In the beginning, there was research and planning…..
We argued. Mike wanted to see Turkey and I wanted to revisit Spain and France. Three different travel guides discussed the attitude of the male Turk toward the female which add up to one phrase: control and aversion. I was not desirous of spending three weeks in such a culture. Finally Mike asked what it would take to get me to Turkey. Three days in Paris I answered. “Done” he said. (I should have said a week!)
The planning had taken time and effort. We needed reservations in Paris and Turkey and a rental car. Mike perused maps of Turkey until he devised an excellent travel plan. Next was a calendar of the trip. He built in 3 extra days of the three weeks so we could expand some stays if we chose. For two 70 year olds, it took a bit of time.
After leaving our dogs at the kennel, the two Independent Travelers set off.
Driving CA 1 up the coast, we stopped for coffee and wine at Half Moon Bay. One hour later we arrived at our favorite Millbrae B.W. El Rancho Inn. After a walk around the grounds, we headed to dinner in the bar at 7 PM. It was noisy with ANXIOUS TRAVELLERS yet-to-go and those who had just returned. Fun.
We woke-up at 3 AM for the 4 AM airport shuttle, our elite status ensured a smooth check-in. After check-in we went to the Delta Executive lounge at 4:40 AM. I was the first person at the bar for a glass of stabilizing wine.
Time for take-off! And the journey begins.—- We start in France.
Tuesday 5-11-12, we departed at 9:00 AM for a 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 below) Driving from the Istanbul airport through Asia to Safranbolu was about 230 miles but the highway back-up cost us many hours.
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 bathroom in the adjoining dressing 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.
Wednesday 5-12-12, getting into Ancient Turkey…….
Around 11 AM we left for Amaysa and the Painted Tombs. Again the roads were teeming with expansion and reconstruction. After driving part way around Amaysa, looking for highway or street signs (none), we ended on top of a hill looking down at Kale (Castle). It was important to tour this structure built in 300 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…
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.
After breakfast, disinclined to climb to the caves, I bought postcards. And we left for Hattusa. Enclosed by six-kilometer-long walls, this city was, by the standards of the time, an immense site. Originally settled by the Hatti in 2500 BC the Hittites conquered it in 1375 B.C. and the Hittite city was unearthed by archeologists in the first half of the nineteenth century. The fortress encircled the mountain top, warding off attacking multi—cultures for over 1000 years. Fascinating.
Now they were being attacked by loaded tourist buses. We split as 3 of them drove up the dirt road spewing exhaust. A few miles and 1500 feet lower down, we spotted a large crevice-like opening hidden at the bottom of two mountains. Several cars were parked with people wandering around…so we followed.
As we walked through the narrow opening, marvelous rock sculptures grew out of rock as high as 100 feet. We were later to read that Yazihkaya (Turkish for inscribed rock) was the entrance to the temple now defunk. There were around 100 figures, mostly gods from the vast array of Hittite deities.
On to Avanos and finding lodging. Drove through the city and saw only one hotel that was acceptable.
In the process of turning around to redo main street we found a sign, “Sofa, Hotel” that appealed to me. I entered the office and the owner, Mr. Muharren (who, we discovered later a very fine pen and ink draftsman), spoke English.
The owner was a pen and ink draftsman and since he had no, “before’ or “after” pictures he gave me his drawings.
He led me to an open courtyard and pointed to all the “rooms” available. Over the years he had acquired 24 rambling small, single houses and loosely connected them with stairs. Many units fronted the courtyard that covered and centered the compound. The first two units he showed me I refused, but the 3rd was charming, albeit 4 floors up. The first staircase was up, the second down and through a cave and two more sets going up. The risers were 13 to 14 inches deep with scalloped stones and no railings. Very difficult for Mike recuperating from a fractured hip 8 months earlier. BUT the room was lovely with a modern bathroom and a balcony overlooking the river and the “fairyland” of Cappadocia. Excellent. (Except for the stairs.)
Dinner at 8 in the open courtyard. Two entrees offered: grilled chicken or kofte. An enormous salad bar in a narrow room at the head of the courtyard had unbelievable choices. No English spoken. Mike lifted his wine glass, and using the most important Turkish he had learned, said “Kirmizi sarap please”. (Red Wine) The waiter grinned.
Revised and edited by the original author, Caroline Botwin and her computer extraordinaire Kevin Klimczak.