A fair dream couloured in tans and reds of central Anatolia. It’s harsh and dreamy landscape of fish, camels, houses and churches, mother and fathers, caves and cliffs in crumbling rock. It’s just the place to stir the sense of adventure in your blood. To demand you do something daring, climb up a jumble of rock and stretch your own limits, (At the risk of a heart attack on Jen’s part). It’s sort of place to make you question “Why did we all wear black pants on this trip?”, as we became camouflaged in the ‘khaki-docian’ landscape.
It started with an innocent quest: çorba. After arriving at the Cappadocia airport and driving into Ürgüp (a funny bus ride experience because I only really saw it through a few peeks at the world outside between naps) and checking into our hotel, we devoured a delicious breakfast and set about exploring. I climbed onto the unfinished levels of the hotel and drew the bluffs across from us, others napped or wrote a paper for Tuna (such diligent students). The afternoon wore on, our bellies hungered and drove us towards town.
Walking down the hill from the hotel, we followed our footsteps until someone suggested ‘Could that be a cool view?’, pointing to the end of the road where dirt met only sky. Walking to the edge, we saw the bluffs rise high above us, and the valley spread out below. Just as we were considering climbing the hillside, we saw a sign in Turkish with exclamation points on it to our left (not a good sign) and a man approaching us on our right. “Türkçe yok!”, a classic opener, started our conversation. Izmael, as it turned out had seen us walking down the road and thought to come introduce himself and take us to the church in the bluff. He knows what tourists want.
Climbing up the hill we learned a little more about the area, the Hitites and the Greeks who lived here, more about Izmael himself and we offered snippets of our own story in return. On top of the hill there was a ancient church indeed, complete with tombs. “One, two three, four, five! One for each!”- not an inspiring phrase from a man you just met in a foreign country in a place that seems like you are trespassing in.
There was a round stone door straight from a Flintstone’s cartoon, and plenty of great views from the windows in the rock. Later when we came back to this church, this time without Izmael, we found a stone ladder in one of the rooms leading to even more chambers within the cliffside. And more ladders leading off in different directions from there. Even after exploring the churches at Zelve and Goreme Museums and after traipsing through the underground city, this church in Ürgüp is still my favourite.
Izmael took us next door from the church to where this old man lived in the cliffside. “He has problems” pointing to his belly, and motioning that he drinks a lot, “He’s in trouble with the government, too many cats, 25 cats, but they give him electricity”, “Give him small coins, he’ll let you see his house”, Caitlin moves to give him a lira coin but Izmael stops her. It was a little weird paying to walk through a man’s living room.
Still on our quest for food, we followed Izmael down the hill to his restaurant where he makes crazy cook. The establishment, Panorama Restaurant, highly reviewed on Trip Advisor, is a home kitchen and a ‘cozy little terrace’. We sat in the kitchen while he made our food (never before have I seen so much oil and salt go onto a salad). The meal was delicious, and followed by videos of Martha Stewart going ballooning in Cappadocia (“All I can say is stunning…” in a complete monotone, thank you dear Martha for this gem).
We were in the fold, we planned for everyone to join us for dinner with Izmael on Wednesday night, and then there at dinner we made plans to go to Rose Valley with him the next day. Izmael introduced us to the landscape, the cuisine and a fair number of locals. Don’t forget to leave a good review for Panorama Cafe.