Aaaaand were finally back for the latter half of the week with Gerry! Quick fun fact before I get rolling – this is our 50th blog post! I obviously had to build up suspense for this moment, which explains the multi-month hiatus. Anyways…
Don’t take everything you read on the internet at face value, kids.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of Cappadocia, odds are that it had a million hot air balloons in it. And if you hadn’t, look below. It would have been awesome to see in person if we were expecting to, but research said that balloon season lasted from April – October (ambiguous as to whether that meant to October or through end of the month.) It was nearing November, so I didn’t get my hopes up. Couple that with not seeing any ballons at sunset the previous day and my incorrect preconceived notion that we missed it had been confirmed.
I now know that the dash between April and October means ‘through,’ and that they launch the ballons in the morning.. Luckily! If it hadn’t been for the call of nature, I would have missed this awesome sight. Throwback to Iceland when my late night potty break caused us to catch one of my favorite sunsets! Divine intervention, maybe?
I’m glad we had that treat in the morning since we had a long day of uneventful driving ahead. If I had it all to do over again, I’d spend another day in Cappadocia. There were few more valleys we could have hiked and it would have been a nice break from driving. But alas, we didn’t plan for that. Onto Konya it was.
If that rings any bells, it’s likely because Konya is home to the whirling dervishes. We weren’t passing through on the correct day, or time for that matter, to catch one of their ceremonies. Spoiler alert – they twirl a lot – as a form of meditation. I learned none of this that as a result of going to the dervish museum 🙃 Most of it hadn’t reopened because of COVID, which didn’t really make sense, since driving all traffic into a single building was counterproductive in the way of social distancing.
We poked around for a whopping ten minutes before leaving. What I did learn about about dervish culture, I did from the internet as I walked away from the confusing museum.. Wikipedia has been aggressive in it’s donation guilt trips lately and I probably deserve it.
We redeemed that stop by trying kunefe, which is like a Midwesterner’s attempt at a take on baklava. It’s essentially a pancake made of shredded wheat and stuffed with cheese, then topped with simple syrup and pistachios. It was good, but baklava is still my preference, so we got some for the road to have with Gerry at dinner – we’d be dining in on account of driving through no man’s land during the evening hours.
We made it as far as we could tolerate the night before, and then some, because of course we couldn’t find a good place to park for a while in the dark. But there was still a few more hours of car time to crush through. As a result, I found out there really hasn’t been much advancement in the way of road trip games since I was like five years old. After spending weeks on end doing everything together, even besties will eventually run out of things to talk about..
Eventually we arrived to Pamukkale – a giant mineral deposit and hot spring at the base of what remains of the Roman Spa city, Hierapolis. We weren’t expecting to be able to walk up the wet slope or touch the formation at all. Thus, we weren’t exactly prepared in pants and long sleeves vs. those in swimsuits, popping in and out of the pools increasing in warmth as you moseyed up.
Not surprisingly, peoples’ inability to stay on the prescribed path had damaged the formations and they’d ruined it for everyone.. until traffic severely dropped off with COVID. Of course a pandemic didn’t make people any smarter so there were still self-absorbed photo seekers getting yelled it.. just enough less of them to be manageable, I guess?
We did our due diligence at main spots in Hierapolis but passed on its grossly commercialized pool with fallen columns. Lunch was typical Turkish fare, except for a dessert I hadn’t seen yet – flatbread with tahini, honey and walnuts. Simple, but insanely delicious! We couldn’t leave Gerry alone for too long and we reunited after lunch.
Ephesus was the main show for the day and as you can see we got there a little before sunset. This is one of the more famous sites for ruins in Turkey, and we had to pass up a couple others including Aphrodiasis, to ensure we’d get here before close. This region is a history buff’s dream!
If we’d seen this site first, my mind would have been utterly blown. Regardless of having an idea of what we were going to see, the sheer size of this city put the rest of the ruins we’d visited to shame.
The goofy, incomplete state of a lot of the grounds gave it an interesting humbleness. As much as I made fun of the unfinished feel, seeing work of that scale put the immense puzzle that is human history in perspective.
There were more ruins to be seen – next were the rock tombs in Fethiye. These are eternal resting places carved into the side of a cliff. They’re pretty unassuming, a few blocks off the main street of the town, you’ll view them from the road beneath. Pictured below is the only one you can walk up and into.
The tombs weren’t anything to write home about, but it was a good little pitstop and brought us to Mozaik Bahçe for lunch. It was a kitschy little garden cafe filled with primarily mosaic style art on top of the tasty food. Their fresh squeeze lemonade was a 12/10! My prowess in finding Turkish food still going strong 🙂
That hefty lunch ended up being quite necessary to carry us through the next adventure. Once you got past the silly tourist photo traps, Saklikent Gorge was a rugged, muddy jaunt.
Water shoes were recommended, but I really didn’t want to waste the plastic for a single hike (and I was being stubborn.) Even my wild feet got angry after an hour+ of walking through the cold, rocky stream running through the gorge. On the other hand (foot) my inner dirt child was very pleased to be splashing and squishing through the stream.
We dipped our toes into the some of the Lycian Way by taking a hike up to see the eternal flames of Mount Chimaera. Some sources cite this as the inspiration for the mythical creature of the same name, a sort of lion-snake-goat dude that breathes fire. Which is quite funny to think about against a modern-day backdrop of hikers cooking their breakfast over some of these natural grills.
Logistics weren’t on our side to visit the site at night when it looks coolest, but it was still a neat jaunt. Then, it was on to a serene nature heaven at Göynük Canyon. Love me a good juxtaposition!
There’s a bunch of different eco-adventures available there, but we chose to simply mosey around and enjoy the scenery.
We closed in on Antalya to close out our last full day with Gerry, but the last canyon we hoped to see the following morning was going to give him a run for his agility. As we crept down progressively narrower, sketchier paths – cuz at a point you can’t really call them roads anymore – GPS instructed us to full on tresspass through a farm in pursuit of said gorge.
Luckily we’d already familiarized ourselves with the Turkish translation of “stay TF out” in Kappadokya so we knew to we had to turn around. But acknowledging the need and executing said 180 were two very opposing things on a dirt path with an uhhh.. seasoned camper van. Austin Powers afficionado or not, this describes the scene perfectly.
We never did get to the observation deck of the gorge, but that didn’t take away from spending our last evening/morning tucked away here.
The gunshots, however, did take away some of my sleep.. silver lining to tackling the 18-point turn necessary to not tresspass through that dude’s farm! One last breakfast and then it was time to return Gerry to his resting place.
After a week of nonstop movement, we were quite gassed. I can only imagine how Gerry was feeling! We spent the next few days recharging in Antalya before it was time to take on the Balkans.
We talked numerous times about visiting a Turkish bath house but never did – I have a small regret about not taking in the experience, especially for how incredibly cheap it was. However, the few Puritan (prude) roots of American culture that remain in me had me just uncomfortable enough with the prospect of a stranger profusely scrubbing my naked body to not pursue it.
The last and perpetually most important thing to mention in Antalya is none other than food! Dikkat ET popped up on my search for tasty Turkish food (because the tourist area was a. overpriced and b. catered towards tourists, not travellers #iykyk). If we’d just been walking down the street, I wouldn’t have even seen the place as it was tucked back off of the road down a long hallway between more prominent storefronts.
That long hall created the appropriate amount of suspense to have entered to the owner’s mother sitting at a table hand rolling dumplings. Those immediately shot to #1 in the ordering queue before we even saw a menu. With that in our hands we tacked on a traditional bean salad, kofta, and curry. I almost needed to be rolled out!
Turkey – you were a dimepiece. As in 10/10 food, culture, and history.. and also quite cheap.
Do everybody a favor and try an economy-stimulating vacation there!