After breakfast we headed for Goreme and the outdoor World Heritage Site. It seemed like we climbed up and down mountains touring the caves: the home sites, church sites, business sites and a monastery. The Greek Orthodox settled here in the 3/4th century AD following religious persecution by the Romans. The Greeks were firmly entrenched for 200 years and the Roman pursuit ended. Fascinating to see wall paintings, sculptures and furniture carved out of the walls. Our hotel owner warned us about the tour bus arrival at noon. They did and we had to jump out of their way. We then drove through Zelve (nicknamed “penis valley” and aptly so. Mike loved them).
We stopped frequently to view the huge, natural stone monuments. Heading back to our hotel, we stopped for lunch at a cafe over—looking the river that we could see from our room.
Then Mike went to wine tour and taste at Turasan Winery which he had reserved by e-mail 2 months earlier. Edward was their French wine-maker and spoke English. I sat on our lovely balcony alternating between reading and the beautiful views. Later we walked around the area by our hotel and spotted a small 2nd floor restaurant overlooking the river. Very local but most hospitable. The major cooking area was right behind our table and they were delighted by our fascination with their preparation: swinging pots on an iron rod, adjusting the flame stirring and seasoning. The fresh trout was superb and we tipped well.
While we ate breakfast, Mr. Muharren, our Landlord, reserved 2 nights for us at The Beach House in Side.
I learned early on that using the concierge to make future reservations was wise. Also, the rooms and service of the next hotel were 3 steps up from the typical because of this personal contact. We could not leave Cappadocia without touring the extraordinary phenomena of one of the underground settlements. Some of them were large enough to have accommodated up to 30,000 people.
We headed to one of the best: Kaymakli. This structure went 5 levels underground but I could only take 3 before claustrophobia arrived. Networks of narrow tunnels with small living caves opening to the side; underground plazas with community kitchens, horse stables, and storage areas. Looking up you could see the light from the ventilation system and hear the water from the deep wells. These people were very short and it hurt to straighten up after 90 minutes of narrow hallways, uneven steps, and darkness.
We had a better understanding of what it took to survive in those ancient and turbulent times.
A leisurely drive to the sea and the Beach House in Side. Our room faced the sea and we sat on our balcony sipping wine and watching the waves. We went next door for dinner, excellent sword-fish, at Soundwaves run by the hotel’s owner’s son and his wife.
With live Turkish music, a couple of waiters pulled Mike into the dancing. (Men only of course.) A transplanted Aussie and her Turkish husband own the Beach House, the first hotel in Side in 1960. Our room (205) was typically small with a hard bed and pillow. The bathroom shower floor had no demarcation between the shower stall and the rest of the bath. But there were plenty of towels!
Breakfast in the lovely bar that opened to the outside terrace and the passersby. We decided to do a “walk about” this ancient town of Side. It was founded in the seventh century BC because of the defensive potential of the rocky cape. The city had its ups and downs until the 1980s and a tourist boom struck. The Old Town was built in and around the classic Roman ruins and most of them were walkable from the hotels.
We walked to the monumental gate and into the 20,000 seat theatre. Stunning.
It is a freestanding structure supported by massive arched vaults and was not built into a hillside. Next were the Agora, certainly large enough to accommodate the forum and markets, and lastly the Antique Baths. What with the heat and humidity, I headed for a breeze on our balcony and took a book while Mike headed for other sites.
Dinner up the street overlooking the bay. Mike asked for a wine menu and the waiter answered “I am the wine list.” He bought a glass to taste– not good. A second about the same. Then a bottle, discolored and old–but our meal arrived and we drank it. A breeze came up and eliminated the humidity.
Weather comfortable today so off to the magnificent remains of Perge. The grandeur of the defense wall, stadium, baths and the theatre were overwhelming. The original inhabitants were quick studies on how to survive an attack of marauders. They welcomed the Romans into their city, they believed the Romans would help defend against the Hellenistic tribes and they did–and stayed.
When arriving back at Side, we discovered the police had blockaded the road to the sea side community and motioned us into a public parking area. We simply sat there blocking the road and repeating the name of our hotel. The two police, one on each side of the car, yelled and gestured to the public lot. I smiled, said “no” and repeated, “Hotel Beach House”. This continued until a car pulled up behind us. The barriers were dropped and we drove though. Later our hotel owner told us that the city wanted to preserve the beach town for “pedestrians” only, for those who eat and shop. So the city enforced the public lot at the entrance and disallowed the hotel residents to drive in and out with their luggage. Not a wise decision. . .and it didn’t work with us.
That night we ate at Soundwaves again, eating outside under the overhang to watch the storm moving into the bay. By morning the beach was littered with boats, fish and the detritus of a storm. But the sun came out.
And the rains were coming…….
Weather predictions were poor for the next 2 days: time to move on. Penny made reservations for us at the Hal-Tur Hotel in Pamukkale. We had a lovely room facing the salt terraces. What with rain and being mid-week, the hotel was not crowded. We also had a bathtub, and used it! We appreciated the excellent food, wine and fireplace in their restaurant.
The terraces were wet with drizzle so we decided to bypass a walk. Our concierge reserved for us 2 days at Hotel Kalshan in Selcuk.
And we were off for Aphrodite or Aphrodisias as she is called here. This was one of the earliest occupied sites in Anatolia. The Assyrian goddess of love and war, Min, became syncretized with the Semitic Ishtar, whose attributes were eventually assumed by the Hellenic Aphrodite. The Greeks and the Romans did a wonderful job with most of the structures that we see today. We had to leave our car in a General Park and take trams to and fro. We were packed on with a 7th grade field trip. The kids giggled at us, said “hello” and “from?” and took Mike’s picture. He has white hair and a mustache and his hat fascinated them. Delightful.
The Aphrodite site was exquisite. We walked up a hill to the top of the amphitheater; looked over the Agora, remains of the baths and further away to other structures and the Temple to Aphrodite. Back to Selculk. Stopped for lunch at a wonderful French restaurant… after first trying a nearby cafe that was “men only” (local Turks).
The next two nights were at the Hotel Kalsham in Selcuk. A bit shabby but most of the rooms opened out to a lovely courtyard with a pool. . .ice cold. We still had time to see nearby Ephesus. The concierge suggested we park in the lower lot, take a cab to the top and walk the sites down to the bottom. Excellent! As we started our tour, all the busses lined up to take their passengers back to the ships. No crowds and the temperature cooling. Of all the wonderful structures, I was most impressed by the communal toilets. There were about 20 in a semi-circle, just holes in a bench, but with room on either side for coffee or a newspaper. Marvelous engineering, the hillside stream ran underneath and washed the effluent out to the bay.
Standing in front of the magnificent library, one could easily see how much the shore had receded since the 1st century. Our last stop before the parking lot was the amphitheater. Several musicians were playing. The only thing missing was a glass of wine.
After breakfast we are off on a day-trip to Priene. This site was resettled during the Hellenistic period around the 3rd century B.C. Settled first by Athenians (11th century B.C.) followed by Romans then Byzantine. The city enjoyed little patronage from the emperors, with the result that represents the best preserved Hellenistic townscape in Ionia without any of the usual later additions. A long walk—about but not as heavily toured as Ephesus.
Back to our hotel for lunch where we found many “boat people” eating in our restaurant. Later we walked the New Town but found the Old Town much more interesting. I looked for a beauty shop, passing over 20 barber shops, and found only one. It only took 25 minutes for a shampoo and comb-out because 3 women worked on me. (Only one other customer who spoke some English and helped to interpret.) The beauticians wanted to give me the “big bush look” but I used their small brushes and dryer to show what I wanted. They did it and the result was wonderful. I left a big tip because they listened to me.
We returned to Old Town and Old House restaurant, eating in their courtyard. Our waiter, a Kurd, spoke fluent English, and told us how his father’s family all worked hard to develop this restaurant and make it a success. He said most of the Turkish wives worked while many of their husbands sat in cafes drinking coffee. He felt to be successful the family must work together. Our meal was excellent.
Revised and edited by the original author, Caroline Botwin and her computer extraordinaire Kevin Klimczak.
Stay tuned for part 3, the final, of the redo series!