The last few days have been stunning. That’s why the message of this post is to “get off the beaten path.” It’s impossible, or rather impractical to plan out your entire trip before you even leave home. You just can’t know all the great stuff to do in a place, even with all the internet research in the world! The best way to find the good stuff is to just ask around– ask the locals, ask the travelers, ask Everyone! And stay flexible. If you like it somewhere, stay there for a few days- don’t rush it. Tour around. You’ll feel it when it is time to move on.
So how has my latest “unplanned” trip gone? Smashingly, of course! We left Istanbul on a bus for Çanakkale, a port city on Turkey’s west coast. The next morning I went to the ancient city of Troy. You’ll need an imagination, to appreciate the expansive “city” which is just a collection of foundations and ancient rock walls now. But it was wonderful to be somewhere so ancient, and still being excavated currently. I touched a 5,000 year old wall! I mean just think, the human race has only really been around for a little over 10,000 years; and that wall has been standing for fully HALF of it! Far out! And bricks and mortar are still a popular method for building construction. Sometimes people are so slow to evolve. hehe.
Anyway, after Troy I spent some free time in Çanakkale, waiting for the bus to the Cappadocia region in the center of Turkey. Çanakkale was really an unexpected gem. They had a cute town square, warm weather, and beautiful restaurants and pubs along a waterfront (the Aegean Sea).
In no time we were on the bus to Kayseri, the big town on the edge of the Cappadocia region. I have to say, bus travel (while totally necessary at least once!) can be entirely unpredictable. Luckily, long distance buses in Turkey were fantastic. They were new, large coaches with plenty of heat. This trip was not very crowded and Maree and I each had a row to ourselves with space to stretch out and sleep- which was really good considering the bus ride was 16 (yes, SIXTEEN!) hours long. My longest ever ride yet. When going on a long trip like this, consider timing as well. We left in the evening so that we rode through the night. This is good for several regions: for a budget traveler you can include a night’s lodging in the price of the ticket, and for the time conscious traveler you don’t waste daylight stuck inside.
Arriving in Kayseri in the morning, we were refreshed (well, excitedly energized at least) and ready for an adventure. Our first mission: find a place to sleep for the night! A few minutes work in an internet cafe and we found a hostel for 20 TL a night in a town called Göreme. Works for us!
Now, I have to tell you. We chose to add Cappadocia to our tour for one very important reason: the caves! Called “fairy chimneys” by the locals, these strange landforms were made by volcanoes ages ago. The local tribes moved in, and carved out elaborate cave homes in the cliffs and chimneys. Many local people, while having moved away from the original caves, still build their houses backed up to caverns. The hostel where we stayed was a cave hostel, and our room was a stone cavern. The beds were even nooks carved into the living wall!
We could really settle into this town for a few days, with limitless hiking in the beautiful surroundings, and local crafts to experience. And we did just that. Almost as soon as we could throw the bags into our rooms, we were out on a trail. We explored up and up and found ourselves in a vineyard at the top of the plateau. This region is also known for its wines, which I will be sure to experience and report on- purely for the reader’s benefit of course.
The next day, today, we started with a trip to Avanos, to visit a sixth generation pottery shop. And boy-o was this some pottery shop! The owner showed us the facilities, explaining the process. They collected mud from either the riverbank (for red clay) or the hills (for white clay). They process the clay so it is ready for throwing. The potters use either an antique foot spun wheel, or an electric wheel. Then we were shown the painting room, where each pot, plate, and bowl is hand painted by local artists. The detail and craftsmanship was just stunning. One painter was working on something different from the other artists. It was explained that he was doing some modern art pieces. I was blown away by the thought that this family could maintain the work done by their family for generations, yet bring in modern influence to keep the art meaningful, present, and fresh.
Lastly, we were taken to the finished pieces showroom. Every traveler should be prepared for this moment. At least once on every trip you will encounter the thing that sucks you in. This was my thing. You may think you have a perfectly planned budget, you may even be perfectly keeping to your perfectly planned budget. But then, without warning, you’ll find that thing that sucks you in. Really, you should plan for this too in your budget. My thing sucked me in was a collection of 7 bowls and 2 cups. Including shipping it totaled…well suffice it to say, I blew my budget for this day and for several days after. But it was worth it. When you find that thing that sucks you in, let it. You only live once, and you’ll probably never be back to the place to “buy it next time.”
Just looking at those bowls makes me happy. Which is a good thing considering I won’t be able to afford to put much food in them for a while!
So, to recap, my two important travel tips for today are:
1. Get off the beaten path, and
2. Be prepared for the thing that sucks you in.
Whew! Good night!