This trip was the very opposite of my last weekend in Istanbul, in regards to the number of people around. This trip had at least 100 of us International Students! There were three bus-loads of us actually. It was a trip planned specifically for us by the Erasmus Student Network of METU. 🙂
It was a really great opportunity to get to meet many of the other International Students here but I felt like there was really too many of us; there ended up being a lot of waiting around for each other. It is SO hard to travel in a group this big because people want to spend more time or less time at different places.
We had a very busy schedule planned for the weekend but, unfortunately, we did only half (or maybe less than half) of what I agreed to pay 300 lira for. But I am very glad that I did go still. It was such a vast area full of beauty! And it was great to just tag along with the bus and other people, in many ways.
We left METU around 1 am in the middle of the night between Thursday and Friday. After 7 hours of people attempting to make the ride a party bus… we finally got there around 8 am on Friday morning. We arrived at a Panorama view spot of Göreme Valley spot. I adventured down it a bit. The ground was mostly slippery sand but the large sand doons are rough, bumpy, and rather sharp – so it was tricky in some places. I came back up to where the crowd was and realized that some people from the group had adventured over a bit down in the large valley. So I went down there and adventured at that spot too.
Next we ended up at the Göreme Open Air Museum. This is where the frustration really began for a lot of us I think. We all finally made it into the museum after about an hour of waiting in line and paying 20 lira to get them to print us a museum card. It was about 12:30 when we finally all got in and we got a bit of a tour of the area from our tour guide. Then we had free time to adventure by ourselves too. It was actually pretty hot out (so much so that I realized I had got burnt later that night) but the cave things were very cold inside. The paintings in these caves were so beautiful and I couldn’t believe the fine detail of it all! I’ve never seen anything like this before. I tried to imagine who exactly was the artist of the paintings and how their life was.
It was finally around 2 pm when we went to the Lunch Buffet place. The food was pretty decent but it was uncomfortable because they came around, as we were still eating, and charged us all for the drinks we’d been drinking with the meal…
I think it was at this point that we went to a Jewellery making store in the Cappadocia area. I bought something pretty neat here that is a present to give for when I get home… 🙂 But we really spent a lot of time here and I’m still not really sure why…
Then we went through the process of checking into the hotel we were staying at, which was called Crystal Kaymakli. We actually put all of our passports into a large cardboard bag and the leaders of the trip sorted through them and checked us into rooms and assigned us to rooms of 2 or 3 people. Alex and I ended up in a room in between our friends! On one side of our room was a room with a married couple of friends (named Kylan and Allie) from Wisconsin, U.S.A and on the other side was the friend that I made in Orientation, Nermin and her sister, Fidan, from Azerbaijani. 🙂
Alex and I were so relieved to see two single beds in our room. Kylan was saying, however, that he had opposite feelings about the bed situation. 😛 I found this contrast funny.
Then it was dinner butter at the hotel time. This food was really delicious and I ate way too much as a result. Drinks also cost extra here if we wanted to drink anything with our meals. I heard that they were selling 500 ml bottles of water for 3 lira each! Which is so expensive. Since Turkey imports all of its water and it is unsafe to drink it is generally a lot more reasonably priced than that… The group of us went and adventured across the street and found a very nice man in a store selling 1.5 litre bottles for 1 lira each. Much better!
I was only up until 10 pm or maybe 11 pm at the latest. I was very tired with all the lack of sleep the night before, and I knew it would be an early morning too with breakfast starting at 8 am. After breakfast the next day we were guided by foot to explore the Kaymakli Underground City! The card that they printed for us at the open air museum the day before got us in free! 🙂
This place was IN-credible! We really had to slouch and crawl almost though some of the parts and then it would open up a bit into a small room type place. There were arrows to follow and we were in there for maybe 40 minutes or so. It was such a neat place! Highly recommended if you are ever in Cappadocia to see an Underground City 🙂
Eventually we were on our bus again and it took us to a Winery in Cappodocia. They gave us a free small glass of wine and told us we’d get a student discount on buying their wine; they also did this at the jewellery place – this seemed to be a trend. I didn’t buy any wine.
It was time for Lunch again. This place was better than the day before, I thought. It was more relaxed and less disruptive. Also the food was better, I thought.
After Lunch we ended up at an ATV (quadding) place. We could either pay 30 lira to go quad ding with a partner or wait around for an hour. I decided to go and ended up being the driver (which I really preferred), on a vehicle with Fidan 🙂
I think this was worth the money, although we didn’t really go anywhere too special, I
thought and we were also forced to drive in a line of 30 of us vehicles (or something close to 30). There was also a few people in our group who didn’t a chance to go because they didn’t have enough vehicles. So we had to wait an hour for the scone group of people to go. It was okay because we just drank tea and played cards 🙂
It was time to go back to the hotel for dinner already. We had just less than an hour. I ate, showered quick (because there was sand everywhere on me from the quadding) and put on some makeup. The bus driver had really stressed that we would be leaving at 7 pm and if you were even 5 minutes late you could just paned the evening at the hotel, he had said. So, us North Americans made it to the bus just a few minutes before 7 pm but there was no one there – not even the bus driver! People did start showing up and by 7:39 pm we had basically a full bus and left. We drove for at least an hour and ended up at a placed called Evranos Cave Restaurant. It really did feel like a cave and a lot of magic happened here.
A whole big group of my friends here pilled into one of the 6 (?) mini caves that pointed towards the one floor – but it was basically a in-the-rounds theatre design. We sat on a matt which covered stone and there was a stone table reachable to all of us that had Raki, wine, water, peanuts, fruit, and rolls of some kind on it. I had two glasses of Raki and was really feeling it.
There was tons of Turkish dancing. Different groups of guys or girls would come out and do dancing routines for us. They were dressed in traditional clothing with colours of black, greys, red, and yellows. They did a lot of spinning around. This one woman who came out by herself in a large poofy dress span herself around in a circle around her body for a solid 5 minutes. She would move and hold her dress in different ways. The crowd loved her when the lights turned off and her dress lit up with different sets of LED lights in different colour patterns.
Then a belly dancer came out. This was exciting for the crowd too! I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen a belly dancer live before. It was pretty neat. I was trying to imagine my stomach with as much movement and flexibility as hers. She had her navel pierced – I don’t know how the piercing managed to stay in!
Then it was our turn to dance, and we danced and danced, and we snapped and snapped. I had so much fun! I really do love gathering a group of people to dance together and connect in this way 🙂
On the “party” bus back to the hotel there were more people than room for. Thankfully these two nice girls squished over in their seats to make room for me. They were people I hadn’t had the chance to meet yet. She were named Marsha (from Malaysia) and Michelle (from Pakistan). Finally, some easy names that I could remember literally right away! They were very nice people to me and our conversations made the ride feel shorter 🙂
There was an after party of the Turkish event at the note. I enjoyed this dancing too! Around 3 am, after I had closed down this party, I decided to go to bed instead of continuing the party in someone else’s dorm.. I was glad I did this in the morning. I got the opportunity to Skype with my friend, Hazel, from back home who is getting married in the summer and was having her bachelorette party!!! I had a TON of fun dancing and singing along to the songs that were being played on their end. My sister is awesome for making this happen!
We finally left the hotel after breakfast and somehow or another ended up at a tourist shop, of all the places to see at Cappadocia.. I thought it might be the last stop of the day and we very relieved when we ended up at the Uchisar Kalesi. This was also amazing and definitely worth seeing if you get a chance to go to Cappadocia some day. It was practically the opposite of the underground caves we explored near to our hotel; here we climbed up so many steps until it felt like we were on top of the Cappadocia world. It was incredible up here and is a real great 360 degree view of the area!
We went to a pottery place next where they showed us how they make pottery. This made me really want to take a pottery class when I get back to Canada! They then lead us into the store portion of their shop. I did buy something here too. A tea cup. They have really neat shaped cups here that I use almost daily at restaurants and such. So, I figured I did need one to bring back home with me!
We had another buffet style lunch at about 3 pm (which we did have to pay for) and then the bus did its party thing all the way back to METU. It also did this annoying thing where it stopped every hour for a break. We got to METU at around 11 pm.
Overall, though, the trip was such a beautiful one and another successful chunk of my time here in Turkey! ❤