Hmm. It seems my last post detailed a trip to Cappadocia. This one will as well. In the words of Justyna, "I think this one was one of my favorite New Years celebration."
After three days of intense brainstorming about how to celebrate on New Year's Eve here in Kayseri, a place where there's not a whole lot going on to celebrate the beginning of the New Year, we finally decided to go to Ürgüp, a city in Cappadocia.
Right after work, five of us packed into a car--Paul, Cece, Justyna, Jena, and I--and headed to Cappadocia. In two other cars, a six other friends from work came along as well.
We cruised out to Ürgüp, which is more charming than Göreme in my opinion. There's a main square, and although it's very touristy, the buildings around the square create more of a small town feel than the small splatter of civilization that is Göreme. (This opinion was not shared by all of us, though. In truth, both Göreme and Ürgüp have their appealing attributes.)
We got a hotel for a reasonable price. It was half-cave, half-brick. The rooms had these pretty arched ceilings, and each room had a nice sitting area where we shared a few beers before heading out to find a place to eat.
Because our group was rather large, it was difficult to find a place that appeased everyone, but when we did, we had a nice Turkish dinner. A few people ordered Testi Kebab, which despite the hilarious name is an interesting dish. They bake meat and veggies inside a sealed clay pot. When it's served, it's brought to your table, and the pot is broken open with a knife.
With filled bellies, next we went looking for a place to ring in the New Year. Some of the members of the group were looking for a club-atmosphere. I was not among the people interested in this setting. As it turned out, I guess they gave up their hopes, and we wandered back to one of our hotels where half the group was staying. In the parking lot, we shared some beers and I danced to keep warm while we counted down the end of 2014.
As anti-climatic as it was, I found it splendid. From where we were were--up on a hill--we watched fireworks explode, and we saw candle lanterns float up into the sky. I tried to run after one after it burned out and fell, but it landed on the roof of a nearby mosque.
I might add here that I am not a huge fan of quick getaway trips with large groups of people because the task of making little decisions about what to eat and what to do involves a lot of negotiation to take everyone's interests into account. Fortuitously, when Paul and I surveyed everyone to see who was interested in night hiking, only five out of the eleven were. Two of those who weren't headed back to Kayseri; four others went to their hotel rooms. This left Paul, Justyna, Jackie, Salem and I to head to my favorite part of Cappadocia (close to Göreme) where there is a 1-2 km tunnel carved into the trough of a valley. This time our goal was to explore the entirety of the tunnel.
After a ten-minute drive, the five of us stormed into the valley and down into the tunnel, at times ducking below the shrinking ceiling and at other times reaching out to the narrow walls to keep our balance through the twists and turns. Throughout the tunnel there are sky-lights so at times we looked up to see the moon-lit sky. Salem had brought a tiny portable speaker into which he plugged a flashdrive. With this he was able to play old American blues songs. As strange as it sounds, I think the music kept everyone calmer during the more harrowing portions of the hike. After the 1-2 km of tunnel, the trail dumped us into a slot canyon where the walls reached heights of 100 feet. Scattered across the walls were entrances to carved-out rooms. While leading the group, I rushed ahead at one point and found myself at the edge of a ten-foot drop. Initially, I thought this would be the end of the hike, but there was a wooden ladder nailed into the rock. It was the first of two similar drops.
The slot canyon finally widened, and we looked up to the rock formations on the ridge where there were windows in the stone. The pale black of the moon-lit sky shone through them. We clambered toward the formations and to the road to begin the long walk to the top of the canyon to return to the car.
The thing I absolutely love about night hiking is that the darkness adds a simple layer of excitement to what would normally be a standard hike. Everything black spot of the landscape is a bit more frightening, and the ground is just a bit more uneven.
Four of us took the road back to the car, but Paul climbed along the ridge. While I wanted dearly to join him, I felt of pang of responsibility for the other three. I knew the area best as I was the only one who had been there during the day, and based on my friends' reactions to the difficult parts of the tunnel, I'm not sure they were ready to follow Paul and me on the narrow, ledge-laden trails simply in order to get back to the car.
Once we were back at the top, in the car, and safely on our way home, we decided to stop off for a night cap at the Ramada. The bar was still open at 2:30 in the morning--it never closes, they said--so most of us had a drink and relaxed before completing the journey back to the hotel.
The next day, the first of the new year, we had breakfast and explored Ürgüp. Our group diminished to the original five who had ridden in the car together, and we set out to explore Red/Rose Valley. It had the familiar feel of Southern Utah and Sedona, Arizona. We explored valleys and climbed fairy chimneys until a rainstorm set and we headed back to the car. We took back roads as we returned to Kayseri, enjoying the hilly pastoral landscape of the heartland of Turkey.
In the end I, for one, thought this was an excellent way to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It was both adventurous and relaxing, and we spent it with people whose company we really enjoy. Similarly to our last trip, we arrived home and looked at the clock, realizing we had only been away for twenty-four hours. Still in that amount of time we packed in most of the great things that Cappadocia has to offer.