When I stepped off the nightbus and out of the cloud of sleepy-people stink at 6 am, Göreme was not much to look at.
Someone had carved a Flintstones living room into a rock pillar next to the bus stop, and there was a Korean restaurant slinging Turkish attempts at bibimbap.
Bus stations here specialize in drumming through the night, with the whiny Turkish horn blasting out a melody above all the jostling and dancing. I'm in Turkey right before elections, so there are flags for the AK party, free meals, flowers for women, and the same smiley man with two women and a little girl endorsing him. Vans with loudspeakers play patriotic tunes that swell and swell.
Our bus hold is filled mostly with little cakes, hundreds of boxes of them. The deaf cub insists I have a Nutella cake with him, and it is doubleplus good.
My hostel was easy enough to find, just the first caves that started winding into the layered hills that encircle the town. Nobody at the hostel was friendly or even made eye contact, just bursts of Russian growling.
I'd been hoping for fellow hikers for the Pigeon Valley, but in a tough crowd, it made things easier to just throw down my non-essentials, strap on some water & ginger cookies, and charge back into the rocks.
Massive stone phalluses, and we slip and slide on the mounds beneath them.
I'm a little sunburnt from the five hours of sun, but I can't stop grinning at the rock formations.
I was alone for most of it after the city on the hill, just making my way through the Meskendir Valley tunnels towards Çavuşin. Lizards sideskittering through the grass, and a big sad dog followed me around for a while and then barked a goodbye as I went into the Hacli Church. I did some light traversing to get into a side chapel, which was worth it for the view across the valley.
A woman offers me 30 lira to carry her bag and to guide her through the Rose Valley. That's $12 if we're being generous with the exchange rate, and I'm pretty sick of Americans throwing their money around.
How this woman thought I was some kind of Turkish sherpa is interesting, and I declined her offer to ruin my own hike.
|That climbing comes in use when it gets you into cave churches!|
Çavuşin itself was tiny, so the church carved into the towering caves above was almost as big.
A Turkish dude was playing a hand drum inside the apse, and we got to chatting about him teaching music in Nevşehir and he offers me a ride back to Göreme.
I inhale another two pides heaped with ground pork and veggies, and you can't say no to them baking an egg into the dough.
My nightbus for Pamukkale leaves just after sunset, and I meet a friendly Brazilian who happens to have the same itinerary for a few days. We arrive in Denizli at 6 am to a pink sunrise, and we almost start walking to Pamukkale when the shuttle calls out to us.
So many Roman ruins as we trekked back towards the cascades, and the whole cake of rock and water is topped with an amphitheatre.
The travertines are the only game in town however, and we spend a lazy day just lounging around and falling asleep in the bus station.
A final nightbus and I'm back in Istanbul by Saturday. I load up on packs and packs of Turkish coffee and I doubt anyone at home will bother brewing with live coal lumps, but hey.
I'm on the ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy and we are just rounding the bend from the Golden Horn into the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul. Balik ekmek kicking around in me, and the lazy smudge of sunrise has turned into a clear white glow over the minarets of the city. I've slept on a bus the last three days, so it'll be good to have a solid night in a bed before my flight tomorrow.
I love that my splurge meal at Çiya Sofrasi will be 28 lira for a big plate of dolma and other meses and a big lamb kebab. Good people watching too, and it still astounds me how the setting on male intimacy is just on a different notch. Straight dudes walking arm in arm, resting heads on shoulders, just the sheer proximity permissible.
Artisan pizza makers have nothing on lahmacun makers, just two guys cornered around a wood burning oven constantly churning out crispy rounds of bread topped with lightly spiced ground meat. A lemon squeeze and a heavy handful of fresh parsley leaves and you roll it all up with a gulp of ayran to wash it down. Four lira and I'm back out the door, wandering down to the Bosphorus where there is a constant crackle from people tearing through bags of roasted seeds, the sun slowly winding down towards the European side of Istanbul.
Shirtless rollerskaters muscling through the couples walking the corniche hand in hand. Kadikoy is chill and quiet, walking through Moda feels like parts of the Mission, and I could live here in a heartbeat.
I spend a few hours just staring across the water and reading, falling asleep. Later in life, I'll probably want to live Somewhere Else again, but it'll be more fun figuring out the piddly parts of life with David in tow, like where to buy laundry detergent, laughing at the weird commercials, missing things from home, traveling.
I fall asleep on the flight back to London after watching another parable on how working class white men with irreverent attitudes who love their daughters can save the world. Straight from the airport to a picnic in Vicky Park with friends, and then I win a cooking competition at a Polish commune in North London.