Turkey: Kayseri

Prayers at Hunat Mosque, Kayseri
Bus Drivers at Kayseri's Yogunburc Street station

After Cappadocia, in the interest of making use of whatever time I have here in Turkey, I thought it was not too smart to be spending the whole day travelling. So next to the region of Nevsehir, is a large city called Kayseri which I could get to in a few hours, and if I am lucky, I can catch an overnight bus to Antakya all the way down south.

7 September 2009:
Kayseri is also called Caesarea in ancient times before the arabs conquered it. I suppose this is the famous Caesarea that I have heard about. No idea what is there but no harm checking it out to know (Ed: Apparently it is not, there is another Caesarea in Israel). Most people I’ve spoken to in Cappadocia were amazed I was going there as it has nothing to see there.

Urgup to Kayseri

1100hrs: Right on the dot, the bus starts leaving Urgup’s otogar for Kayseri. Fare: 6TL. The next bus to Kayseri is in 2 hours after lunch so it is perfect that I’m here at this time. The bus indicates that it goes to Nevsehir but I was assured it goes where I thought it was going. Along the way out of Urgup it stops to pick up passengers, and soon it is full, about 30+ passengers as my quick estimate puts it. As it passes the local police station, a policeman comes on board to check, possibly visual profiling, but I, being the only asian looking person, was not checked in detail. And in less than 10 mins we are on the road into the Cappadocian desert, dodging the occasional farmer’s donkey and tractor carts that takes up a whole lane on the road. This highway has 2 lanes and bidirectional, and rather devoid of any vehicles, meaning that the bus driver could drive as fast as he wants. Landscape are craggy hills, valleys with poplar trees and farms. Seems like there are plenty of pumpkin farms around. My GPS registers our speed at less than 90kmph.

Kayseri Otogar Interiors

Loading up water on a hot day at the otogar...

Exterior of Kayseri Otogar

1216hrs: Arrived at Kayseri Otogar after an hour on the highway. The otogar is made up of a few buildings in the outskirts of Kayseri city and one of the building houses the ticket booths. Saw one with a midnight bus to Hatay/Antakya so I took a sleeping berth, so I think, for 40TL which is about the most expensive bus trip thus far, but it saves the hotel expense so, could be worth it. The girl at the counter thought I was Japanese again, and I learnt from her Turkish for ‘hello’ is ‘merhabah’ (similar to arabic I thinks) and ‘goodbye’ is ‘gule gule’ which I see a lot while driving in the Cappadocian countryside in the last 3 days. This otogar looks modern and has plenty of shops. I see left luggage service too, which I will use to deposit my bags till tonight, and make a trip to Kayseri’s merkezi (town centre)!

Little ticket booth to buy bus tickets before boarding...

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Turkey: Cappadocia Day 3

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Cappadocia

6 September 2009:
The plan today will be to cover the south-western part of Cappadocia, visiting some underground cities which the Christians lived while escaping the invading Seljuks. Right after will be the Ihlara valley, dotted with rock cut churches. Quite obviously the church will be just the same as the others I have seen in Cappadocia so far so the interest is more in the scenery. I plan to rush through it and not walk the whole valley.

After a heavy breakfast made of olives, goat cheese (like the french chevre) and bread, it’s time to start the day before 10am. Will drive past Uchisar and its hill top castle hewn out of a rocky hill and pass Pigeon Valley lookout point. You know the view here is good when you see tour buses. Valley on the right, and the ancient city of Uchisar in the background. And true to its name, there are pigeons around.

Pigeon Valley, with Uchisar Castle in the background

I don’t plan to stop too long at all the interesting spots. Soon I’d go southwards, passing highway 330, Kavak and on the way to Kaymakli through Cardak. The views are of rolling plains, a pleasant drive in the morning. The road is not too wide, enough for 2 lanes to and fro. With the windows wound down, the smell of garlic permeates the air. There are sacks of garlic fresh off the field on the roadside. No, it didn’t come across my mind to nick one. But this is a nice drive, about 40km to go.

Eventually I hit the main north-south road connecting Nevsehir and Kaymakli. It is still farming area here but soon I’d hit Kaymakli. Signs abound pointing to the underground city there, but right at the same spot I branch off to the right towards the satellite town Ozluce, with a lot less tour buses. As quickly as Kaymakli started, once I turned right I was in the open fields again and it is possible to see Ozluce in the distance.

1107hrs: Typing this out at Ozluce Underground City next to the village of the same name, minus the ‘underground’ part obviously. The place is right inside the village, follow the signs and you will not get lost. This one definitely looks out of the way for the tour groups that prefer the other 2 more popular underground cities, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

I drive the only car parked at the small shaded area. A guy comes up and ushers me into a small little stone house numbered 18. Inside is a small room with nice carpet strewn sofa and old farming tools and an old pair of leather shoe hanging on the wall. Naturally a good place to let go a barrage of B&W film on. I asked the guy how long to do the whole place and he says 10 something in part sign language. Can’t be hours so I guess must be minutes. Hope it is not 10 storeys of caves to explore. Stairs go down about a floor underground and first thing you come across is a medium sized chamber with a wheel as a door to block the entrance. There is a well as air ventilation shaft and potteries all over the place. The tunnel is lit with 60W incandescent bulbs requiring ISO1600 to shoot properly. At 400 I was able to do half second with my Ricoh. A few passages leads away from the main chamber and I follow it until it winds a little too much. I am the only one here and GPS don’t work so I thing better to play safe and not get too far. The air is cool here, easily 20C or slightly below when it is scorching hot outside. Nice. I will rest here for a while. The caves here look like they are dug out of clay, none of the rocky or crumbly caves which most churches I have seen in the last 2 days were made of.

On the way into Ozluce

Ozluce: Small farming village

I wonder where it is....

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Turkey: Cappadocia Day 1 & 2

View of Cappadocia from Uchisar Castle
Soganli

Every tourist here in Istanbul seem to have Cappadocia on their itinerary. I overheard many talking about their plans. I’m no different, but instead of a package tour, I plan to go with a rental car. Price of petrol seems quite steep here, but the plan is set and the wheels are in motion. Hoping to be able to get out to the countyside early in the morning before the sun rises and before sunset, so a car will be useful. I will be flying into Nevsehir, not too many flights per week, and then transfer to Urgup to pick up my car and drive to Goreme for the night. Goreme will be my base for this trip.

Cappadocia is, of course, famous for 2 things I am aware of. First are the cappadocian horses, which I don’t expect to see this trip, and second the rock cut churches where the first christian cultists practised their religion in the early years, away from the eyes of their Roman masters.

4 September 2009:
0728hrs: Airport pickup at my hotel in Istanbul. This is one of those shuttle that picks up a bunch of people in different hotels. Cost 10TL so it is cheap. This morning is not a good day for the driver as all the passengers are late out of their hotel except for me. The driver and I exchanged complaints about late passengers while we waited. You could guess what kind of passengers. Follow your stereotypical instincts.

1143hrs: Arrived in Nevsehir after a standard flight. Nothing special to report about. The landscape on the way didn’t look too spectacular and the place looks dotted with many small villages. I can imagine driving to those places looking for high ground for a better view.

View from up high...

Nevsehir airport is quite far away from the city. Nothing much here, just an airport in the middle of nowhere. On arrival, I get picked up by a shuttle I booked online and next destination Urgup. The minivan zips through some desert and a town or two. Towns here look like typical eastern european mid sized cities, with a small town center and everything else is made up of standard issue apartment buildings made to be utilitarian rather to look good. Realised I was talking about Nevsehir! Nothing to see here, so we go past it on the way to Urgup.

Not too many flights to Nevsehir airport. Today there are less than 5.

Nothing special about Urgup either, but the city center looks more tourist friendly than the previous one. This is where I pick up my rental car. This time I get a sedan Renault Clio 1.4 but before it sounds like a car of the year, the one I got is a wreck, or half way to becoming so. There are knocks all over, and I swear it looks like this car is made of fiberglass. The knocks looks like it is. The cigarette lighter is not working, not a showstopped but I will have issues with my GPS power if this is the case. And even for a rental car company as big as National, this one gets delivered with no fuel in the tank! All I get is a tip on the nearest petrol kiosk on the way out to Goreme.

Continue reading “Turkey: Cappadocia Day 1 & 2”

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