The alarm rang at 6AM for the 7 o’clock Air France pickup for our 9 AM departure. Our short hops were in coach, but our Delta cards earned priority check-in for the 3 hour flight to Istanbul. Mike had rented a Suncar and we hit the highway quickly. The traffic was horrendous. For the next two hours bumper to bumper and side by side. This was worse than Madrid, Paris and New York put together. I drive, Mike navigates. After the traffic lessened, the road deteriorated and signage disappeared. We discovered that many highways in Turkey were being expanded or restructured. Frequent single lanes were the medium. We arrived at our reserved Cinci Han Hotel in Safranbolu at 11:00 PM. (See picture) Driving from the Istanbul airport through Asia to Safranbolu was about 230 miles but the highway back-up cost us many hours.
Built in 1645 on the historical Silk Road from China to Turkey. Anatolia.
In spite of the delay, the reception was welcoming and gracious, supplying wine, cheese and fruit even at this late hour. We sat in the open-air center courtyard of this restored 1674 Caravan Inn. This authentic structure had rough stone walls and a canvas cover over the courtyard. Travelers housed their animals for the night in the center and the drivers slept in very small rooms built into the walls and facing the courtyards.
Our room was small with one window and a wooden built-in bath in the adjoining addressing room that rocked when walked on… but it was unique. We explored the surrounding Ottoman village after an excellent breakfast. All the original structures were filled with small stores and cafes. Many had hand-crafted items for sale and very friendly owners.
Getting into Ancient Turkey…….
Around 11 AM we left for Amaysa and the Painted Tombs. Again the roads were teeming with expansion and reconstruction. For miles we drove on the finished single lane looking at brand new and unopened gas stations, restaurants and cafes. After driving part way around Amaysa, looking for highway or street signs (none), we ended on top of a hill looking at Kale (Castle). It was important to tour this structure built in 3000 B.C. Very difficult walking the rough pebbled terrain up and around this defensive fortress sheltering the castle.
Rewarded at the top by sighting the painted caves on the down side of the hill opposite. Again, with no signage, we fumbled our way down to view the tombs excavated above the river.
All the lovely old hotels by the river were full. We found an interesting, old Hotel Melis on a back street with parking in a back alley… wherever you could find it. Our room was on the 2nd floor (no elevator) but friendly and sufficient. The bar-cafe-breakfast room with a good view) was on the 5th floor. . .but we would climb that in the morning.
We walked to dinner at a riverside restaurant with a view of the caves. While sipping wine we watched the lights shine from these strange structures that were supposedly built and painted inside with battle scenes from 3000 BC.