A CAPE BRETONER IN TURKEY
Recognizing that special place that makes you happy
Arlene Lahey shares her Middle Eastern experience.
In my eight months in Turkey, I have come to realize that for me there are certain places that seem to fit more than others.
While my time in South Korea was a valuable experience I always felt like a visitor. Turkey is different. That’s not to suggest that Turkey is my now permanent home. Rather, it’s to acknowledge the importance of looking for and, most importantly, recognizing when you’ve found a place that makes you happy. This feeling of contentment underlies the sense of adventure with which I am exploring Turkey. Weekend excursions to historic sites and trekking through the mountains help me to appreciate Turkey’s diversity.
Travel in Turkey is easy. For the equivalent of about $30 Canadian return, I travelled by bus to the Cappadocia Region of Turkey. This approximately three-and-a-half-hour bus ride each way was remarkable for the customer service offered to passengers.
At regular intervals, an employee of the bus line walked the aisle offering us free drinks and snacks. Even the budget air carrier on which I flew to Izmir recently, for approximately $140 return, offered passengers non-alcoholic beverages and a sandwich. Think about that for a minute.
Oh, Cappadocia: The Cappadocia Region of Central Turkey is an other-worldly landscape. This ancient and historical region, sculpted by erosion, is famous for its striking coneshaped, honey-coloured rock formations where cave dwellers once lived. The village of Göreme, where I stayed when I visited in March, is part of the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just before the entrance to the village is the Göreme Open Air Museum, a complex of rock-cut monasteries adjacent to each other, each with their own church dating from the 10th to 12th centuries.
Each church is decorated inside with colourful frescos depicting the life of Christ. Visitors are prohibited from photographing the frescos so as to preserve the still colourful yet delicate images. In addition to visiting cave structures, visitors to Göreme can choose to stay in hotels with rooms that are carved and shaped from these historic dwellings. In town, you can eat delicious Turkish food including a Cappadocia specialty called testi kebab, a meat and/or vegetable dish cooked in pottery which you then break open using a tiny hammer. It goes well with wine from the region.
Ephesus: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ephesus allows visitors to walk through history. The site is the location of successive ancient Greek and Roman settlements dating from around 10th Century BC and was once one of the most important cities of its time.
Located about three kilometres from the town of Selçuk, the entrance to Ephesus is within walking distance but the site is best seen with a guide who can drive you around. Close by is the House of the Virgin Mary, a Christian and Muslim shrine, where according to legend Mary spent her last days. During excavation parts of a stone foundation dating from 1st Century AD, about the same time Mary would have been alive, were discovered.
Shall we hike? Hiking is an inexpensive way to get out of the city and explore areas around Ankara and even further afield. Numerous tour companies offer hikes that range from six kilometres to 16 and cost from 50 to 100 Turkish Lira (approximately $15 to $35 Canadian). Some of these hikes are geared to tourists and require only a pair of comfortable shoes.
A good pair of hiking boots, waterproof pants, and possibly a walking stick is needed as you will likely be jumping over brooks, climbing snow-covered mountains, or carefully zig-zagging down the mountain you just climbed, snow covered or not.
For others, the ones I prefer, a good pair of hiking boots, waterproof pants, and possibly a walking stick is needed as you will likely be jumping over brooks, climbing snowcovered mountains, or carefully zig-zagging down the mountain you just climbed, snow covered or not.
One of my favourite hikes was in and around Tokatlı Canyon in Safranbolu, another of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located in the western Black Sea Area. Safranbolu is famous for its Ottoman architecture and for Turkish delight or locum. As is so much of this country, it is a stunningly beautiful area.
Next up is an August trip to the eastern Black Sea Region, and my weekly hiking excursions.
This is the Celsus Library at Ephesus, Selçuk, built in 117 A.D.
This is a cave church at Göreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia.
RIGHT: This is the scene looking down at the wooden walkway in Tokatlı Canyon, Safranbolu.