“Tamam!” Cappadoccia, Turkey

Going back to the compromise moment of Istanbul, we took an airport shuttle to the airport per Simon and made no arrangements for Cappadoccia per me. I insisted on taking local transport and not booking an accommodation wherein the hotel would pick us up. We keep landing great hotel finds and ditching our reservations, so I thought it would be a solid plan.  I assured him it would be way more fun! In total it ended up costing more, took a good 2 hours more, and wasn’t ‘filled’ with adventure. It was fun regardless because Simon took way too much enjoyment out of watching me squirm and seeing the sheepish look on my face whenever we got to a stop that wasn’t quite what they said it would be. As soon as we left Istanbul, the English spoken was next to nothing and our Turkish didn’t get us very far. Our final leg was confirmed we thought, to be Cappadoccia, but we got dropped off about 15km outside of town. Simon had a good laugh and just shook his head at me as I caved in to calling the hotel he suggested we book ahead with, but it was too far for them to pick us up at that time. Feeling totally ridiculous now for wanting to take the hard route, I broke down and got us a taxi to take us directly to The Flintstones Cave Hotel. It was perfect, the pool was an added bonus and Simon thoroughly relished my confession that he may have just been right.

Cappadoccia was magical and an unreal sight to see that we couldn’t wait to start exploring. Our room was literally a cave like it said, but I was concerned I might find it claustrophobic. It was awesome and we threw our stuff down and made light of our time. Mameed was our information man but once again there were doubles, so Mameed number one passed on some great hiking tips. We were so ready for some exercise but the 40degree heat didn’t give. It was brutal and just as we decided to give up and head back to the pool, we see this man across the valley waving at us and gesturing for us to come over.  To make sure it wasn’t a mirage, we hiked a bit closer and sure enough, there he was madly waving for us to join him. So we did. Why not? Maybe the local adventure we were looking for? We found two Turkish men huddled in this little cave drinking Raki, smoking cigarettes and glowing about having international visitors! They made us get comfortable and immediately poured us some red wine out of an old plastic water bottle. It was fantastic! Our limited Turkish, of what we could even remember without our book, didn’t leave us with much to converse, but somehow we managed to understand each other. We found ourselves having a little Turkish lesson and an invite for dinner the following night. No idea where our plans were going to take us tomorrow, we didn’t know how to semi-confirm, and since they wouldn’t take no for an answer, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and nodded yes to meet them back at the cave at 5pm. Then they filled our water bottles and made us eat the rest of their lunch – a bowl of brown lima beans with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes.  We took one bite and couldn’t believe the taste! It was loaded with flavor! Wow! Everything grown right about the cave: beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, apricots, walnuts, almonds, watermelon, grapes, who knows what else. We walked back at night, cool refreshing breeze, thinking what a treat that was. Dinner in town later that night, with all the lighted fairy chimneys, was truly a sight and again a meal that we devoured instantly. The food here was to die for!

Our plan for day 2 was to do our hot air balloon ride and then rent a scooter or motorcycle to sightsee as much as possible. We got picked up at 4:30AM and the ride was absolutely spectacular! The sky was filled with maybe 40 or more balloons, 90 plus in the high season. The fairy chimneys, old churches turned homes which were also homes to pigeons wherein their poop was collected for fertilizer we were told, was even more incredible with a bird’s eye view. The collision free ride ended with champagne, snacks and a ‘Pilot’s Graduating’ certificate and by 8am we were back at the hotel. Filled up on breakfast, took a quick dip in the pool, and off to bargain for some transport. Simon finally catching up to speed on the bargaining game, as I’ve had to give him some good nudges on times he was too quick to say yes, scored us with a sweet new bike. Unfortunately, by 2PM we were fried. The sun was unbearable, and I was getting slight heat exhaustion. We recovered in the pool and then spent some time using the bike for a nice little riding lesson for me, wavering about actually going to meet the cave gentlemen. Since the night was still young, we had the time and daylight till 8:30, we figured it couldn’t hurt to go see them again. Why not? The indecisiveness made us a bit late that when we went to greet them and apologize for our tardiness, they were unbelievably relieved to see us. They thought we had ditched them and were super bummed. They said they looked and looked and looked, but no us, and so they sadly sat down to eat. It made us feel horrible for even considering not showing up at all!  A giant plate of fresh cooked chicken and salad was pushed before us and immediately we were urged to eat. Wine poured and once again, the food was incredible. We couldn’t stop eating. They repeated their story of looking and looking and looking for us quite a few times, it was wonderful to see such genuine kindness. We meant to buy them some Raki on the way, but forgot and thought we came empty handed when I remembered all the nuts and dried fruit we bought earlier in the day. Yay! We have something to offer them! All of sudden we were making a move out of the cave, “come come! “ Picnic in the vineyard above the cave to watch the sun set! Big blanket, fresh apricots and apples, wine, nuts, a nice breeze, shoes off, and the 4 of us chugging wine like it was going out of style! One of them left to go back home to get more! “Only 1km away. Winehouse. Tamam?” We had no idea what tamam meant and they kept saying it. It wasn’t in our book, but we finally figured it out. It meant OK. Yes, we were definitely OK, in fact more than OK, and yes, more wine is also OK! Lol. The town of Cappadoccia literally looks like it’s straight out of a children’s storybook, and watching the lights slowly light up from our view above, as the night set was absolutely stunning. We kept looking at each other with big smiles thinking how lucky we’ve been on this trip so far! The hours seemed to pass easily and by 10PM we had agreed to follow them into their hometown to have some Turkish coffee. I couldn’t stop laughing on the back of the bike. Here we are quite a bit tipsy, me more than Simon, following these 2 guys, after all the wine we downed, into town to have coffee at 10PM at night! We thought one of them lived in that cave, but it turns out it’s really just their ‘man cave’ that the older one spent 3 months digging out about 40 years ago! They are neighbors and have been the best of friends for 30 years and you could tell. A great cup of coffee we had and again we were invited to meet them the following day for homemade kababs. We didn’t even have to look at each other this time to answer. Yes! See you tomorrow at noon!

We ended up renting the bike for another day because it just made life easier in the heat, squeezed in another riding lesson for me and this time we weren’t late. Wine was poured and we watched the two of them work out another meal for us. We tried to help but they wanted us to just drink and relax. Fresh ground meat, onions, a bag of seasoning, some egg to roll them into little balls, and that was it. Once they were on the grill, the vegetables were cut up for the salad and the bread was laid out. I was asked to try one of the meatballs straight off the grill and I nearly had an explosion in my mouth! I called out for Simon to come try and I can’t even remember how many we quickly devoured after. Simon found it fascinating how many I ended up eating. They were so good. So good! So good! Hahaha. The heat started to kick in, and after sharing another full water bottle of red wine we said our goodbyes and promised to send them pictures of our experience. When we got back to the hotel, the Australian owner wondered what these men wanted from us and thought it was strange for us to have spent so much time with them. They genuinely wanted some company we felt and to us it was as local an experience as we could get! Thanks Bekir and Hussein, you were the highlight of Cappadoccia for us!! Tamam!!

Picture credits: Simon and Alice

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