Friday, August 24, 2012

Turkiye 2012, Part 5: Is it just me, or is Moria rather cramped?

Today, the day I started writing this post, the 7th of July, just happens to be Tanabata, otherwise known as the star festival in Japan (albeit originating from a Chinese version which I am unfamiliar with). Now the only reason I'm mentioning this is because I can't help but wonder when I'll finish this post- the only thing I can say for sure is that it won't be done today. Or tomorrow. Or the week after, really. After all, it's already been, what, almost five months since my trip to Turkey? Jolly good pace, no?

Back to business. For our fifth day we did the unthinkable- we hired a tour guide to take us around the region. Well, to be fair, last night's dinner show was arranged through the travel agency too- it's something we rarely do, anyway. It's the backpacker mentality: group tours are nothing but money suckers, bringing you from shop to shop, all in the name of 'culture'. Luckily for us, this one went surprisingly well.
We shared a limo-van with three other groups: a trio (or was it quad... quattro?) from China, two South American girls, and one Middle Eastern family of three. The tour guide- chap called Iskander (that's him in the photo above)- tried to get us to bond a little, first by introducing ourselves (our group spoiled it somewhat by grouping ourselves as a single unit- I exempted myself), and singing a song in our own language. The Arab lady sang some Arabic song, one of the girls from China sang Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower)- I can't remember what our group did, but we didn't sing.

First stop was Derinkuyu Underground City- a 'city' built in a network of underground caves. I'm not sure if the caves came first or if the settlers built the entire thing. I think there were a few basic caves, which they expanded on, digging like dwarves.
Some corridors were quite large, like this one. There was one section built in the form of a cross- used as a church, apparently. According to Iskander, the inhabitants were mostly Christian refugees. Despite the size of this corridor, with the large number of people in the complex, we had to stop to let other groups pass before we could descend. At some points we even had to waddle dark like in pitch dark.

There was some trouble when it was time to leave- our schedule was somewhat disrupted thanks to the Middle Eastern family who vanished into one of the shops and took forever to come out. Meanwhile I managed to get a bar of Snickers (or was it Mars?) chocolate for a paltry 1 Lira, which would have cost 1.7MYR back home, which is still ridiculously cheap- the lowest price for those two chocolates back home is around 2.90MYR.
Next stop, the Ihlara Canyon (at least, I think so), for a walk through it. Exercise time, heh. The going was rather rough at times, with the snow, ice, and the fact that we were often walking on a jungle trail and not a brick road. We ended up walking at our own pace throughout. Far ahead were Iskander and the two South American girls, and holding up the rear... I'm not too sure, actually. I alternated between both groups at a leisurely pace.
Here I am pretending to be a Dryad, and failing miserably. I just don't have a wooden enough frame for it. Clothes made of leaves might have helped, and dry skin to simulate bark? The beanie wasn't helping either.
I was too lose my cameraman soon enough, though. The trail was 4km long, and I didn't have the patience to  wait for the slowpokes for long- though I did still double back to check up on them from time to time to make sure no one had fell into the stream or been assaulted by offended and slow-reacting tree spirits.
Snow all the way, mixed with ice. All of it unpleasantly wet. My shoes and socks were soaked, though thanks to the dryness I was able to pay minimum attention to it. Lesson learned: water proof shoes are a must for winter. Or maybe spare tennis racquets?
A passing joker had made a little snowman on a rock. Quite cute, really. I tried to give it a nose but it kept falling off. My only wish was that it was an army Calvin and Hobbesian snow men that I came across (a nightmare fuel moment for many)...
And finally, after the long walk, we reached the restaurant, where our meal was (almost) ready for us. We had already passed on our preferences to Iskander before beginning our hike, and he'd conveyed the order to the chefs. It was a simple choice, really. Chicken, Beef, Lamb, or Fish.

Of course, there's no choice when it comes to bread. You get what you are served, which in this case, resembled a puffy sort of Indian Naan. It was quite tasty- nice and crispy.
My main course. Beef of some sort, I think, with vegetables and rice. It reminded me a little of Spanish Paella- nothing like it, of course. The rice here was a lot drier.
Fish. Upon closer inspection, that's not really rice. Some sort of corn? I really have no idea. It was a nice change, but now it's giving me a headache trying to think of what it's called. As far as I can tell, it doesn't match the description of couscous, pilaf, paella, or any other rice dish I know of. Probably because it's not rice, like I said. Oh bother.
Next stop, the Selime Cathedrale, a church built into a large hill. Iskander said it was used mostly by caravanserai- a chance for me to show off my nerdishness when he asked if anyone knew what that meant- roadside inn for traders, is what it really means, though I just answered 'traders'.

It was quite a walk up to the top- I had considered going mountain climbing (Mt. Kinabalu) without working out beforehand, but this puny hill changed my mind.

Here's a look at one of the main halls- can't remember what it was for. It's one of the most well preserved chambers in the complex. You can almost imagine Indiana Jones tumbling out of that dark passage at the back (say cheese for the tourists, Indy).
Despite the lousy lighting, this photo is one of my favourites. You can't even see the faces, but I liked the contrast and... oh bother, why am I pretending to be a professional photographer? I took this photo. It was taken in the hall you saw in the previous photo, from the other end. It looks nice. At least, it looks nice to me. What else can I say?
Final stop- an onyx (go on and laugh, Pokemon fans)... workshop just outside town. There was a brief explanation of the process of how they... do something to the rock, which I can't really remember. At all.
In any case, they end up looking like this. I think we were told that the translucent ones are of the best quality, as opposed to the opaque ones.
A photo with Iskander before parting ways. I think I should probably lose the Sheikh's scarf wrapped around my neck.
No dinner yet. We headed off to a nearby hamam, or Turkish Bath. You do not want to make the mistake of comparing them to the Japanese misinterpretation- baths here have nothing to do with prostitution. Probably. At least maybe not the ones we went to. In any case, they do wash you. but with their hands only, and you do get a towel.
I wasn't in a position to take photos while in there, obviously. So here's a brief rundown of the whole process: first you strip. You get to wear a towel, if you like, though that's taken from you later on. We went in with boxer shorts (or the equivalent, I didn't pay much attention to the others). After that, a quick facial treatment before a sauna session.

After that we were led to the bathroom- an octagonal (hey, who's counting) room with marble (tiled?) slabs to lie on. We were doused with warm water and scrubbed with rough towels. This hurt. Later on I discovered that I'd developed red spots all over my thighs, which latter turned dark brown, almost like scabs. A soaping, washing, and then we were sent off to the showers, and then a soak in a pool. To top it off, an optional massage at the end.

Call me a traditional old coot if you like, but men (heterosexual ones at least) should only be bathed and massaged by women and not other men, regardless of whether anything sexual is involved. It wasn't all that pleasant an experience- I'll bathe myself, thank you very much, and as for the massage, I'd rather be punched or kicked by friends who fall victim to my sharp tongue. Interesting experience all the same. Despite the pain from the scrubbing.
And finally, dinner. I can't remember what this was, but it was probably some sort of meat. With cheese on top?
French fries are as un-Turkish as it gets, but who can argue with French Fries? Not me. Not the best fries I've had, but I wasn't about to complain.

Dinner marked the end of Day 5- we headed back to our cave and slept till morning.


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