This post follows my exploration of Istanbul in 2015.
I don’t like being a rapid sightseeing tourist, always running to the next destination, never standing still long enough to take in the local community and culture. My second stop on my photography quest was Cappadocia, another glorious, beautiful place in Turkey.
A two-hour flight from Istanbul got me to Cappadocia. Delays in flight schedules meant I only landed close to midnight. I did not have any local contacts in Cappadocia, and had asked my guide at Istanbul, Tugrul Tolga Korkmaz, to coordinate with the hotel I booked into to arrange local transportation for me. I didn’t expect Cappadocia to be so different from Istanbul which is a modern, vibrant city. The Cappadocia landscape is famous for rock like formations consisting of numerous caves and in the past, the local population lived in these caves – some still do.
My first surprise was the weather – much colder than Istanbul and late night temperatures were way below 10 degrees centigrade. I walked out of the small airport to the hotel representative holding a placard with my name among a few others. Language is the biggest barrier in Turkey with hardly anyone one who speaks or understands English. Using sign language and a little English, he led me to a van and asked me to sit. I was soon joined by eight other tourists, all from the far east, none of whom spoke any English. We arrived at our destination, a small village, in the dead of night, no other human being in sight.
I was booked into Dreams Cave Cappadocia, a boutique hotel. The driver stopped the van at the end of a small lonely lane in front of a cave like structure and brought my luggage out. As I handed over my payment, he pointed out to the cave. I asked him where the entrance was, but he just pointed to the cave again, then got into his van and sped away. What to do now? 2 am in the morning, freezing and not a soul in sight. I looked into the cave and couldn’t see a reception desk. I tried calling Tugrul, but I didn’t expect him to answer his phone in the middle of the night. Then I remembered I had the hotel manager’s number and called him. A lady answered after a few rings, and all she would say in response was “no speak English”. Not very comforting as I was by now shivering. I wasn’t dressed for a 2 am wait in the cold night. In my desperation, I kept repeating “reception”. That worked – she said “5 minutes”. A few moments later a door opened out of nowhere, and a young boy walked out, beckoning me to follow. He opened a door for me and then walked right back into the door he came out from.
I entered the cave and in the dark, groped for a light switch. When I finally found the switch, I realised my cave was lovely, the walls dark and scary and right out of medieval times. It had a comfortable bed and a well-maintained toilet bath to the left of the room. There was another floor upstairs with another bed. Most of all it was cosy and warm. I made sure there was no one else in the room. Too tired to even brush my teeth, I jumped into bed and was fast asleep seconds later.
When I woke up the next morning, I did some exploring. The cave hotel which comprised some 20 odd rooms was made up of three or four large cave houses, private dwellings in times past. The owner, Sauda Deniz Sevdik, a lovely lady from Istanbul, happened to be around with her father, and to my relief, she could converse in English, just enough for me to get along. I learned that she occasionally drove down from Istanbul to oversee hotel operations and luckily for me this was one of those times
One night I happened to be the only guest in the hotel, so they shut the kitchen for dinner and requested that I dine at a local restaurant on top of a hillock just opposite my hotel. Sauda realised I was worried about negotiating the steps that led to the top of the hillock in the poor weather conditions so offered to take me to dinner with her father. We ate at a small local tavern. The food was excellent, and so was my company.
I made friends with Sauda over those two days and Sauda and I still keep in touch on Facebook. It’s amazing how travelling introduces you to the most interesting people in the most unexpected places.
I spent a day touring the village exploring the cave-like heritage structures unique to this part of Turkey. At the end of my stay, Suada and her father bid me a warm farewell. I realised that not for one moment had it felt like a hotel stay. It was like staying with family. If I ever go back to Cappadocia, I will only stay at Dreams Cave.