I think I’m in heaven.
Ok, maybe not (there would be far more chocolate there). But the region in central Turkey known as “Cappadocia” counts as the most magical place I’ve ever seen.
Stepping off the airplane onto the middle of the tarmac, you’re greeted by three things. One, the chilly winter air. Two, the quiet that completely envelopes this rural region, instead of the 24/7 hustle and bustle of Istanbul. And third, a gigantic solitary snow-capped mountain rising gracefully in the distance. Awesome.
As we’ve had it explained to us, this region has been increasingly built towards tourists, but it’s off-season and quiet now. The hotel can barely keep up with the winter winds and the temperature of our first lecture was coat-worthy (it has since warmed up nicely).
Accommodations aside, this place is unbelievable. No matter where you look, there are mountains, fairy chimneys, and ancient cave dwellings everywhere. No photo I take does the view justice, but count this region as an absolute must-see if you’re ever looking for an off-the-beaten-path trip.
The cave dwellings are the main draw. Inhabited for hundreds of years, these formations tower above the towns in the valley. Built by Christians fleeing persecution and later inhabited by Muslims, they’re one of the strangest forms of a house I’ve ever seen or heard of. They’re completely carved from stone- including kitchen tables and benches, and (on the creepy side) graves. They used to be entirely interconnected, though erosion has unfortunately taken its toll. Still, you are free to wander around the sites (and more are being restored) and take in the breathtaking views- so long as no photos are taken in the ancient churches.
We also held the today’s most awesome snowball fight in the world, on a ridge overlooking several fairy chimneys, a massive valley, and more mountains in the distance. Definitely more scenic than your standard backyard battle.
One of the ideas this region impresses upon you is its simplicity. Driving on roads that seemingly are in the middle of nowhere, you suddenly come across a town, where residents make crafts, entertain tourists, and live their lives in a place that is completely disconnected from anywhere else on earth. It’s unique, a place I never imagined myself visiting and probably would not have had I not signed up for this semester. And I am thoroughly enjoying the fact that I did.