A Hin­dostani In Is­tan­bul

Turkey prob­a­bly makes for the best maiden in­ter­na­tional voy­age. And its stun­ning caves are not the only rea­son

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Travel - by Yashica Dutt

TRAVEL HEALS re­la­tion­ships. Af­ter shar­ing an es­pe­cially strained, al­beit vir­ginal, one with my pass­port, I fi­nally re­alised this in Turkey, where – af­ter miss­ing trips to Greece, Los An­ge­les and South Africa – I earned my first of­fi­cial stamp. Mak­ing an in­ter­na­tional trip to­day is as com­mon­place as find­ing fans of Honey Singh, but comes with more un­so­licited ad­vice. “Pho­to­graph ev­ery mo­ment”, “Don’t lose mo­ments in pho­tog­ra­phy, live them”, “Do as all tourists do”, “Be a lo­cal in the for­eign land”, “Be pre­pared, plan ev­ery­thing”, “Just let your­self go.”

I came back from Turkey with all boxes checked and a 16GB mem­ory card. I was a wide-eyed tourist at the church, mosque and mu­seum of Ha­gia Sophia, where Is­lamic sym­bol­ism co­ex­ists with a stun­ning cen- turies-old fresco of Je­sus Christ. I turned into a lo­cal, cours­ing through Istik­lal Street, bar­gain­ing for small trea­sures even as the shop­keep­ers asked, “Hin­dostan?” I im­mersed my­self for hours in the Mu­seum of In­no­cence, based on Orhan Pa­muk’s epony­mous book. I ran all over Is­tan­bul in buses, on foot, on fer­ries, so as to fin­ish all the sight-see­ing packed into our pun­ish­ing sched­ule. And rued miss­ing the fa­mous Turk­ish Ha­mam and the ho­tair bal­loon ride over the cave man­sions of Cap­pado­cia.

Ini­tial ap­pre­hen­sions about leg space were dis­pelled on the hor­i­zon­tal busi­ness - class beds of Turk­ish Air­lines. The ac­cented an­nounce­ments be­came in­au­gu­ral in­tro­duc­tions to Turkey and the un­remit­ting flow of the lo­cal aniseed flavoured drink, raki, was a vir­ile in­di­ca­tion

I also im­mersed my­self for hours in the Mu­seum of In­no­cence

of what waited on the other side of the two-and-a-half hour time dif­fer­ence. In­stead of land­ing feet first into Is­tan­bul like most tourists, we (a group of jour­nal­ists) took the con­nect­ing flight to Kay­seri air­port, to the cave re­gion of Cap­pado­cia.

UN­DER­GROUND ACT

We met blunt rocks that re­sem­bled tidy slices of cake, ex­tend­ing be­yond the hori­zon into clear blue skies. Sev­eral vol­ca­noes erupted many mil­lions of years ago and their ash bil­lowed up to cre­ate a stun­ning land­scape that niftily ad­justed it­self into a se­ries of plateaus. In be­tween the plateaus were rocks that have man­aged to stand for thou­sands of years.

Made from vol­canic de­posits called tuff, they looked like gi­ant bobs on an old sweater, or like un­even ic­ing left to freeze over. Th­ese rocks, called Fairy Chim­neys or Hoodoos, are mostly found in the Göreme val­ley, in the Nevse­hir prov­ince of Cap­pado­cia.

We stayed in a lovely cave ho­tel called the Ana­to­lian Houses, in rooms carved out of soft tuff rock, with low-level arches and roofs so low you could touch them. Per­fectly cool with­out air-conditioning, the tuff rock cre­ated a mild chill in the room dur­ing what was a pretty in­tense sum­mer out­side. It is also known to re­main warm in win­ter.

NEI­THER HERE NOR THERE Is­tan­bul, with one end in Asia and the other in Europe, is a mix of both worlds

POTTERED ALL OVER The Blue Mosque in Is­tan­bul with its stun­ning ceil­ings is a jaw-drop­per

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