We were sadly nearing the final days of our time in Turkey so Anita and I thought we’d better decide where else we’d like to visit in the little time we had left. We both agreed that Cappadocia was an absolute must. If timed right, we’d also be able to incorporate a visit to Pamukkale on the way back before flying out from Istanbul.
We wrapped up our last shift at the hostel, said our goodbyes, and jumped aboard the overnight bus to Cappadocia. The trip took around 10 hours from Istanbul but flew past as we slept most of the way.
When we jumped off the bus in Göreme the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, although it was noticeably colder, sitting around two or three degrees. We shuffled the short distance to our cave hostel where we dropped off our bags and returned to town for a bite to eat.
We found a little place called Nazar Borek & Café which had a great menu with great prices. We got chatting to the very friendly owner while waiting for our gözleme and böregi and told him that we wanted to walk the valleys while in Göreme. He quickly grabbed a map and spent a good amount of time running us through the best routes. After a long chat and probably one of the best gözlemes I’d ever had, we hit the road to Red Valley with the plan of continuing through to Rose Valley.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We were surrounded by unbelievable cave formations and mountains as far as the eye could see. Anita said it reminded her of another planet, while it reminded me of a scene from an old American western. After several hours of trekking through the valleys and exploring abandoned caves we decided it was time to head back to town, grab a bottle of local Cappadocian red wine, and find a quiet little spot to perch ourselves for the sunset.
After watching the sun go down and drinking ourselves up an appetite, we walked back to the hostel to enquire about a good place for testi kebap. Testi kebap is a type of traditional Turkish meat and vegetable stew which is cooked in a ceramic pot and cracked open with a hammer at the table. It’s quite the spectacle.
We were recommended a place called Köy Evi, a home-style Turkish restaurant run by a local family. Perfect.
After a sensational dinner of testi kebap, a type of Turkish moussaka, and bulgar wheat, salad and sucluç for dessert, we again braved the cold back to the hostel to rest up for our early rise to catch the sunrise and hot air balloons.
We woke up at 6am, chucked on layer upon layer, then headed up the steep hill behind our accomodation. Apart from a wild rabbit we were the first ones there, so positioned ourselves perfectly in front of the balloons which were already starting to inflate. As the sun rose and the valley begun to light up, balloon after balloon took off high into the sky, creating an unbelievably beautiful show of colours. It was truly surreal. After an hour or so, we headed back to the warmth of our hostel for breakfast before heading to Uchisar Castle via the stunning Pigeon Valley.
It had snowed in Göreme a few days before we arrived and there were patches still in the shadows of the valley. It was the first time Anita had seen snow so as you can imagine she was pretty excited; I can’t wait to see her when she gets to Switzerland for Christmas! We finally arrived at the Uchisar Castle which is said to be the highest point in the region – I’d certainly believe that given the view we were treated to.
On our last day in Göreme we spent a few hours walking Love Valley before climbing onto an overnight bus headed to Pumukkale, about 600km west of Cappadocia.
When we finally arrived at Denizli, the closest major bus station to Pammukale, we were greeted by a man holding a sign with “DEREK JOHN HAMBRETT” on it. I thought it was a bit strange that there was a transfer for us alone, but certainly wasn’t going to question it. We climbed into the van which then sped to Pammukale.
We expected that the transfer would drop us at the bus company’s office where we would await sunrise, but instead it took us to a dingy little hotel a little outside of town. I told the man we wanted to go to the bus company’s official office, to which he replied “Yes, yes, this is it.” We hesitantly walked into the lobby where he proceeded to try and sell us tours and a room in the hotel. It was then that I realised we’d been had.
I suspect the man that booked our overnight bus in Göreme called the man in Pamukkale and told him we would be arriving. This man then collected us, right before trying to shove his overpriced tours and shabby accomodation down our throats.
After a few tiring minutes of deflecting his hard-sell attempts he told us that we should just sit in the lobby and then dissapeared. We sat down with a really bad taste in our mouth. We both felt really decieved and Anita felt a little uncomfortable, so we grabbed our bags and left the office to walk to the actual bus office and await sunrise.
When the sun finally came up we headed for Pamukkale’s beautiful terraced calcium pools. Walking up to the hillside it looked like a winter wonderland, although the white slopes aren’t snow but actually the effect of carbonate minerals left by flowing water. After a bit of a wander, we continued up behind the terraces to check out the ruins of the Greek-Roman city Hierapolis. It was so beautiful being able to wander the hills with the snow-white pools below us and huge mountain backdrop.
After some lunch, we jumped aboard our horrendously long bus back to Istanbul. The multi-stop trip meant that it took us a total of 13 hours – an unpleasantly long time to spend on a bus with no proper food and no shower and little sleep from the day before. Needless to say we were so happy to finally be back at our hostel brushing our teeth, having a long hot shower, and resting up before packing our bags for London the next day.
Although Cappadocia certainly lived up to our expectations we thought Pumukkale probably wasn’t worth making the trip out for a single day. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the time we spent there and are glad we got to experience a very different side of Turkey.