Turkey – part II

August 17th

Samantha had a 5am flight back to the USA, while I took the 8:45am bus east to Denizli. Luckily, the bus company let me store my bag in their office for the day while I took a side trip to Pamukkale (I think it was because I was so cute).

After taking a local shuttle, I walked through what remains of the ancient city Hierapolis. Then on the hillside, I saw Pamukkale – tiers of cascading water pools. The pools were formed by hot springs with calcium-rich water, that when it flows over the side and cools – it hardens into a chalky substance. I enjoyed my time walking up and down the tiers, then swimming in the hot springs. It’s quite a site to see – I just sat there looking at the pools and the valley below.

Unfortunately, it was time to find the local shuttle back to Denizli so I could catch my overnight bus to Ürgüp. When I went to the bus company’s office to pick up my bag, they told me the bus was running late and that I should sit in their office to wait. When other travelers saw me there, they wanted to store their bags and/or wait in the office as well – and the employees really couldn’t say no.

August 18th

I arrived early in the morning in Ürgüp, which is in the central region known as Cappadocia. Since Hasan (from UMass Econ Dept) has never been here, he was going to meet me – but he couldn’t make it because he was busy finishing up a paper for a deadline. I was a bit worried about how I was going to get around the area to see the various sites, but there really was no need for that. Cappadocia has so many tourists, everything is set up to make it easy.

I took a day tour that explored the northern area – starting with Monks’ valley and ferry chimney valley. Cappedocia is described as having a landscape like the moon – made out of several layers of soft volcanic rock, where wind and rain has eroded it to create what you see today. The best way I can describe it is to image the Red Rock formations and canyons in southwest USA with the colors of the painted desert. People, including early Christians who were hiding from persecution, created housing by carving into these rock formations.

In Avanos, we stopped at a pottery shop for a demonstration of how they made pieces and the different decoration styles. They use extremely hard clay from the Red River that cuts through town and demonstrated its strength by dropping a vase on the ground, then had a volunteer stand on it.

The owner reminded me of Einstein with his wild, gray hair standing out. When I told him my useful phrase (“very good”) – I made an instant friend. He said he would give me a “good price” on anything I wanted. Walking around the show room, I saw many beautiful pieces, but nothing that I had to have (or interested in trying to fit in my luggage). A couple of his staff members walked me around, trying to find a piece for me – but it did no good.

Göreme Open Air Museum was a large Christian settlement with a monastery, nunnery and several chapels with colorful frescoes in the flat-dimensional Byzantine style. Uchisar was a village with a castle.


I decided to try the Turkish Night show since it was suppose to have a lot of traditional dancing and food. It was ok – a bit cheesy as was expected for these “tourist” shows. I did get to see some Whirling Dervish, belly dancing and folk dances.

August 19th

Splurge #6 – Thanks Grandma and Jim Crotty for covering tour and lodging costs for these two days in Cappedocia.

Since I really liked the tour guide and group from yesterday, I went on the second tour that covers the southwestern region. The first stop was the underground city at Derinkuyu where people would hide when they were under attack.

This city, which goes down 12 floors, was very well planned out. It had water wells, air vents, a chapel and wine making area. Each family had separate living areas, but everyone cooked together in the same kitchen at night to minimize detection of smoke. There were tunnels to other underground cities if they needed more supplies or to get away. If the enemy did manage to find the entrance, passages were narrow to make it easier to defend against the enemy walking single file and they had large circular millstones that could be rolled to block off the path. This is definitely not a place for claustrophobic people to visit.

We were dropped off at Ihlara Valley and walked four kilometers along the tree lined river that formed this canyon – stopping to see various chapels and frescos along the way. Lunch was served on the river, just like locals who come to enjoy a picnic and sheep grazing on the grass.

While driving to the next stop, we passed a wedding procession. The cars were full of happy people, but the interesting thing was that everyone wore everyday clothes. It was more about celebrating a happy day with friends and family, instead of making it a fancy event.

We stopped at the Agzikarahan caravanserai and got another history lesson. Caravanserai were large lodges built along the old silk trade route where traders (no matter what race or religion they were) could stop and stay for free up to three days.


Our last stop was at an onyx and turquoise shop for a demonstration. Onyx has a similar pattern to marble, but is harder and translucent. It comes in a variety of colors with white being the most common and green the most valuable. Turquoise comes from four locations around the world – Arizona, China, Iran and Turkey – which you can tell apart by the color and what else is mixed in with it (turquoise from Turkey has specks of gold). I had fun walking around the show room with one of the salesman. I think I impressed him with how many stones I knew – turquoise, amber, malachite, garnets, etc.

August 20th

Splurge #7 (which is the biggest one) – Thanks to Bob Rothstein from Slavic and Eastern European Studies, CN Le from Asian / Asian American Studies, plus Mwangi wa Githinji, Don Katzner, Diane Flaherty, Jim Boyce, Nancy Nash, Judy Dietel and everyone else from the Economics Department for covering the cost of the Nemrut / Harran tour described below.

I decided to take a three-day tour to the Near East region that most tourists (and many Turks) don’t see. The first stop was at the 13th century Karatayhan caravanserai. This one we could walk around – exploring the living areas and different rooms for the various religions to worship. It was a bit scary to climb up onto the roof since there was no handrail, but you could use the wall that the stairs were built along for some support.

We stopped in Kahramanmaras for their unique ice cream. I really couldn’t understand the guide’s explanation of what local ingredient they used to make it, but it was hard – so hard that you had to use a knife and fork to eat it. It was very creamy, with a good flavor – definitely the highlight of this long day of driving. Then, we continued to Kahta where we spent the night.

August 21st

Leaving the hotel at 3am, we climb Mt. Nemrut (Nemrut Daği) in the cold darkness. There’s just enough moonlight to see the path, but I use my cell phone as a light to see it better. Once we’re at the top, we wait for the sun to rise. Other groups – some tourists, some Turks – gather as well.


Slowly the sun rises, illuminating the landscape below and the famous statues behind us. The colossal sized heads of kings and Greek gods built by King Antiochus I in 70BC marks the a sacred spot of Commagene – an independent state before being overtaken by the Roman Empire. This region between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers was latter known as Mesopotamia.

We also stopped at the ruins of Arsemia, the Roman bridge in Cendere and the tumulus Blackbird on the way back to the hotel for breakfast and a nap. On the road again, we stop at the Ataturk Dam – the largest in the Middle East – which Turkey uses to irrigate the surrounding desert. It also restricts what water is able to continue to the other desert countries downriver.

Arriving in Sanliurfa, we visited the cave that the biblical Prophet Abraham grew up in and the pools of holy carp that surrounds it. Then we traveled to Harran to see the beehive shaped houses that were designed long ago to maximize temperature control in this very hot region. It was timed so we would arrive later in the day when it wasn’t so hot – I’m really glad because they told us it got to 55oC (131oF). We were able to sit down for a while, talking and having tea with the locals.

At the end of the tour, you could dress up in traditional clothes (long robes made out of shinny materials and headscarves) to get your picture taken – a few of us did it for fun. One guy initially offered 600 camels as a dowry to marry me, he then added on 500 sheep. When I told him I didn’t cook, he said that was ok. As far as I knew, it was a good offer, but I had to turn him down.

August 22nd

Heading back towards Cappadocia, we stopped to see the breeding farm of the Bald Ibis (Kelaynak) birds. Pretty boring – we just looked at some birds in a huge cage. I was much more interested in the river across the street.

We convinced the guide and driver to detour through Kahramanmaras so we could get ice cream again – yummy, yummy. Each rest stop or town along the way has a free water fountain where you can fill up your bottles – it’s very important to stay hydrated in this region.

Overall, I’m not sure if the sites were really worth three long days of driving, but I really enjoyed the group I was with. Everyone had a similar concept that traveling was about culture – seeing and trying to experience the lives of others.

I decided to spend the night in Göreme because the idea of getting on an overnight bus was just not appealing. Instead, I walked around town looking at the cute shops and listened to traditional Turkish music at the bar with Kristy (from this tour group).



One Response to “Turkey – part II”

  1. Andy K. Says:

    This is fun reading. 🙂 I don’t know if you have done any of the comparisons but I just went back to my own journal to check and I also went to the Göreme Open Air Museum, the underground city at Derinkuyu, as well as Uchisar. I am envious of your getting to climb Mt. Nemrut. It was impassable when I was there due to snow…

    I will be dreaming of Turkey tonight.

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