there is just so much to see and to discover!
But our schedule was tight – the next morning we drove to the multi storey cave city Derinkuyu. Here Christian peasants had survived numerous attacks from the Arabs by digging an elaborate network of rooms and passageways. It said that this one, the largest of hundreds of underground cities in Turkey, had sheltered up to 20,000 people!
After a few more interesting stops along the way (describing all the adventures of this trip would turn this article into a minor novel) we arrived at Konya, one of the biggest cities and a religious center of Turkey. We were to attend a Dervish ceremony at the annual Mevlana festival. (Dervishes are Sufi monks following the teaching of Muslim philosopher Rumi. They spin around and around, thus achieving ecstasy and contact to Allah.) It was set in a modern building that somehow reminded me of a circus tent, and although there was meditative live music, the atmosphere was not prayerful at all (at least concerning the spectators, the dervishes did not seem to notice): Phones were ringing, people were talking, coming and leaving randomly and taking pictures with their flash on. That ensured it did not become the life-changing experience for me that it was claimed to be, but it was definitely interesting, and also a lesson in Turkish culture.
Whirling Derwishes
The next days we were driving along the Mediterranean and the Aegan coast, first westward, passing Antalya, then to the north. Our focus lay on ancient Greek and Roman culture, so we visited several aqueducts, amphi-theaters, temples and ruin cities. It was amazing to see what these ancient peoples had been able to construct! One ruin city we liked in particular:
Termessos, situated high up in the mountains with a gorgeous view, overgrown and reclaimed by nature. Everything was accessible, so we could just climb down the stairs of the ancient theater or enter the bath houses. There had not been made any reconstruction attempts, so it seemed more authentic in a way. Other cities like Miletus or Ephesus were just as spectacular though, in their own, different ways.
The plan was to take the ferry in to Istanbul, but on day six we decided to take the airplane instead, and we got tickets for the same day. (It is incredible, a little sad actually, how cheap it is to fly in Turkey!)

The next morning I was woken by the sounds of a metropolis: Sirens, honking, people screaming or rushing along the side walks of downtown Istanbul. Exiting the hostel we were greeted by a flood of impressions, almost too much to process. I had thought I had grown used to the Oriental style, but I was wrong: This was a totally different level of madness! We took it slowly though, randomly wandering around and exploring interesting looking streets and shops. We found our way to the Old Bazaar which is on yet another level…

Grand Bazaar
Although I wouldn’t say I got used to it, I got at least somewhat accustomed to this huge human anthill, roaming its streets late at night and early in the morning, throughout the course of the next day looking at all the major sights. I loved the architecture of the Mosques, for instance Süleymaniye, or my favorite: “Little Aya Sophia”.
We discovered that there were many streets where all the shops had specialized on the same, very specific thing, like for example the “button street”, the “belt buckle avenue”, or the neighborhood where everyone seemed to be selling dummies…
We found answers to a few peculiarities, but many things we were not able to solve – they will stay curiosities until next time. For although this trip was not long enough to gain an in-depth understanding of the Turkish culture and way of life, it was a good compromise with many memorable experiences, and it definitely whet my appetite for more and longer traveling!

Thank you Russell!


More pictures of Turkey:


2 thoughts on “Trip to Turkey”

  1. That was a beautiful story about your trip. I had not read it until just a few minutes ago (I don’t know how I missed it, but I did find it tonight) Tomorrow I will fully explore your site, to learn more about your adventures.

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