Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welcome to the Middle East! Aleppo, Syria


Destination: Aleppo, Syria

Number of Days Spent: 2 days

Where we stayed: Hotel Samir - 800 Syrian Pounds without breakfast and toilet paper?!?($17 & you couldn't pay me to go back, the place had a very weird vibe...we got in from the border around midnight and took the second thing should have seen the first one. Problems with Syrian ATMs prevented us from switching the next day.)

Best restaurant: Surprisingly we actually really liked the cafe in front of the citadel (second to last one in a row of about 5). Their prices were definitely high by Syrian standards but it was very atmospheric and a great people watching spot. They have terrific hommous (65 pounds - $1.50)!

Best of: Citadel at night, the sprawling souq both eerily empty on Friday morning and bustling the following day

Worst of: We couldn't get any ATMs to work the morning after we arrived. We tried 8 or 9 of them with both of our cards. We eventually headed back to the hotel to tell them that we would stay an extra night because we needed to change money. That meant another night's stay at the equivalent of the Bates Motel. Ew. On the bright side the Sheraton Hotel changed our extra Turkish lira at the current bank rate and didn't charge us a commission. Later that day we found two separate ATMs that allowed us to take out enough money to get us through the first few stops in Syria.

Most Memorable: Sipping our beverages and watching the locals out for a "Sunday" stroll by the citadel

Useful Tip: Bring some cash just in case the ATMs don't work with your card. If you run into trouble the Sheraton will change money at the current bank rate with no commission (for us the bank wasn't an option as it was Friday, the Muslim holy day, and everything was closed). It's also conveniently a source of welcome A/C & clean bathrooms, and extra rolls of TP :-).

After arriving at nearly midnight from the border, we went to one of the cheaper hotels, only to discover that a) it wasn't so cheap and b) it had a squat toilet. Tired and exhausted, we were going to stay anyway but when he asked me to go and find a place to make copies of our passport instead of taking his lazy butt to do it, we grabbed our bags and said no thanks. We walked down the street to the friendly backpacker hotel, the ??? but it was full so they took us across the street to the Samir. Despite not having eaten since breakfast, we were more tired than hungry so we crashed and decided to tackle the money and food issue the next morning.

Wandering around town, now starving and still no Syrian pounds to be had, we set out to find an ATM. After multiple failed attempts using a couple of different cards, we went to the Sheraton and changed some money. The Sheraton, the only big Western hotel in town is new to the scene. A landmark in itself, we found the sight interesting in that it is completely surrounded by what looks like a war zone. Chunks of concrete and rebar lie all over acting as a buffer zone between the hotel and the street. While it makes sense to have this space given the recent attacks on similar properties around the world, the scene is quite contrasting. Perhaps they have plans in the future for landscaping...


Finally having a bit of cash, things were starting to look up. We headed over to the Christian Quarter and had a refreshing bowl of foul (fava bean soup) and strolled around the ancient quarter. From the outside, all the homes look the same. In fact, they look rather ordinary. But being this is the richest part of town, the inside reveals a different story. In fact they kept the outside looking unkempt to discourage burglars and other unsavory characters. We poked our head into one of the homes turned hotel for a look at the opulence that goes on behind closed doors. Most of the homes have rooms that surround a well manicured central courtyard, a theme that is commonplace in the nicer, older homes in the Middle East.

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After trying a couple more ATM's (in what had become an all day search) we finally found one that would accept our card! Cash problem completely solved, we spent the rest of the heat of the day in an air conditioned coffee shop making use of the free wireless (sans Facebook and our blog of course which were blocked by the Syrian government).

Once the air had cooled a bit, we made our way over to the Citadel just before it closed. The top of the castle has great views of downtown Aleppo and the entrance is interesting as it curves around and up to avoid a direct attack on the gate from a batter ram. Most annoying, if you go near closing time, the guards are in a hurry to get you out ahead of closing time so the man stands on top constantly blowing a whistle and yelling. We ignored him as best we could and finished looking around before leaving on our own accord.

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At night however is the best time for strolling & for people watching. We sat down at a cafe in front of the castle and settled in for a long leisurely dinner. Watching the varying people walking by in front of the ever changing colors of the walkway leading up to the gates of the castle is one of the simple joys of Aleppo. Balloon vendors selling to the kids, devout Muslim women completely covered from head to toe in black, the hip and youth wearing western clothes with a head scarf mingling with the smattering of western tourists that come here.

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Our last stop of the evening was the Baron Hotel, where Lawrence of Arabia along with a whole other cast of important & infamous historical figures once stayed (including Agatha Christie, Charles Lindburgh, Teddy Roosevelt & King Faisal of Iran). As Aleppo was the last stop on the famous Orient Express, the hotel was THE place to stay before and after boarding. Given its prestigious history, one would think that it had all the class of a Hilton. The owners, however, prefer to have the place look as it did in the 30's so other than a few minor updates (air con, a balcony here or there) it's just the same as it was then. It's also one of the few places in Aleppo that serves beer and so it became a must stop on our itinerary.

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On our last morning in Aleppo we took another stroll through the souk, drastically different from our Friday one. On Friday everything was closed and locked up tight but by Saturday mid-morning the place was really hopping. Trucks and donkeys with carts barreled through the street and the shopkeepers shouted out to potential customers. Compared to the markets in Turkey, which have become more tourist oriented, Aleppo's souk is far more traditional. It is one of the few markets that is used daily by locals to buy anything from spices to backpacks to toiletries.

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After getting our feel of shopping, we hoped on the bus and headed down to our next stop, the waterwheels of Hama.

To see more photos of Aleppo click here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Inshallah! We will get across that border: A day out at the Syrian border


Destination: Syrian/Turkey border between Kilis, Turkey and Aleppo, Syria

Number of Days Spent: 10 exhausting hours

Where we stayed: Sitting in a plastic chair for 7 hours, 1 hour in the "VIP" section, and one more pacing around

Best restaurant: No food anywhere to be seen! Not even water!

Best of: The Syrian border guards could not be more friendly; albeit slow

Worst of: No food, little water, an impatient taxi driver and some of the most disgusting bathrooms in the world...perhaps the lack of water was a blessing in disguise

Most Memorable: We will never forget the hospitality of everyone at the border. We must have been welcomed into the country at least a dozen times by various people, particularly Iranians who found it odd that two Americans were just "hanging out" at the border

Useful Tip: Should go without saying, but get the Visa ahead of time from Washington (the official line)

Since we were rejected in Istanbul, we started looking for alternative routes to get to Jordan and continue our path without Syria. After hours of searching for flights or ferries turned up no cheap alternative we opted to try our luck in Gaziantep. When we were again told no, we debated for a moment and decided we were too close not to give it a try so we packed up our bags and headed to Kilis on the public bus. We had arranged for a taxi to take us all the way from Kilis to Aleppo for 90 lira ($60 US). A little pricey but haggling with a taxi driver on the Syrian side we heard was pricey as well. Plus we figured that having a "local" could possibly hurry the process along.

First two gates, getting out of Turkey that is, were no problem. Upon crossing no-man's-land however proved to be a different story. After inspecting our Passports and realizing we had no Visa, we were pulled over to a side room where a man who spoke decent English asked us why we didn't have a visa. We tried to explain to him that we had been traveling and did not have the opportunity to apply for a visa from Washington. After a few more silly questions, he prepared a fax and said "you could be here for an hour, two, six, maybe come back tomorrow." We had heard that 6 was the "norm" for Americans without visas and since it had already been an hour, we figured no problem. Off the fax went to Damascus and we sat down to patiently wait.

This particular border is in the middle of nowhere. One dusty, smoke filled room with a couple of offices attached are all that make up the immigration office. Across the street is the bank where you pay for the visa and the doctor's office where they make sure you aren't carrying over the flu apparently. That's it. No air-con, no duty free, no lobby; not even a "Welcome to Syria" brochure stand.

We sat in the corner, chatting it up with the passing tour groups; mostly Iranians on vacation. I'm sure we were quite the spectacle, two white Westerners, seemingly just hanging out. When we did get up to stretch our legs, the apparent boss would get up and kindly ask us to sit back down.

I just hope that the border guards who we were warmly shaking hands with have different bathroom facilities they use because the conditions of the public restrooms were the worst we have encountered...and that's saying a lot. Luckily for Tracy, the Iranians had apparently heard of the problem and came prepared. Upon entering said facilities they glanced at her, then at one another then back at her before informing her that they had soap and would wait until she was finished. Sure enough, they waited and out came a handy dandy soap dispenser (it was even nice smelling and good quality!). The man who was accompanying the ladies outside the loo turned to Tracy and said, "when you get home to America, please write a letter to the newspaper and let them know of the horrible conditions of these bathrooms." While our little blog isn't the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune by any means, we're informing the public at large through the power of the Internet!

After seven or so hours had passed, the boss man came out and waved at us to come with him. Yeah! He finally has an answer! We follow him to a small courtyard in the back where a fountain with no water and a smattering of potted plants called home. In the middle of the yard sat two cushioned chairs, apparently out of some other, much nicer, waiting room. "Come, sit." he exclaimed and ran off. Are we being interrogated? Had they found out we were not students as we had told them all along? As he trudged off without another word, another man came out with a glass of water and handed it to us. Ah, this must by the VIP room we joked.

At this point the taxi driver, who wasn't the most patient man to begin with, was pacing and pacing and with each passing minute became more visibly agitated by the whole situation. After an hour of "relaxing in luxury" the fax finally came back...YES! A whirlwind of activity ensued with the taxi driver virtually dragging us from the office to the bank to pay our $16 each (well, it would have cost $100 each from Washington!) and back to get that well deserved stamp!

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After getting through all the hassle, we thought for sure the taxi would demand more money for the long wait, but he didn't. We ended up giving him a good tip anyway, figuring he had put in more time than he bargained for!

Moral of the story: Get your visa in advance!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gastronomic Delights and Masterful Mosaics: Gaziantep, Turkey


Destination: Gaziantep, Turkey

Number of Days Spent: 2 days

Where we stayed: Hotel Gulluoglu - 60 lira per night ($40) with free Internet, breakfast & a very helpful staff (they even walked us to the tea house, let us borrow their personal guidebook for the city & helped us set up transport to Syria - without even charging us). Then they gave us a Syria and Lebanon guide book left behind by a fellow traveler.

Best restaurant: The Gulluoglu baklava was excellent! The pistachios were the best I have ever tasted but we still like the phylo dough at Jersusalem's in Denver better. It was very expensive but the 7 lira servings were huge, 2 people can easily share. Also be sure to try the lacmajun on the street, it's a spicy Arabic pizza which is rolled up and eaten like a sandwich. Delicious!

Best of: The mosaic museum gets our vote for the most impressive museum in Turkey (for mosaics we thought it was even better than the National Museum in Rome)! if you are in Gaziantep definitely visit, they are amazingly well preserved and intricate. Well worth the 3 lira - $2 admission fee.

Worst of: Strike two - the Syrian consulate in Gaziantep denied our request for a visa to Syria. Will we get in at the border? We also left our Turkey guide book in the van...good thing this is our last stop in Turkey!

Most Memorable: The food in Gaziantep is much spicier than the rest of Turkey...they put chilies on everything and it's all excellent! They also have a sweet tooth, serving up the best baklava in Turkey!

Here is where the beginning of the Middle East can really be felt. Leaving behind the coastal resorts, the tourist crowds in Cappadocia and cosmopolitan Istanbul, we spent a couple of days in Ganziantep getting prepared to hopefully cross the border to Syria. This area is a major source of pistachios and they make good use of them in the famous baklava. The food here is also spicier than in other parts of Turkey, particularly their Arabic salads & pizzas!

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The town really only has one "sight", the mosaic museum just south of downtown. Not expecting too much and really just checking it out for the sake of having something to do, we were pleasantly surprised. Set in a modern building, well laid out and well labeled in English, the museum houses some of the best mosaics in the world, in our opinion. Most of the mosaics come from the "rescued" Roman sight of Zeugma. Termed "rescued", teams of archeologists work against the clock to salvage and save priceless sights from the crush of modernism. When construction began on the Ataturk Dam, some Roman sights would have been forever covered under the impending lake. Teams swept in and carefully, but hastily, took what they could from the sights and set them up here saving them from the floods. The priceless mosaics mostly depict Greek and Roman gods, but a few, including the famous "Gypsy Girl" are of ordinary day to day life. All are strikingly beautiful, particularly the gazing eyes of the mysterious girl.

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Ready to cross the border, we got up and went to the Syrian consulate in Ganziantep to once again to procure a visa. After a moment of conferring with one another, the man came back to the window and said, "So very, very Come back tomorrow at 10am." Not wanting to wait around and see, we decided to take matters into our own hands and headed to the Syrian border. Will they let us in? Stay tuned!

To see more photos from Gaziantep click here!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Eighth Wonder of the World? Nemrut Dagi & Eastern Anatolia


Destination: Nemrut Dagi & Urfa

Number of Days Spent: 3 days

Where we stayed: Our hotels were covered by the tour. In Katya it (we can't remember the name but it isn't in any of the guidebooks) was absolutely disgusting and in Urfa we stayed at Kilim Hotel which was very clean and pleasant with a good breakfast spread and free wifi.

Best restaurant: The dondurma (goat's milk ice cream) dipped in crushed pistachios in Maras gets our vote for best restaurant (1 lira - $.65)!

Best of: Urfa (Saniurfa) was a pleasant city and we wish we would have spent more time here wandering through this more conservative and traditional city that rarely sees so many "tourists".

Worst of: Two things, for more information read below (Cem Tours & suspected food poisoning)

Most Memorable:

From Goreme we booked a tour with Cem tours for a 2 night/3 day trip out to Nemrut, Urfa, and a few other stops along the way with a drop off in Ganziantep. First the good parts of the tour. After negotiating the price to 120 euros per person, the cost of transport, food and admission on our own would have cost us about the same with a few extra headaches along the way along with days lost waiting for public transport, plus we got a guide to explain a few things. The hotel in Urfa was nice with a good breakfast as was the lunch place in Urfa.

The bad parts: lunch on the first day was at a disgusting "truck" stop where half the people on the tour complained about getting sick, and the other half I think were just not talking about it (they stop here again on the way back also, unless you revolt, which our group did). The hotel near Nemrut was listed as a three star, but the toilet didn't work, rooms & common areas were dirty, air con unit in most rooms was falling off the wall and didn't work properly, the food served was adequate at best, and an uncaring staff just shrugged when we mentioned the problems. The hotel does have a pool, but we didn't get there until well after dark. The "air-con" van was crammed with 18 people where the guide had to sit on a stool the entire way while the driver kept turning off what little air was coming out in order to make up for lost time from a flat tire delay, driving insanely too fast, overtaking cars in curves with oncoming trucks blaring their horns as the driver swerved at just the last moment.

So to sum up, if you are short on time, don't mind spending hours in a van, bring a snack to avoid the first lunch, and above all, negotiate the price to a reasonable level then the tour is not too bad. You really have no other option other than public transport (slightly cheaper but more time consuming), your own car (more expensive), or a complete package deal (most expensive) of Turkey. No matter where you book the tour (Istanbul, Gorome, etc.), it all goes to the same company. We paid the least at 120 euros, but some paid well over 200 euros for the exact same tour.

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Moving on, the first stop was at a canvaseri (sp?). Back in the silk route heyday, one of these types of structures existed every 50 or so kilometers; or as far as the average camel could travel in a day would be a more accurate distance. The buildings served several purposes. Not only were they a place of commerce were goods were traded and sold to continue up the line, but they also served as protection against the elements and potential hostile tribes or thieves. When sea routes provided a quicker and cheaper way to transport goods, these overland havens fell into disuse and eventually were abandoned. Today they are restoring a few of them to their former glory and will eventually be convenient stops for a new kind of trade - tourism.

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After the crappy, aforementioned lunch, we stopped at the home of Dondurma, or the Turkish Ice cream found all over Turkey. Made from goat's milk, the tasty treat is much thicker, almost chewy in fact, and topped with the traditional pistachio, a major crop of Turkey. All those ice cream vendors in Istanbul struggling to stir the mixture get the base from here and just like most things, nothing beats the original (1 cone. - 1 lira - $.66).

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After arriving late to the hotel, switching rooms three times till we had a working toilet, we laid down for a couple of hours before getting up at 3am to catch sunrise at Nemrut. The hike to the top is rather short as far as hikes are concerned and the sunrise is nice, but we've seen nicer.

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Once the light rises above the surrounding hills, the faces of a fallen empire are case in an eery glow. For a very brief period of time, only about 100 years or so, King Nemrut ruled over a kingdom that served as a buffer between two goliaths, the Persians to the east and the ever expanding Romans to the west. During this short time, the tiny kingdom became rich from trade between the two and as a result the King and his son got somewhat of a Napoleonic complex placing themselves in the same echelon as the gods. To prove his greatness, the King commissioned these massive statues to be built on an artificial hill. In total, only 16 statues were built, two sets of eight on each side of the hill to catch the sun rising and setting. The figures have been identified as the King, Hercules, Zeus and a couple of other protecting animals. While they don't quite live up to the moniker "Eighth Wonder of the World" (as our guide told us this "fact" we all chuckled), they were still neat to see.

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Around the hill are a few other remains of the kingdom. The King had summer and winter palaces and there are a few remains of statues and scenes of his greatness scattered about. Many of the reliefs depict him shaking hands with the gods. Also in the area is an impressive Roman bridge, still standing and even used as the highway up until a couple of years ago. There are three columns standing in each corner with the fourth one intentionally missing. The columns represent the family of the Roman governor and the fourth one was of his son who died at the age of 9 while the bridge was being built. As one of the locals demonstrated, the columns have stood the test of time by being built earthquake proof - you can actually shake the pillars and they give (only a little), but don't topple.

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After a crappy breakfast, we were off towards Urfa. On the way, we stopped at the largest dam in Turkey, the Ataturk Dam. Built over the mighty Euphrates, the dam is somewhat controversial as it diverts much needed water from Syria for use in Turkey, not to mention the environmental concerns associated with large dams.

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Sanliurfa, or just Urfa is one of the largest cities in Eastern Anatolia. The cities claim to fame is really one of significant religious importance and casts the city as a pilgrimage site for so many. The cave of Abraham, father of all three Monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), is said to be here. The sight of him being cast into the fires by King Nimrod (not to be confused with the much later and less significant Nimrut) and coming out unscathed is also said to be here as well. Islamic teaching say he was catapulted into the fires and stayed there for 9 days. When the fire subsided, he was sitting in the middle of a lake eating fish and having a good ole time. While I don't remember that exact story from Bible school, something similar also exists in Christianity. Today, the area is one vast compound of mosques, cafes, a well manicured park, and...of course...a holy fish pond. We donned the necessary attire and poked our heads in to see the cave. While the smell of sweaty socks dominates the small room (you have to take off your shoes and do a ritual washing) detracts somewhat from the atmosphere, it's still an interesting experience to see so many devout Muslims making this a pilgrimage site from all over the Islamic world.

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Upon exiting the compound, you enter into the souk, a collection of shops similar to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Unlike the Grand Bazaar, one can wonder around this souk and do some shopping with much more reasonable prices.


The last stop of the day led us out to within 15km's of the Syrian border to Harran, the sight of one of the oldest Universities in the world and the beehive houses. Given the name for their unique shape, the mud and brick homes are typical traditional homes for the area. As they are made of mud and brick, they are not original by any means, but in this town, Abraham was said to have lived in one such house.


The next morning, the van took us to Ganziantep and dropped us off. We said goodbye to some new friends we made along the way and found a hotel for a couple of days in the Gastronomic capital of Turkey!

To see more photos of Nemrut click here!

To see more photos of Urfa click here!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cave Hotels and Fairy Chimneys: Magical Cappadocia, Turkey


Destination: Goreme, Turkey

Number of Days Spent: 2 days

Where we stayed: 1 night in Dora Hotel (30 lira, $20 - it was not clean and only used solar heated water so our morning shower was cold) and the Dervish Cave Hotel (70 lira - $45 and worth every penny...had we stayed two nights it would have been 60 lira per night - the hotel is new and has been open only 6 months; the room was built into a cave and offered a beautiful view of the fairy chimneys from the balcony, sparkling clean rooms, a jacuzzi bathtub/separate shower 24 hour hot water, awesome pillow-top mattress, free wireless Internet, free pickup from the bus station, a good breakfast & a super helpful and friendly staff - see photos at end of post)



Best restaurant: Nazar Borek Gozleme made a tasty cheese & Turkish sausage gozleme (savory pancake) for 4 lira. They have outdoor seating with pillows right by the canal. Plus they offer free wifi!

Best of: We hiked up to the top of the town and watched a beautiful sunset over the valley. It was absolutely stunning!

Worst of: Our first hotel room was so disgusting that we told the owner we had to move. The second room they gave us was much better (which means that the bathroom didn't smell of urine, the maid cleaned the used soap out of the shower & put clean sheets on the bed; there was hair all over the first set) but I still wouldn't call it clean. Pretty gross...I would definitely avoid the Dora Hotel; there are far better options in town for the same price or a little more.

Most Memorable: We loved our cave hotel and would recommend it to everyone traveling to Cappadocia!

Every now and again, we come across a place that is so stunningly beautiful and unique that it takes our breath away. With its fairy tale chimneys, cave homes and underground cities, Cappadocia is one such place. Stepping still dreary eyed off the bus from Anatalya, our eyes widened by the sight in front of us. We were surrounded by pinnacles of rock reaching for the sky. Carved out of them were holes, some big enough for rooms and a hotel or someone's house, and some just big enough for pigeons to roost. Looking past the chimneys revealed candy stripped mountains in a varying array of whites and greys mixed with all sorts of earthy tones.

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While the natural beauty is the real draw here, there is an intriguing history to the area as well. Early Christians made this place home and scattered in amongst the rocks are hundreds of churches and monasteries. One collection of churches has been turned into what they call the Open Air Museum. While most of the carvings and paintings have been defaced by the conquering Muslims (Although they respect Jesus and the apostles and consider them prophets, Muslim law forbids images of any kind), there are still quite a few intact and well preserved, particularly on the ceilings and higher parts of the walls. The most stunning are in the "Dark" church (extra admission) where the sunlight was so dim that the vibrant colors have survived the test of time.

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One of the more popular activities is to take a hike around the area. There are several treks around, most of them easy to moderate. Given the heat and the time of day, we decided to take a shorter one out to see Love Valley (i.e. the phallic...err...mushroom shaped rocks), After taking a wrong turn, and attempting to correct our mistake by just climbing over the rocks (didn't work and the locals got a good laugh from watching us try) we backtracked and finally ended up in the right place. To keep this blog PG, we are keeping a photo or two repressed ;-) but here are a few other photos.

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Later that night, we climbed up to the top of the hill in town to watch sunset. Sitting on top of the rock, with the wind whipping by gives one pause and reflection on just how stunningly beautiful the area really is.

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Since we decided to take the Nemrut tour that left the next day (see next posting) we squeezed in the rest of the highlights by taking a tour out to Ilhara Valley and the Underground cities.

The area remained a haven for Christians to continue their practice even after the rise of Islam in the region. As a way to avoid invading groups and fighting, the Christians developed massive underground cities to go into hiding. From above ground, only a handful of air vents covered by piles of rocks that blended in with the landscape gave away the location. As they lived in homes above ground most of the time, passing invaders would assume that the village had been deserted and move on. Much like the chimney rocks, the base rock was also easy to carve into and tunnels, rooms and passageways were carved out. Some of the larger cities could accommodate over 2000 people. Wells were dug, food was stored, and the rock kept the temperature cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The porous rock would capture the smoke from fires so no one above ground would realize what lied beneath their feet. They even had wine presses, a chapel to continue worshiping, and stables to keep the livestock.


In an otherwise dry and inhospitable landscape, the Ilhara Valley sticks out as an oasis of life. A small river cutting through the valley provided a place to grow crops and cultivate the land. There are over 80 churches and chapels dotting the valley floor and the pleasant hiking path passes by the meandering brook under the shade of trees. While the paintings in these earlier churches are primitive, it gives you some perspective on how art developed as well.

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The ??? monastery lies at the Northern end of the Ilhara Valley. Local guides say Star Wars was filmed here for the scenes from Mos Eisley, but that's not true. George Lucas may have drew inspiration from here however as the setting looks very much the same. The monastery houses several chambers including the obvious chapels along with kitchens and long "tables" carved out of the rock where the hungry students would congregate to eat.

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The sign on the way to Guzelyurt, exclaims, "A trip to Cappadocia is not complete without a trip to Guzelyurt". While the small village lacks the stunning scenery and caves of its neighbors to the northeast, it does have an impressive, but simple, early mosque. Just outside the mosque there is a well said to bring good luck to those who wash in it's waters...but don't drink! Across the street is another early church, but the views from the top of the church were more impressive than the remains themselves.

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While Guzelyurt may make the claim, a trip to Cappadocia is not complete without staying in the famous cave hotels. The range of choices are across the board, from a dorm room in a cave (20 lira pp) up to a luxury suite with majestic views over the landscape (100 euros ++). The backpacker ones we checked out were 40 lira for a double shared bath and smelled funny while the nicest room we checked out was 90 euros, the honeymoon suite. We settled on the Dervish Cave hotel for 70 lira (about $45; $40 per night for 2 night stay). The hotel was new and there are signs of construction still on going, a few loose wires here and there, but the cool temperature inside the cave and the Jacuzzi tub more than made up for it! To top it off, the owner was super friendly and welcoming. If you are into taking a hot air balloon, they are one of the owners and you can save a few $$'s by cutting out the middle men in town. It was still pricey for us, so we opted not to.

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We woke up bright and early the next morning and hopped on the tour out to see the famed heads of Nemrut.

To see more photos from Cappadocia click here!