Turkey is one of my favorite countries! Friendly people, spectacular landscapes, lots of history, and more yummy food!
We crossed the border into Turkey with no problems. We arranged a bus to take us all the way from Batumi to the Sumela Monastery and then to Trabzon, our overnight stop. The duty free shop was happy to see our group. They made lots of money.
After the border, we headed out away from the Black Sea into the mountains. The Sumela Monastery was built by the Greeks in AD 386 on a steep cliff face. It is quite a steep walk up to the Orthodox building, but well worth it. This is an important cultural and historical site in Turkey. There is also a café at the top where we bought post cards and ice creams and apple cay (tea).
Then it was back to Trabzon for the night. We are going to catch an overnight bus to Gӧreme tomorrow. This means it will take us one day (night) instead of the normal two to get there. And also we have a full day to explore Trabzon before catching the bus.
|Trabzon and the Black Sea|
|Our overnight bus|
Gӧreme is truly a magical place unlike any I have ever been. It is in a small valley surrounded by fairy chimneys – pointy conical volcanic ash rock formations formed by erosion with dug out dwellings inside. The town has a laidback atmosphere with terraced cafés all around the cobbled streets. We are staying here for three nights, giving us enough time to do everything we want, although there is so much to do here! Our hotel is half building half cave. The rooms are chiseled out of the ancient rock. It creates a unique and cozy atmosphere in every room.
On the day that we arrived we all went exploring the little town. We couldn’t stay out too late, because we had hot air ballooning scheduled for four thirty the next morning. We were all looking forward to it, especially after seeing all the balloons in the air when we drove into Gӧreme that morning.
The ballooning was an amazing experience. My advice is always that if you are going to do one activity anywhere in the world, do the scenic flight. Compared to other places in the world, it is affordable and well organized in Gӧreme. We had a really good pilot that took us close to the rock formations and high up in the air. He managed to land our balloon right on the balloon trailer like a smooth operator. Great success!
After the ballooning we went back to our cave hotel for breakfast before we were picked up for a full day tour of Cappadocia. On the tour we went for a close-up walk around the fairy chimneys, for a pottery demonstration, and for a visit to one of the underground cities. These cities are amazing. They were dug out in the Bronze Age as hideouts in dangerous times of invasion. The best way to think about them is to imagine an ant’s nest with mazes of tunnels and rooms. The bigger cities housed up to twenty thousand people at a time.
The last day in Gӧreme was free time again. Everybody went off doing different things. Brooke, Paolo and I hired a car and drove to the Ilhara valley, ninety kilometers to the south. We went for a walk up the fourteen kilometre valley. There are several monasteries and churches chiseled out into the rock cliffs along the way. Very interesting! Marjo and Michelle went for a hammam. John and Dani and Michelle went carpet shopping. The girls went trinket shopping and lounging in coffee shops. Liz and Zoe went hiking in one of the countless tributary valleys. And the cats slept in the sun.
And oh yes, we all went for a group dinner to eat the local specialty, stew in a clay pot. This is pretty cool. They cook your stew in a little closed clay pot. When it is done the only way to get it out is to break the pot open. Very nice…
|Hot air ballooning!|
We caught another overnight bus to Istanbul. Our final destination! It is unbelievable that three months are already coming to an end. It seems like we were in Kathmandu yesterday, but it also feels like ten years ago. It is difficult to explain, but if you are the kind of traveller that embarks on epic expeditions, you will understand. So much happens in a compacted amount of time. Sights, relationships, experiences, culture shocks, good times, crises, tensions, relief, hiking, sitting, sleeping, 4x4s, buses, trains, airplanes, climate changes, altitude changes, sleeping in sixty different beds… crazy!
Istanbul is a massive city. I think you need six months here to explore everything. This is my fifth time in Istanbul, and I have never been to the same place in it twice. There is too much to see and do here. We are all scattering about and organizing our next moves, but we made some time for a last group dinner. We went to a good restaurant and almost all of us ordered the fillet mignon with a good bottle of dry red. I wonder why? Do this expedition and find out!
Dinner ended with a slideshow of selected pictures through Brooke’s lens. It is a good way to end an expedition like this. We experience so much that by the end of it you forget what happened the first two and a half months. A slideshow recap puts it all in perspective.
Thanks to all our Odyssey overlanders for this unique expedition! We definitely did it like no other overlander group has done it before. No truck, landslides, Chinese cops and drivers, snow and ice, visa denials, Caspian adventures, and overnight buses. Who’s got better stories to tell?