Aug 25, 2015

Turkish Diaries: Part 5

To read earlier parts click on the links: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

They creaked and jangled in synchronous sway to the gentle ministrations of the padded cushion without either the cushion or the padding. They sang or screamed, I cannot say with conviction, silently. In my mind's eye, they were having a sort of yogic orgy along the lines of this - seizure

It was very droll and humorous.

Until I woke up.

As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and shifted my buttocks that were still sleeping, my bones gave a loud ejaculation that eventually escaped from my mouth. They were twisted and mangled beyond temporary repair. My wife was no better off. But then we drew the curtains across and were treated to one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.


Graveyard with a nice balloon to glamour the place. Looks like Ooty bus stand, doesn't it?
Set against a purplish salmon sky, there were these tiny specks here and there. The rolling hills and landscape added several more shades to the already colorful balloons. All the pain in our bones vanished and we clapped our hands in glee. The bus dropped us off in the center of the city/town/village panchayat union of Göreme. The city square was as crowded as a graveyard and a deathly, chilly wind blew about. It was still early morning, 6 AM thereabouts. We quickly dove into our bags and fished out the pullovers and sweaters and Bangalorised the place. Since there was nobody about and the one or two taxi drivers who were around looked shady enough to be extras in a Subhash Ghai movie, we decided to first check out google maps. The hotel we had booked seemed sort of walkable, so away we trudged, us backpackers.

The hotel was more than walkable by any South-Indian-with-a-paunch standards. We reached huffing and puffing only to hear the receptionist say that she was sorry and that our room was not yet ready; we had reached earlier than they expected and we had to wait. For how long, we asked. For 3 hours, she said. What the bleeding hell, I wanted to say, but she was pretty and I ended up saying, Oh, that is alright. My wife said, what the bleeding hell. The receptionist quaked in her shoes and said, you can leave your luggage here sir/madam. Wife said, ok then. Meanwhile, you can also have our breakfast, she added sweetly. Wife accepted this as the right propitiation for the lax in the arrangements. We entered the small dining room to treat ourselves to a massive spread. And when I say it was massive, it was really massive; there were at least 6 types of cheese, 5 types of bread, 3 varieties of eggs, honey, marmalade, juices, milk, coffee, fruits of 4 kinds, cold meat and other miscellaneous items of questionable mien.

The Göreme Open Air Museum:

Stuffed to bulging sweaters, we had around 2 hours to kill. We decided to take a peek at the Göreme Open Air Museum. The hotel arranged us a cab that dropped us off at the entrance to the museum. We quickly purchased tickets (a museum pass of course) and went in.

The place was jaw-dropping. First from an external standpoint: The museum is a landscaped collection of troglodyte habitations by the Christians who were on the run from the ongoing Turkification. So as they fled to the hills, they came across these natural mushroom-like structures ready for them to occupy. They tossed a one rupee coin and decided to stay here and hide out. Second, from an internal standpoint: they converted most of these houses into beautiful churches. The frescoes in each one of them are painstakingly detailed and gorgeous.
TIP 1: Get a museum pass. Everywhere. Starting here. Also, reach the Open Air museum as early as possible. Most of the Asian tourist groups block out the entrances, stuff their selfie sticks in your face for fun, giggle like circus clowns and pose atrociously imitating an epileptic Vitruvian man. Better to avoid all of them altogether.
The museum pass served two main purposes,
  • You get to know all items of interest are there in one glance
  • Express routes everywhere
For example, we had no idea about the existence of the Dark Church aka Karanlik Kilse. And when we did, it was brilliant. The pass also covered another church, Tokalı Kilise, slightly down the road towards Göreme. I had little understanding about the restoration process, but the effort that had gone into this was remarkably evident. Other churches there within the Open Air Museum, namely, Çarıklı Kilise, Yılanlı Kilise and Elmalı Kilise, are significantly smaller but equally vivid. You can keep staring at the frescoes forever; they are magnetic, like Hansika Motwani’s eyes (or maybe not. I don’t know. I am a fan and will be. Forever.).

Sandcastle at Mahabalipuram. Just kidding. This is one of the cave houses.

No. These are not my son's scribbles. I don't have a son. These are frescoes.
After an extensive hour well spent, we decided to walk back to the hotel. From the pamphlet that came with the pass, there was a small church that was nearby. We decided to pop-in for a bit. What was meant to be a simple stroll ‘pop-in’ evolved into a 2 hour trek, all the way up to a forsaken church occupied by a solitary security guard. The church was pleasant and the trek, eventful: climbing around clumps of bushes, following the trail signs, vaulting over surprise streams, waving to other trekkers, wondering where the hell we were and slightly worried if we would be able to find our way back - it was good. Good fun, actually.

But now we were really tired and promptly went back to the hotel. The room was ready as prettily announced by the pretty ugly receptionist and we were escorted into Batcave. I mean it was a huge 2BH room, but cut out of a cave. The bathroom had, get this – thyme-flavoured soaps. My wife lost it and went berserk like a kid who had just got a trampoline delivered by Santa Claus wearing a lungi.

I took a short nap.

We woke up and decided to have lunch.


Now this lunch was one the greatest lunches I have had the privilege to have in my life. It happened rather randomly. We were walking around, looking for agencies to book the balloon trip for the next day when we saw a row of earthenware, advertising something called pottery kebabs.

I was intrigued.

We stepped into one of the restaurants and ordered one pottery kebab along with Manti, which the wife had come across in an insipid blogpost unlike this. Ten minutes later, the waitress came to our table with a small pot. She took a spoon, cracked the side of the pot and opened the top with steam billowing out of the pot. A smell of mint, garlic, cooked tender meat, onions, spices and tomatoes pervaded the area. I scooped a huge ladle of the curry and poured it over some pilaf rice and tasted a spoonful.


Within minutes it was all over. I told my wife, ‘Nothing can top this.’ She agreed. And then the Manti came. Oodles of pasta with yogurt drooling all over with meat stuffed inside, with a gentle splash of olive oil drizzled surrounded by spicy curry sauce to connect all the different flavours.


I told my wife, ‘I was wrong.’ She agreed.
Manti on the left and pottery kebab on the right. Just telling this explicitly for the people who can't make out *snigger*.
After this heavy lunch, our bodies refused to move anywhere. Somehow, we dragged ourselves to the travel agency nearby and booked ourselves a balloon trip the next day.
TIP 2: There is no need to book online or in advance. There are several service providers, all of them offering the standard balloon ride for different prices. It is up to you to select the best one. We chose one that was recommended by the agent. He was a gem of a person which we came to know the next day.

It was still afternoon and we were not sure what to do. So we decided to take a small trip to the Fairy Chimneys (Hoodos) at Uçhisar. The bus dropped us off and we walked around drinking in the view of the gigantic chimneys. 

Evil eyes on a tree. The last time I saw something similar was at Thiruvanmiyur temple.

Way too many chimneys but no smoke. 

We tried climbing a steep outcrop overlooking the Love Valley and felt the-almost-verge-of-regurgitated-pottery-kebabs giving us indecent signs, that we gave up halfway through. But we managed to scale one peak and quickly took some facebookitiya-level photos.

The aforementioned facebookitiya replete with dark shades and a Telugu hero intro pose.
Soon we returned back to the city center and took a slow, long, lumbering walk around the boulevard skirting the city center. I wanted to have a go at some raki and we entered a place that weirdly looked like a joint for stoners (pun intended). We ordered a glass and it came with a glass of cold water. Aaaaannndddd…


I had it neat like a true Turkish gentleman and sputtered. It was strong, sweet and incensed with star anise. I loved it. We shared that one glass and ordered Turkish coffee to sober down. 

Gourd souvenirs at the city center for sale. Don't ask me why they have this. Eeeks!
That was a big mistake.

The coffee too, unpredictably, came with water. It did have the appearance of industrial strength crude oil. One sip and both of us were immediately transported to the busy petrol pump at JP Nagar 3rd Phase. It WAS crude oil. Somehow, after several tries, we finished both and headed back to the hotel to take yet another short nap before dinner.
TIP 3: Try Turkish coffee only if you have your life, oesophagus, liver, kidneys and Honda Activa, insured. 
Death by Coffee.


I wanted dinner to be a romantic affair. We dressed up regally enough and landed at one of the many restaurants near the city center that had been highly recommended. We wanted to try some more meats and we did; obviously washed down with a glass of Efes Pilsner. Discussions ranged widely from the balloon trip the next morning to the balloon trip the next morning.
Dead tired, we strolled back to the Bathotel, went straight to our Batcave and into the Batroom, washed our face using the Batwater and towelled using the Battowel, before creeping into the  Batbed under the Batsheets. We called up our Batparents asking them to wake us up, since we had to start from the Bathotel at batsharp, 4:30 AM.

The Batcouple slept off.

Fickle luck waited for us on the morn.

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