How do I get a piece of the view? - is a local obsession in Turkey. I really enjoyed my trip to Istanbul but if you do get to Turkey, a "must see" is Cappadocia. I flew from Istanbul to Ankara on Turkish Air Lines, comfortable but crammed with businessmen in suits and ties, for one hour, where lunch is served in boxes which have lids you can tear off and use for post cards, then rode for four hours on a bus. I looked out the bus window and saw sights very different from those I'd seen before. It was desert, but unlike the low desert going in to Palm Springs.
Cappadocia was well worth waiting to see. First came Tuz Golu Lake, the second largest in the country and the saltiest lake in the world. Then came upon the snow-covered Taras Mountains and finally a sight that reminded me of Star Trek. Seven miles from Nevsehir, rising up to the highest point in the region, like a giant chunk of Swiss cheese, Uchisar, an ancient citadel hollowed out with caves, rose to a peak. It was surrounded by a now uninhabited ancient village. Like some lunarscape, three volcanoes from the Early Miocene Age formed some of the most spectacular geological formations to be seen anywhere in the world. The Valley of the "Fairy Chimney" resembling a row of giant mushrooms is the result of centuries of wind and flood water which eroded the geologic formations around Urgup. Some of them were hollowed out and used as dwellings and storage facilities.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is a collection of Christian Churches and monasteries from the second century that were built into the caves of varying sizes. Each was different in the architectural style and religious adornment with frescoes in startling strange and beautiful colors of blues, golds and reds, all amazingly well presented. It was awesome.
There exist nearly 200 underground cities in Cappadocia, hollowed out from compacted volcanic ash. Originally used as short term refuge from foreign invaders, they eventually expanded to form city-like settlements. Touring Deriakuya, I was reminded of the underground settlements of the TV series, Beauty and the Beast. I loved that show and now I was in a maze of 100 narrow tunnels with ventilation ducts, meandering past cave-like rooms which descended seven levels into the earth. The rooms functioned as kitchen, schools, stables, storage rooms, churches, and wineries. A giant stone wheel with a small opening in the middle through which arrows could be shot was placed at the entrances in case of attacks. The ingenuity of these inhabitations dating back to the end of the 4th century B.C. was incredible.
Turkey is a fascinating country. Our tour guide, Bora, told me that when he comes to Cappidocia, he feels he is at home. I said that when I go to the Grand Canyon, I feel at home. Cappadocia is to Turkey much the same as the Grand Canyon is to America. I understand his love for that part of his country. On a recent flight back from Philadelphia, on a sparkling clear day, the pilot of US.Air announced that we were over the canyon and I felt such splendid pride. Although I've been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule when I was 18 and took my sons there when they were teenagers, it was nice to see it from overhead and feel at home.
I salute Bora Ozkok of Cultural Folk Tours, our guide in Turkey, for showing me Istanbul, Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, cruising the Bosphorus, Topkapi Museum, the Blue Mosque and the land that gave us Turkish towels, Turkish baths, and world-class hand-woven carpets. Turkey is an exotic and diverse land which holds many ancient mysteries waiting to be discovered. Cultural Folk Tours can be reached at 800 935-8875, the Turkish Tourist Office in New York at 212 687-2194.
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