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Saturday, August 21, 2010


As we ate breakfast the next morning, a young guy with long hair introduced himself. His name was Mali and he’d be our guide for the next five days. My first thought was cool--he looks a bit hipper than our buddies in Morocco! We grabbed our bags and joined him in the car where he told us our plan for the day. We’d be dropped off at the top of Zimi Valley and hike about 5 km to Goreme. We’d then break for lunch and continue our hike through about 4 km of Pigeon Valley and then walk to our inn for the evening.

Zimi Valley was absolutely amazingly beautiful and unlike anything we’d ever seen before. It was full of the “fairy chimneys” that Cappadocia is so famous for. These rock structures were all formed naturally as a result of volcanic ash, flooding, and erosion. Ancient people, realizing how soft the rock was, carved them out and used them for housing. More recently, many of the dwellings were converted into pigeon houses. Roosts were carved into the walls and the pigeons were fed. Annually, people would collect the pigeon droppings to use for fuel. This practice ceased about 200 years ago.

Anyway, the rock formations are amazing—like a combination of Petra, Bryce Canyon, Tent Rocks, and a million other cool rock places all on steroids!

Overlooking Goreme, Mali showed us a covered area where we could eat our sack lunches and afterwards wander around the town. Checking out a bunch of souvenir shops didn’t really appeal to us, so we opted to move on into the Pigeon Valley and find a rock to perch on. Even though we didn’t look at too much of the town, it was really pretty—-it’s amazing that so many hotels and shops are just built right into these ancient dwellings.

Lunch was the first of many huge sack lunches. We haven’t come close to finishing one. There is always a sandwich made on a half loaf of bread (a loaf of Turkish bread is probably the width of three baguettes and about 2/3 of the length), a little juice box (oh so nostalgic), a whole tomato, a whole cucumber, a piece of fruit, a packaged snack cake, and a candy bar.

After lunch, we walked through Pigeon Valley and arrived in Uchisar, a quaint little town. We walked to our inn, which was completely charming and perched just below Uchisar Castle. We settled into our little cave room (noting the crumbled stone on the bedspread) and decided to check out the town.

The Mediterranean coast was sooooo humid (probably pretty similar to the SE and Mid-Atlantic this summer) and Cappadocia was a really welcome change from that. However, I didn’t even realize how parched I was until we’d settled in. Before doing anything, I required fluids…we sat down and I drank a Diet Coke and we shared an entire 1.5 L bottle of water.

[Somehow, I seem to have readdicted myself to Diet Coke after about 2-1/2 years of near abstinence…I guess there are worse habits to pick up.]

On our way to the inn, we’d passed a small art gallery that we walked back to. The artist was in and it turned out that here work was a modern form of an old Turkish watercolor technique called ebru. She gave us a demonstration of the technique itself: she floats the paints that she mixes herself using powder and enzymes from cow stomach (ew! And it smells!) on top of a viscous liquid derived from cactus. She then uses her brushes (goat hair) and metal implements to manipulate the paint into marbled designs, flowers, and other cool things. She then peels the design off of the liquid onto a piece of paper. Some she leaves as is, some she paints on top of. Pretty cool!

Then we went to the Uchisar Castle behind our hotel and took in the amazing sights from above.

We still had a little time to kill before dinner, so we went up to our rooftop terrace for a beer and some cards. Only problem was that we didn’t really know any card games. Next time we got internet, I’d look up Gin or Rummy or Gin Rummy…we played something similar to one or all of them, but it didn’t seem quite right.

We met Mali for dinner. This was definitely cool in and of itself. When we did our desert/gorges tour in Morocco, it was always weird that we were cordoned off at mealtime. Mali turned out to be really interesting and fun: likes beer, heavy metal, and evolutionary biology—awesome. The food was really great as well: a simple soup, salad, stuffed peppers, and garbanzos. For dessert, it was some sort of pastry balls made of grains and soaked in syrup like baklava—totally love the Turkish desserts!

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