Going to the Grand Bazaar again yesterday was lots of fun. The place is huge – and a maze! Most of the shops sell jewellery, from glass bead things right up to emeralds the size of a small country. I love emeralds but they are hideously expensive. If I one day have the money, I think I will come back to Turkey – I've never seen such well cut ones!
I actually managed to spend around 2 hours there with spending very little money in the end! Often when you go to these places the amount of beautiful things can be a little overwhelming – it's hard to now where to focus your attention! And the Western style of shopping where you browse and have to have a brain aneurysm in the shop in order to get noticed doesn't happen at all. In fact, I've never been called so many pet names in order to get my attention. Everything from “Miss! Madame! Lady!” to “Honey, Sweetheart, Baby, Gorgeous!” and then finally just “You! Hey You!!”. I found that walking around with one hand on my bag and the other in my pocket, while keeping a determined step (though looking around at everything of course) it was fine. It's when you look uncertain and touch things that they pounce :)
Some of the more unusual things people tried to sell me were birds – a little boy had a cage he was carrying around with them tweeting inside, a plastic stencil thing that made geometric designs but could have been made with gold for the price they wanted and finally, I saw a man who had a big bucket of ferrets he was trying to offload! Whenever I see animals like that overseas the word “Rabies!” flashes across my mind. They are most likely all fine but I did a subject at uni about diseases humans get from animals and it's not pretty.
I caught the overnight bus in the evening, praying that I would end up in the right place. However, although most people can't speak English, they are very helpful and polite and don't demand money when helping me out. Tipping always makes me anxious – I never know how much to give and no one it seems can break notes into smaller change around here so I can either give a paltry amount or a huge amount. I go the former with sincere thanks added :)
Needless to say I didn't get much sleep on the bus but I was sitting next to a really nice South Korean girl and we chatted for a few hours. She is making her way around Turkey by herself with no agency, which takes a huge amount of guts! There are lots of South Koreans here travelling – they love the mountains, I am told.
I am in the region of Cappadocia now, which is known for its mountainous valleys and stunning formations of rocks, due to this area being under water and full of volcanic deposits millions of years ago. Everything is built into the caves, including my hotel so as I sit and write this, I have cave walls surrounding me! It's very cosy and I quite like it. This morning at breakfast I sat up on the terrace and took in the views around me while eating a traditional breakfast of dried fruits, roasted chestnuts and Turkish tea. I could get used to this!
It's also quite cold in Cappadocia – usually at this time of the year there would be about 30cm of snow everywhere but it hasn't happened this year. There's a layer of frost everywhere though and we walked down a river today that had frozen over.
So, today we covered lots of ground and got to see the landscape. We went for a walk in the Rose Valley, which gets its name for the colour of rocks that surrounds the area. The rocks are beautiful because they are made up of quite a few different layers so you can see all the colours. It was a beautiful walk – but it was 4km mainly uphill so we warmed up very quickly in the cool air. At the top there is a very old church built into the rock – getting up there was quite a feat. There's no such thing as OH&S here so when climbing up the almost vertical rock to get to the church I was doubly glad I had taken out travel insurance!
But once inside, wow. This church would dates from before the 10th century and the frescos on the walls are still so bright and beautiful. I wasn't able to make it to Sunday mass today – finding a Catholic church is near impossible in Turkey – so I was happy I at least made it into a Church.
Most people will have seen parts of Cappadocia whithout realising it – this is the area that Star Wars was filmed – with the Jawas and Jabba the Hut. I had a very nerdy moment where I felt like I should be hearing Jabba's laugh but it didn't happen.
After this walk we went to Cavusin, which is an ancient city – here all the original Greek and Roman houses are still there, clinging to the mountain side. We walked through them and along the side of the mountain, where one wrong step and you could easily fall 50 metres down. But the views from up here were stunning and it was amazing to walk in a city that is over 1500 years old!
For lunch we went into a cave resturant. Turkish food is the bomb :) Though unfortunately my place at the table was in the couples section – where they only spoke to either other so I watched on as further down a group of Spaniards got very merry and looked to be having much more fun than myself!
After lunch we stopped at an old fort, which is the highest part of Cappadocia – there was a camel rider here who brought his camel with him. A girl in the group really wanted a ride but then she saw the camel bite some Japanese woman who was poking it so she lost her enthusiasm. And then lastly we went to an underground city called Kaymakli – there are around 100 various cities underground in Cappadocia but this is one of the biggest. It goes down over 80 metres, though we can only go down around 50. It was tight fit though! Mostly the cities were used as storage spaces and also in times of persecution when the people had to hide. It got warmer as we went down, following the maze of turns and tight squeezes. Here's a pic of how dark it was.
It was late evening by this time and the tour ended. I was having trouble staying awake on the bus back to the hotel so when I got back I had a glorious nap in my little cave room. Tomorrow will be spent again in Cappadocia seeing more and then I have another overnight bus to a place called Selcuk and will get to see the ancient city of Ephesus.