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