A Travellerspoint blog

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Cappadocia

Day 1 - May 11th 2009

25 °C
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Cappadocia. We had heard only that Cappadocia was a town of many ancient, formerly inhabited caves and the region came highly recommended by all that had visited. We were happy to leave it at that and avoided viewing pictures of the region on the internet prior to our arrival. We simply didn’t want to spoil the surprise. The thought of a “cave town” conjured up many mental images, the first of which (for me) was dragging Vicki indoors by the hair to prepare the meat I had just captured and killed with my bare hands. I even wanted to doctor a photo but Vicki simply wouldn’t allow it. Spoilt sport. I think she knew that in a weird and warped sort of way, it would of turned me on. Lets admit it guys, the thought of dragging a woman into a cave turns us all on. Primal instinct or simply a nostalgic view of how it could have been? If you don’t agree then you are either lying to yourself, your spouse is over your shoulder or you are a woman. I will pay for my commentary, that I assure you…

Snow. Upon arrival in Cappodocia (Kayseri Airport), we immediately noticed the cooler climate, cleaner air and snow-capped mountains in the distance. A beautiful sight for anyone - especially for me. I hadn’t seen snow before. Excitable like a small child in a petting zoo, the mood was set for our visit. A tear came to eye but I’m certain that was the cool air, it must have been.

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A Mercedes Minivan was our mode of transport to the Hotel. About an hour from where we were staying – Goreme. Comfortable, clean, new and European. What more could you ask for when travelling this distance? The trip was quite dull to begin with then the sights began to appear. We now knew what people meant by “Cave town” and “Fairy Chimneys”. There was some serious exploring to be done and we knew we’d need help to get it all done in the time we had.

Traveller’s Cave Hotel. A gimmicky name anywhere else but not here. In Cappadoccia, cave based accommodation was common and we were soon to sleep in one. I walked slowly behind Vicki as we approached the door to our cave scanning the surrounds for a club, large rock or even a chair... !

Cave. What a treat. I felt like Fred Flinstone. Of course it was modernised with wireless internet, Cable TV, towel warmer and Heating but it was a real cave. Took me a while to get over it and forgot for a moment that there was a whole region to explore so out we went for our first tour.

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Pottery. Our first stop was a pottery centre. This business had been passed down from generation to generation. A smooth talking guy with a moustache (notice a trend yet?) took the lead and talked us through the history of the family business and the process of crafting the ceramics. A real art, everything hand sculpted using 3 different types of clay, design sketched freehand then hand painted. Vicki gave the pottery wheel a go but first had to dawn on some fashionable pants. As good as she looked, she was unfortunately unable to replicate her Grandmother’s pottery skill.

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Rose Valley. Next stop, the Rose Valley. We were expecting flowers but the name was suggestive of the rock colour in the Valley as opposed to the type of Flora. What a magnificent 6 or so kilometres of terrain (I think it stretched for about 14km but we did only a portion of it). This place oozed natural beauty. We were lucky enough to be guided through some of the caves used by the Byzantines. Chapels, churches, storage areas, sleeping quarters, kitchens and pigeon holes (not for mail but for real pigeons). Their eggs were used to make plaster and their droppings for fertilizer.

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Turkish Caveman. The tour guide warned us about the man in the cafeteria we were soon to visit. The cafeteria was deep in a Valley cave and a welcome pit stop after hiking for a couple of hours. He was known to repeat stories from day to day and a notorious talker. He welcomed us with open arms. I’m sure it gets a bit lonely in the mountains. After selecting a drink and settling down to rest our tired legs, he began to tell his stories in Turkish. The guy didn’t breath for about 7 minutes. We only stopped for about 15 minutes and he spoke for about 14 of them. We couldn’t help but start giggling (including the tour guide) like school children as he linked his every story without once pausing for input. He didn’t make eye contact when he spoke, he simply looked into the horizon whilst spewing his ramblings. We didn’t understand a word he said but were very much entertained the entire time.

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Sunset. We reached the highest point overlooking the valley to watch the sunset. The Valley was visually appeasing without the help of the descending sun but boy did it amplify the colour and beauty of the Valley. Superb.

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Turkish Night. All you can eat and drink coupled with traditional Turkish entertainment. Twirling dervishes were a highlight although men in dresses spinning around begged a few questions. Again, I will take this up with Aiden and Engin. Food was great, the beer was cold and plentiful and the entertainment sound. A very good way to end a very long day.

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Posted by samandvic 16:57 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Cappadocia

Day 2 - May 12th 2009

sunny 25 °C
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Alarm. 0430, are you joking me? Surely not time to get up yet? Maybe just a few more minutes. Damn solar hot water. As I soon realised, a cold shower is far superior to any caffeinated beverage in the morning. By the time Vicki was ready to shower, the water was hot. At least one of us avoided frostbite.

0525. Loud knock at the door. The coach driver was ready to go. 5 minutes mate!

Hot Air Balloon. We didn’t know what to expect. I had previously ballooned over the Yarra Valley with Vicki’s Dad, Jay. That was an awesome experience in itself but we took comfort in the strict Australian safety regulations. Not sure it is quite as strict here and there were literally dozens of balloons going up for what appeared to be a simultaneous launch. Glad about the still conditions. We jumped in the wrong basket at first and had to sprint to the right one. Much less cramped in here, cheers.

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Take off. Vicki started off well but struggled a little with the rapid ascent. I counted 37 balloons in the distance which didn’t seem to bother us until we descended into the valley. The balloon operators were extremely skilled. They flew literally inches from the cliff faces, we could (and did) reach out to touch the cliffs. The operators then thought they’d have some fun at our expense. At one stage there was a balloon beside us (the canopies brushed), one above us (inches from the top of our canopy) and a cliff on the other side. We were trapped with nowhere to go. What an experience, magnificent views and a bit of thrill seeking to boot. Worth every Euro!!

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Tour. Due to our tight schedule, we backed a tour on to the balloon ride. We were back at the hotel at 0830 and the tour started at 0900. No time for rest, a bit of brekky and off we went. We explored many chapels (in the caves), intricate underground dwellings, various valleys and a heap of natural wonders. The tour wrapped up about 1800 and after starting our tour at 0400 we were notably wrecked.

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Dinner and off to bed.

Posted by samandvic 17:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

London - Transit

Day 1 - May 13th 2009

rain 9 °C
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Departure. Again an early start. We were booked on a 0635 flight to Istanbul which meant meeting the driver at 0430. Ouch.

Transit. Three flights today. Cappaocia to Istanbul, Istanbul to London and London to Lisbon. We were sure we wouldn’t want to see an airport for a while but as we were flying British Airways out of Turkey, my Qantas club membership provided access to the lounges. Not sure we would have survived without it. I probably drank 15 beers in the 20 or so hours in transit and Vicki consumed enough coffee to kill a small child.

Runaway. As we were heading up one of the numerous escalators at Istanbul airport, I noticed a young girl struggling with her luggage just as I did. A look of empathy lead to a question about departure. As it turned out she was on the same flight as us. She was a local but a little clueless about international travel. She then became part of our travel posse. We lead her in the right direction. Vicki got to chatting and found out that the girl was fleeing a pretty ugly domestic situation. She had a daughter and was married at 17. At 20 she’d had enough and was running away to London. Vicki spent a heap of time speaking to translators and airline attendants to help understand her situation. The cousin she had planned to meet in London no longer wanted a bar of her. Vicki wanted to at least get her in safe hands when we arrived in London but as we were to remain in the transit lounge we had no choice but to explain her situation to British airlines to provide a path to the Turkish consulate. We hope immigration didn’t send her home and wish her all the best.

Hari Hari. Vicki drew the short straw. After boarding the plane to London, we settled into the window and centre seats. Minutes later a large American man dressed in only a Pink Toga began walking up the isle. Sure enough, he placed his bag in the overhead compartment and sat down next to Vicki. I believe she may have muttered ‘fucking brilliant’ under her breath. A standard passenger to begin with but that didn’t last. He refused the aeroplane food and proceeded to bust out his lunchbox filled with smelly organic mush. We could handle that, good on him for treating his body as a temple! About an hour into the flight, he pulled out some reading material, turned to the appropriate page and began to chant. I’m not joking either. He chanted for at least an hour. I got him out of his seat by pretending to go to the toilet thinking the disruption would shut him the fuck up. It failed. Zen for one, annoying for some.

Turkey. We enjoyed our time in Turkey. The food was great and it is a country truly rich in history and natural beauty. It was hard work at times. The constant badgering and intricate lies we encountered left us with a slightly bitter aftertaste in our mouths. I guess they're just trying to make a buck but it does get to you after a while. The country had so much to offer and by no means did it overshadow the positives of visiting Turkey however we will now assess what Aiden and Engin tell us a little more closely as some of the lies we were told were amazingly believable.

Four hours of gorging in the Heathrow BA lounge like true Aussie Londoners, we made our way to the departure gate to catch our flight to Lisbon. I think Vic was a bit excited to hit Portugal. After spending almost two weeks in Muslim countries, her desire for a fat slab of piggie was becoming increasingly more difficult to suppress.

Posted by samandvic 17:15 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Lisbon

Day 1 - May 13th 2009

15 °C
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We expected to feel crap after 21 hours in transit but landing in a new country certainly has its way firing you up again. Through the exit we could see Sandra in the distance. A familiar face. The first in a couple of weeks. In a strange way, it almost felt like home.

Sandra. There is hospitality and then there is Sandra. A league of her own. She literally sacrificed her own comfort (by that I mean her apartment!!) and stayed with her parents to accommodate us. A cool little apartment situated in a Coastal pocket of Lisbon called Costa De Caparica, right near the beach in a very quiet part of town. She filled the house with goodies including food, maps and a local SIM card. Thanks Sandra, You are a superstar.

We spent an hour or so plotting our itinerary for the next few days. You can’t underestimate the beauty of having local help and boy did we sleep well.

Posted by samandvic 17:29 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lisbon

Day 2 - May 14th 2009

sunny 22 °C
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Breakfast. Craving for some authentic Portuguese food, we headed to Sandra’s favourite local haunt for some brekky. Croquets, meat filled pastries, sweet pastries... where to start? The food was scrumptious and we were already planning what to eat the following morning. We always knew the food in Portugal was going to be good and our first breakfast did not disappoint.

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Sintra. We didn’t get a chance to see much of Lisbon due to our late arrival the night before but we were in for a treat today. Sandra had the day off and was driving us to see Sintra. We could have spent all week here. What a beautiful mountain town filled with quaint little cafes, old Manors, elaborate gardens, a Moorish Castle and The Palace of Pena at the very top of the mountain. We spent a bit of time exploring the Palace and the royal gardens until Vicki’s choice of shoes (or more so her whinging) lead us back to the car and into the main part of Sintra for Lunch.

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Lunch. Portuguese steak sandwich and a beer. Koooweee.

Lisboa. We made our way directly to the heart of Lisbon from Sintra. Great city. Nicely laid out, consistent architecture and a warm atmosphere. We found the people here to be very polite and helpful and you can walk forever without feeling tired. It had a naturally inviting appeal and we quickly made ourselves at home.

Gloves. The glove man. Famous in these parts. Sandra took us to see what he was all about. He hand fits leather gloves and kind of reminds me of Geppetto. All hand made and the quality spoke for itself. Lets just say our hands will no longer freeze during the Melbourne winters.

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Treats. Throughout the day we consumed numerous coffees (the lonely planet was not wrong in saying the coffee here is great), Pastais de nata (famous Portuguese custard tarts), Gingha (cherry liqueur served in small cups from corner stores – a local tradition) and ofcourse the Port (the home of Port so why wouldn’t it be brilliant).

After getting a taste of Lisbon we headed to see Sandra’s Parents, Anthonio and Maria in Costa De Caparica (they don’t live far from Sandra). Our visit was brief prior to dinner but we’d see them again soon.

Dinner. After all the snacking neither of us were particularly hungry. We again went to a local haunt for a traditional home style favourite, hot cabbage soup served with Chorizo in bread. Yum. It was about 1030 when we ate. Europeans eat a lot later than Australians and that suited our irregular body clocks just fine. Quick walk on the beach then back to the apartment.

Posted by samandvic 17:32 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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