Weekend travel – to Turkey!

I love having 7 weeks vacation.  I love being so close to such amazing parts of the world.  Just imagine being able to say ‘I went to Turkey this weekend.’  Or ‘I’m going to Sri Lanka for a weekend in May.’  Or, ‘I must really go to Goa for the weekend one day soon.’  The proximity makes up for almost everything else.  (Like the combo washer/dryer I have in my apartment that seems to ‘bake’ my clothes instead of drying them….!)

So – I went to Turkey last weekend!  Cappadocia, specifically.  Me and 7 other girls from the college took advantage of a ‘banking holiday’ and took off after we finished work on Thursday.  The weekend starts Thursday night, remember?

One of us had a travel agent in Istanbul who coordinated the whole thing.  I’d highly recommend her – Ozge is one of the agents that works at Wanderlust Travel (www.wanderlustturkey.com) and she put together a fantastic itinerary for us.  All we had t do was get from doha to Istanbul and she took it from there.

We used Gulf Air – ‘the official airline of the Kingdom of Bahrain,’ to fly Thursday night from Doha to Bahrain (30 mins) and then Bahrain to Istanbul (4 hours).  Problem was, we arrived at midnight and had 6 hours to burn before our flight from Istanbul to Kayseri (the airport servicing Cappadocia).  Our plan was to find one of those premium lunges and buy passes to get in.  We we found one alright, and were so lucky to have an unattended desk and wine on deck.  We parked ourselves there, enjoyed the quiet, the snacks and the wine.  We were so lucky – we paid nothing!

We were picked up at the Kayseri airport and drove the hour to Goreme in the state of Cappadocia.  Without decent sleep and a skimpy breakfast we went headfirst into our first full day  on tour.  The place was amazing – I’ve attached pictures, but it’s so hard to describe.  Either way – it felt like a fairytale landscape.  Something like Hobbit-town or a place for Smurfs or Munchkins to live.  Homes carved into the soft rock that dominates the area.  An underground city going 8 floors down – created by early Christians protecting themselves from invaders.   Entire churches carved into hillsides with beautiful depictions of St. George and the Dragon, the Last Supper, etc.  Crypts, baptismal fonts, all were there.

The unique rock (called tuff) is also fundamental in the making of beautiful ceramics including one of the earliest wine decanters.  We then moved on to a carpet factory which was, in fact, a cooperative.  All the workers were owners and those weaving or tying the carpets worked at the looms no more than 4 hours a day.  We were shown beautiful wool and silk rugs, given an explanation of the spinning, dyeing and creation.  The patterns on the rugs were traditional, many named after the area they originated in.  In fact the carpets were so breathtaking, that I’m going to need to measure up the space in my home and return to the cooperative to buy a rug one day.  Just knowing that the wool and and silk were both from Turkey, that there was no child labour and that they would ship for FREE to any location in the world (knowing of course that’s built into the price!) makes this a perfect trip for my final vacation on the way home.  We were not allowed to take pictures of the finished rugs out of respect for the weavers and the months and months of time it took them to create each unique rug.  The manager stated that a snapshot taken in the blink of an eye could not reflect the work it took to create the rug.

We hiked up to an incredible outlook one day and went underground the next.  We hiked through a canyon where in days past thousands upon thousands of pigeons roosted.  It was here that many homing pigeons were raised.  The pigeon ‘poop’ was harvested as a fertilizer.  With so much rock and such little soil, the area needed the fertilization.  They grow apricots here and between apricots stewed for dessert, dried for breakfast and used to make their local Turkish Delight, I’d never tasted such wonderful apricots in  my life!  We stayed in a hotel that was carved into a hillside.  The last night of our weekend together, the 8 of us went to a local hamam, stripped down and wrapped in a cotton peshtemal, were scrubbed down, soaped up and massaged in the steamy warmth.

Our only disappointment came on Saturday morning, when the 30km breeze resulted in cancelling our hot air balloon ride.  The upside was that we had a fantastic leisurely breakfast at our cave hotel (www.mysticcavehouse.com) on the enclosed terrace overlooking the community of Goreme that morning.  It was then that we decided a return trip was an absolute must.  We had a rushed glimpse of one of Mother Natures masterpieces and  needed to return.  As soon as we could.  and this time, a direct flight to Istanbul – no transfers.

I’ve included the links to our hotel and travel agent.  Here also is the link to the knowledgeable, connected and accommodating tour company who treated us so well – www.insidertravelturkey.com.  All were fantastic.  We will be using them again!

And for all my library buddies out there – in a couple weeks I’m going to Abu Dhabi for the SLA Gulf Chapter annual conference.  Not surprisingly, I’m spending the weekend there too!

Do you see the five wine decanters? A perfect ring, symbolizing the continuity of life and the perfect circle of the sun.
Rhonda, Pauline, Aileen, Sandee, Robin, Nikki and Melanie!

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