Monday, November 30, 2009

Cappadocia Day Three

As the Sun rose on our last day in Cappadocia, Carolyn and I felt like we had done all of the major things we wanted to do. Cappadocia needs weeks to explore but if you only have days you can still see the key sights.

Our last day in Cappadocia was Republic Day and even the small city was decked out with large scale banners of Ataturk and the flag. I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on the celebration in Istanbul but I managed to make do with watching these school children put on a play.

We then decided to walk to the highest point in Cappadocia, Uchisar Castle. It is called a Castle for tourist reasons but a central government figure was never held here. More likely it was another mountainous village. It took about a hour to make it from our hotel to the top of Uchisar. The view from the top was almost as good (and much cheaper) than the scenes from the hot air balloon. We had a really nice girl from Canada traveling with us that day and she had a blast taking modelish shots of us. I could never manage to keep a straight face but still manged to look presentable in a couple of shots.

After our photo-op at the local peak we walked back to the hotel through beautiful Pigeon Valley. Named after all of the ruins of pigeon houses that scatter the landscape.

When we arrived back in town it was time to catch our flight back to Istanbul. I was ready to return to the big city. There was still so much I wanted to see and with only one day left in my trip, I was feeling a bit antsy.

Cappadocia Day Two

Sorry its been so long since I've written. Jill visited last week and I traveled to some new interesting places in Korea like Suwon Fortress. I am going to finish my Turkey blogs ASAP so I can get back to talking about Korea.

The second day in Cappadocia was the day of our Hot Air Balloon ride. It was extremely expensive (Won doesn't convert well into Euros) but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity I wasn't about to turn down. We woke up at dawn and drove out into the fields. There are many balloon companies in Cappadoica and the early morning colors were accented by the blazing flames.
Carolyn and I where copying the exact trip of friends of ours. He proposed during the balloon flight. A wise idea on his part, as it would be impossible to turn down any romantic idea hovering over the desert waves of history. The flight was just over an hour and we all were suspended in breathlessness. Except our pilot, who liked to spit over the side of the basket when he was not preforming daredevil sweeps next to rock faces. I felt like a wandering spirit as we peeked into cliff homes turned unusable by time and that can be seen only in flight. I will never forget that feeling.

After we descended back to earth we ate the worlds best breakfast. Turkish style yogurt, figs, dates, goat cheese (this is difficult to write about now that I'm back in the land of Kimchi and Rice). Carolyn and I still had the full day ahead of us and we decided to travel to Kayamkli underground city. After a delightful sketchy bus/air-porter van ride we arrived at the city. The city was carved over a thousand years ago for persecuted Christians. Only six floors are currently open but the city has over twenty floors not yet excavated. We explored the city with a keep of our guide for had no problem handing us a flashlight and then pointing us down tiny holes leading to churches, jail cells and general claustrophobia. It was mesmerizing to think of 3,000 people living in these human equivalents of ant hills. The richest living in the upper levels with the freshest air. We saw what remained of winery's, kitchens and large round doors.

After exploring the local village we returned to Goreme for a rained out mountain bike ride. I was a bit disappointed.

Stay tuned for my last two Turkey blogs. Coming soon I promise!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Pepero Day

I would like to wish all of my readers a happy Pepero day. (Or as many heathens know it, Pocky) And you thought valentines day was too corporate...

I think its just harmless fun and maybe my students will buy me cookies? I think this guy is contracting this all wrong. I'm not concerned with Koreans eating enough rice. I think that's pretty well taken care of.

Thank you for being so patient about the Turkey trip. I'll finish that soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cappadocia Day One

Cappadocia is a central state located in the middle of Turkey. It's famous for its stunning geography and its rich history and as the center of forbidden Christianity. The moment our van pulled into a view of I of Goreme my breath slowed. If there was was a place that deserved the title "pictures don't do it justice", this was it.

The stunning rock formations are contributed to a 2000 year old volcanic eruption. The tuffs of ash form soft rock with is later capped with denser rock. As the years go by the tuff erodes and the "fairy chimneys' are seen. Carolyn and I arrived at our gorgeous hotel (The highly recommended Kelebek) and this is the view from the hotel patio.

Our first adventure was to explore the open air museum. This is a group of homes, churches and monasterys craved out of the rock in the 300's but the frescoes that stand today are from the 11th century. Saint Basil was the active bishop and redecorated the ancient red ochre geometric designs with more extragalactic colors. There are so many churches to be seen in the museum that I saw both forms of decoration. Cave Church after Cave Church all mysteriously preserved and mine to explore. It became a little overwhelming. And the frescoes oh, I can barely describe it. It was like stirring in a dream but never fully waking up. If you want to see the frescoes in detail please look at Carolyn's website as she has a much better camera than me. Here I am in the entrance of a mausoleum. A skeleton is beside me roped off.

After we left the museum Carolyn and I started to play on the only jungle gym socially acceptable for adults, the rock pillars of Cappadocia. The homes that were once encased in rock are now open to the atmosphere. We were free to climb and explore this historic village that looked more like a science fiction set. It was easy to get swept away by the history of it all and grow disconnected from reality.

The height of my explorations came when I was stumbling over rocks and unexpectedly found myself inside a chapel. Some frescoes remained and a cross was craved into the wall. I said a quick prayer at the alter and sat in the priests chair for a long while (I'm sure they would understand) in a futile attempt let everything sink in.

The sun was setting and it was time to return to our picture perfect hotel. The next morning we had booked a hot air balloon ride over paradise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Something about customs always make me nervous. Perhaps its a fear developed from watching too many spy movies. I know I have nothing to hide yet for some reason I always begin to sweat at the beginning of the line. This means that after waiting 20 minutes to be interviewed by a surly looking Turkish man, I am a wreck.

I hand the man my passport and that little yellow card. It must be apart of the chemical in the yellow that blocks memory, I can never seem to remember my social security number. By this time its 1:30 in the morning Turkey time and 8:30 in the morning in Korea. I didn't know if I could answer a single question correctly. This habit of not sleeping on planes and then slurring answers at customs almost landed me in Korean quarantine. The surly Turk opens it and looks me up and down. He glares at me and asks "Kalk?". I slowly begin to process the question. "Kalk?" he asks again this time much louder like he has recognized my name from a most wanted list. "Yeah, Kalk K-A-L-K" is all I can think to say, I'm just glad I didn't go into my Callll-K me on the telephone routine.

After I introduced myself the officer looks me straight in the eye and says "Stand up". Silence, then he repeats himself with no change of expression "stand up". All I could manage was a muttered "I am standing..." It must have done the trick as he stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

The next day I related the story to my friends who had the idea to run the word "kalk" into a English to Turkish dictionary.

Kalk- To demand a single person to stand up.

Who would have guessed the last name commonly mispronounced as cock in English could have its own quasi-popular song by the Turkish spice girls?

And who can forget "Olgan Olgan Kalk Gidelim"?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Istanbul Days One and Two

Having just returned from my trip to Turkey, I can barely describe how magical that Istanbul is. You can feel the history soaking up from the streets. The food is mind-blowing and most importantly I realized how much I missed the regional culture. Turkey is everything I loved about Tunisia with half the sketchiness.

My travel buddy Carolyn and I stayed in Istanbul with our friends Kaitlyn and Ace. After 20 hours travel time, I arrived in Istanbul. I knew I was in love from the moment we took the bus to their fabulous apartment located nearby Isticklal center. In the morning we woke up and took a ferry ride down the Bosphorus to Yoros Place. A medieval place on the shore of the Black Sea.

The Bosphorus river is one of the most famous and historic rivers in the world. The two hour cruise has palace after mosque after fort. Its exhilarating! After the trip we took a short trip through the spice market. Dried fruit, Turkish delight, Olives, here is the food I have been missing! Much smaller then the Grand Bizarre the spice market has real values and I couldn't resist trying a little of everything.

After classic Istanbul fish sandwiches under the Galata bridge, we shared glasses of Effes on a hotel rooftop overlooking the Golden Horn. I couldn't believe that gazing at the same river as Caesars, Emperors and Apostles. The city once know as Constantinople was mine to explore.

One Monday we woke up early to take pictures from the panoramic view of Galata Tower. Originally built in 1348, the tower was guarding the "modern" part of Istanbul 100 years before Columbus was born. The 360 degree views of the city were spectacular if not difficult to capture with my camera.

We walked to Sultanahmet by way to the Grand Bizarre. Three hours, two scarves and one lamp later we arrived at the the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. This is the most famous district of Istanbul with all the major sights. We visited the blue mosque first. Finished in 1616 the blue mosque is still a working place of worship. With six minarets walking up to the mosque is a humbling experience. The inside is covered with its famous blue tiles.

Most importantly however is the really good "pretzels" that are sold everywhere (Thats for you Brett).

For the history nerd in me the good times never stop in Istanbul. We walked around the hippodrome and were I feasted my eyes on monument after monument. Including a jaw dropping Obelisk. The carvings look crisp although it is 3500 years old. Built in Egypt and moved in 390, the Obelisk dominates the hippodrome. I could not tear my eyes from it. We originally planed on simply walking past but I came enraptured.

How do you top that you ask? Well I thought it was impossible but Istanbul loves to prove me wrong. Enter the Basilica Cistern, a random sight we decided to drop by before dinner, turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Built in the 6th century the Cistern is 105,000 square feet. The feeling upon entering was like the I had the wind knocked out of me. It was eerie and strangely familiar. (Update-when I entered the Cistern reminded me of a Bond film moment, well I was right because it was featured in from Russia with Love! Score one me!) The Cisterns are lit perfectly with emphasis on the mysterious Medusa head's in the back. If you are in Istanbul, even just for one day, you must visit the Cisterns. I promise you will never forget them.

Wrapping up my second day in my new favorite city I went to bed early as tomorrow was our flight to Cappadoica. I was excited but hesitant to leave. What could top Istanbul?