Sunday, 29 August 2010

Balloons and Troglodites

Our deadline to get to Cappadocia by the 23rd meant we had to follow motorways for most of the way, a blur of trucks whizzing by belching out black exhaust fumes. The exhaust tends to be on the right, perfect for hitting cyclist square in the face and usually comes with a friendly HONK! and a wave out the window. Generally they get a mixed response from us as we are trying not to inhale while smiling at the same time.

Turkish Cycle Lanes. Yes!
"Ok.. where's the road gone?!?"

Whenever we can we take shortcuts away from big roads and into more remote corners of Anatolia. A shortcut to avoid Ankara took us over some impressive mountains to Haymana, a small town know for its hot springs (allegedly of the same mineral composition as Vichy in France). The first hotel we entered became a very cheap but luxury hideout. We languished in a suite complete with thermal water bathroom, kitchen, lounge and balcony for two days at half price. This super deal did not just happen because of our charm and bartering skills but because the manager was clearly spun out from his Ramazan fasting. That of course in combination with a big dose of Turkish goodwill.
The real treat is the contrasts this journey offers. The next few days were spent in another kind of luxury. Riding up and down golden, sun scorched, dusty mountain ranges, feeling ourselves expanding into the most expansive of landscapes, sleeping under bright constellations and washing in streams with frogs spying on us.

After three more days of cycling we arrived in the fairy chimney world of Cappadocia. Our days shared with Paola and Guido have been packed with new experiences and insights into the history of this magical place. Topping it all was the hot air balloon ride over Göreme and the surrounding valleys. This was my first time up in a hot air balloon and Cappadocia must be one of the most unique landscapes to glide over while watching the sunrise.

We were picked up at 5.10am to be driven off to a valley full of balloons at various stages of inflation and bleary eyed excited tourists sipping (bad) coffee. It was an amazing spectacle to watch over 30 brightly coloured balloons popping up out of the valley like bubbles out of a glass of fizz.

A big thanks to this lovely lady!

Our sleeping arrangements since we've been here have been some of the best so far. We started out at the Panorama campsite with our own little terrace overlooking Göreme. It was great to meet other crazies on their adventures. One couple from Frankfurt was driving to South Africa in a Toyota Landcruiser fully kitted out for overland travel. Looked like loads of fun, mmm maybe one day with a kidlet or two... In contrast Paola treated us to four nights in three different boutique cave hotels. It really was just like the fairy stories I read as a kid, with woodland creatures living in mushrooms. These people had the imagination to hone their homes out of these incredible formations, complete with stairs, doors, windows carved out of the rock. Some of these were so riddled with rooms they've now collapsed.

After Paola and Guido left we decided to stay at the very stylish Koza Cave Hotel an extra two nights. We thought it would be silly to rush from this place too quickly, so we didn't...Yey! Ok, it really did blow our budget but our second night was offered to us at a discount price by the lovely Dervish and his wife. We thought it rude not to accept. It was so soothing hanging out in their walled garden on Turkish rug sofa's surrounded by herbs and flowers, eating breakfast on the roof among the fairy chimneys. Dervish and his family really have created a warm and intimate environment here as well as some great rooms. I smiled every time I walked into our little cave bedroom. Dervish is a real whirlwind of energy and helped us so much while we were there. Thankfully some of his energy rubbed off on me. Tired muscles and the bags under eyes had disappeared by the time we reluctantly left.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Istanbul c'est Costantinople

Istanbul seductress

Istanbul of sounds, silver spoons in sweet çay
thick brows and tache, red and white saucers everywhere you look, men sitting
tinkle tinkle

Istanbul of play, rolling dice on wood
sinuous smoke of shishas, cushions and rugs and hot afternoons of mellow
clack clack

Istanbul so cool,
cafés of chic, double soya mocha latte with a dash of cinnamon, terrific views from terraces
a poise all of its own

Istanbul vogue,
down hip graffiti side street, basements of antique and galleries of modern, boys and girls,
clothes too unique to have a tag

Istanbul grime, hoodlums on the baseline
drink and smoke and killa milanese turko nasty
sparkk's a good un'

Istanbul of crowds, diamond of 12 million faces
cultures, colours, flavours flowing trough her ancient veins

Istanbul of old, no one can ever know her
faith and empires hidden behind gummy icecreams

Istanbul places, choppy sea and harbour
Kabatash, Beyouglu and cats roaming free

Istanbul of travellers, swallowed and spat
brief encounters, Andrey and Lera, hope to see you again

Istanbul at sunset, fishermen on Galata bridge
a profile of such beauty, inflamed by shy and dare

Veiled Istanbul, stolen glances
we wanted to have it all