Russ and Vera have arrived and seem to be loving Turkey! The only problem seems to be that they don't speak Turkish, and most Turks they don't speak English! Other than that, travelling in Turkey is a piece of cake (isn't it always?)!
After a long awaited arrival and an even longer flight, mom and dad arrived in Istanbul a week ago rearing to go! Dad was on his new Blackberry upon arrival (which we didn't even know he had, let alone knew how to use) sending emails and texts to Jamie, Judy and whoever else, from Istanbul!! Who is this new man! We explored Istanbul for a few days, dodging carpet salesman after carpet salesman, bargaining at the Grand Bazaar (at which mom became a whole different, half Turkish, half French, half Spanish-speaking, negotiating fiend) and sampled Baklava, Turkish Delight, and every Turkish appetizer known to Istanbul! After many enlightening and hilarious conversations with our hostel owners Emrah, Metin and Ali, as well as a night of free entertainment from our restaurant host trying agressively to get any and all tourists to eat in his restaurant (he knew about 6 words in 14 different languages and felt that Macaroni and Fish were his best sellers) it was time to leave for the Cappadocia region... via overnight train!
Mom had graciously booked us private sleeper cars for our 17 hour journey, and dad humbly picked up endless amounts of snacks (including 2 bags of chips, 2 packs of cookies, 2 cans of beans, 12 assorted peices of fruit, 4 chocolate bars, 10 500ml beers, 5 different packs of nuts and a few other "secret" emergency rations) we were set... or were we? As soon as a few fellow passengers started to board the sleeper car with not one, but multiple FULL loaves of bread, and numerous 2L bottles of pop, dad started to sweat. After asking at least 7 times if we thought we needed more food, a panick-stricken dad lept from the train and darted (I haven't seen him run this fast since his last marathon) for the snack stands in search of more chips, beer and provisions. This absolutely hilarious ritual happened 2 more times before the whistle blew and dad collapsed on the his seat, exhausted! The rest of us were in tears! All this and we still had a meal to eat in the dining car; Kristin's first meal on a train and she was very excited. Our gracious host (his name escapes me as I didn't understand him the first time) came around with blankets, pillows and a wonderful smile, and told us in pretty good English "I will be of service to you on the trip and just tell me anything you need". So, accordingly, dad responded excitedly with "what time does the restaurant open?", to which he replied simply "no". "Sorry, dad said, "no"? "No" the man replied again. Although I don't think he really was, dad wanted to be confused, as "no" there is no restaurant meant "no" we don't eat dinner. "No restaurant"?, dad pleaded, "no" the man replied again. And after we all looked at each other thinking the same thing, dad shrugged his shoulders and did what any great dad would do when the restaurant was closed and his family hadn't eaten; cracked a brewski, ripped open the chips and said "bonne appetite"! And the laughter and pigout continued late into the night. (A quick note here to say that he also jumped off the train at 6:00am the following morning to grab breakfast at our only "long" stop on the 17 hour journey).
Cappadocia (the town of Goreme specifically), is like walking into "fairyland" at Disneyworld. It has rock formations like no other place in the world (that we've been to anyway) that look to some like giant mushrooms, others like giant rocky-icebergs, and others still like huge penises. No matter what your perspective, they are quite bizarre and quite large; and they're everywhere. Stranger still are the insane number of caves that have been chiseled out of the rock and at one point around the 3rd century, either lived in or used for Christian chapels or barriel grounds. In fact, we visited a whole underground city, that from ground-level is invisble, but underneath is 8 levels or floors (so far) of rock rooms and full and beautiful chapels. It was constructed and used by Chrisitans as a place to pray and live when the Romans ruled the area. Christianity wasn't official at the time and thus illegal to practice. Quite an astoudning work of architecture! Entire villages could live down there for months at a time undectected by their enemies, and had underground passegeways that connected right to the floors of their homes. They even had a full ventilation system that was an 8 storey tunnel connecting all floors with the outside above and the watertable below!
In the spirit of caves and weirdness, we all stayed in a Cave hotel, which Kristin has decided she can live in permanently. Quite a cool experience that left us humming the Flinstone tune more often than not! Tonight we are off to see the famous Whirling Dervishes for the first time, and tomorrow onto another UNESCO world heritage sight at Pummukale (googlt that! ;-)
Miss you all and will write again soon!
Love K and C, and Vera and Russ
For those of you following at home, Istanbul --> Cappadocia --> Konya --> Pummukale