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How to Get to Cappadocia from Istanbul

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You might be wondering about what is the best way to go to Cappadocia and how to get to Cappadocia.

We will explain it according to the means of travel;

Get a Shave in Cappadocia

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Can we make a recommendation?

If you are male and are visiting Cappadocia, forget your razor. Instead treat yourself to the least expensive bit of luxury maybe anywhere in the world. Head to the Kuafor Shop in the center of Uchisar and get a shave. (Most barbers will not speak English so you will need to know one Turkish word: “Sakal”.)

Buying Pottery in Cappadocia

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Have you thought about buying Cappadocian pottery as a gift or keepsake when you visit this beautiful region?

Cappadocia may have more master potters per capita than anywhere else in the world. This means that a unique ceramic pot made from the clay of the Red River in Avanos may be the perfect handicraft to remind you of the wonderful time you spent here.

Open Air Museums

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Most visitors to Cappadocia visit the Goreme Open Air Museum for good reason. Where else in the world can you find a grouping of 1000-year-old cave churches with magnificent Byzantine era paintings of Biblical scenes?

Are you planning on buying a Turkish carpet in Cappadocia?

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If so, you need to read this. Few things are as beautiful or will make such a Wow! impression as a Turkish rug in your home. But you want to be sure you have no regrets. This post will help towards that goal and answer your question on How to buy a Turkish carpet or Turkish rug

There are 9 characteristics to think about in the carpet buying process. The better you understand these, the happier you will be with your selection.

WHAT TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA

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Now that you have reserved your transportation and hotel, the time has come to decide what to do in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia’s activity list is almost infinite but most people only spend a few days here and, therefore, they have to decide between the top options.

Below you will find a list of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia. As you plan your days you can refer to this list to make sure all your favorites are included.

* Hot air balloon ride – This is probably the biggest draw. The opportunity to see this magical landscape from above while quietly floating in and out and around the valleys and fairy chimneys occurs once in a lifetime for most people. Be sure to schedule this early in your trip in case bad weather forces cancellations. Your hotel will be happy to help you book your trip. The prices of the flights can change from season to season.

* Göreme Open-Air Museum – On a hill side outside of Göreme sit a gaggle of 1100 year old cave churches with beautiful frescoes covering the walls. Expect to spend about 2 hours here. An audio guide is available at the gate.

* Underground city – Of the hundreds of underground cities lying beneath the surface of Cappadocia only a few are open to the public. The two biggest are Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı. They are massive going 100 meters underground with countless tunnels and rooms. Unlike the open air museum they have little available information so you may want to have a guide when you visit.

* Hiking Valleys – The Cappadocia landscape is littered with valleys most of which center around Göreme. Each of them has a hiking trail that leads by cliffs full of caves, fairy chimneys with remnants of former civilizations, and orchards and vineyards. The most popular are Pigeon, Love, Swords, Red/Rose, and Zemi Valley. About an hour and a half away the Ihlara Valley is actually a captivating river gorge. Pack a picnic with water, put on a sturdy pair of shoes, grab your camera and enjoy a day in nature.

* Turkish Night and/or Whirling Dervish – On one evening plan on experiencing a cultural feast. All you can eat and drink while watching a host of different cultural dances. If you can help it, try not to plan this for the night before your balloon ride as you will be up late and have to get up extra early, not a good combination for most people.

* Ürgüp Wine & Kuruyemis – If you like wine, then you need to take some time in Ürgüp tasting the different wines made from local grapes. The wine industry is quickly developing, and although it does not compete with France yet, most people enjoy the local offerings. Ürgüp has a number of places that are happy to let you sample their many varieties. Also, Ürgüp is known for the wonderful dried fruits and nuts grown and produced in Turkey. Along the main square sit a number of shops eager for you to sample their products. Be careful because once you taste their delicacies you will not leave until your arms are full and your wallet is empty!

* Avanos pottery – The red river produces a red clay that is perfect for ceramic pottery. The trade has developed around the area for centuries and there are today no lack of masters plying their trade for the many international visitors. They give free demonstrations and even allow you to try your hand at throwing a pot with no obligation to buy anything.

* Avanos Red River Jet Boat, Gondola, Cafes – Over the last few years Avanos has worked hard to develop the banks of the river that cuts right through the middle of town. You can easily spend a day playing in the park with your kids, sitting in a riverside cafe, riding in a gondola, or speeding up and down the river in a jet boat. Include this with a visit to a pottery shop, and you will not be disappointed.

* ATV and/or Horseback Riding – For a reasonable price you can rent an ATV and speed around Cappadocia’s dirt roads or become a cowboy and tour the valleys and hills of the area.

* Uchisar/Ortahisar – These two ancient rock towers provide a wonderful view of the surrounding area and are well worth the climb. The towns that have grown around them are happy to serve their visitors with a host of shops and restaurants.

* Zelve/Cavusin/Pasabag – Ancient churches, breathtaking fairy chimneys, beautiful views, and fun hikes are available in these neighboring sites.

* Sunset Point – A short hike up the hill towering over the south side of Göreme you will find a small platform from which you can watch Cappadocia’s captivating daily sunset. For couples this is a romantic opportunity not to be missed.

* Mustafapaşa – In 1923-24 all the Greek Christians in Turkey were sent to Greece (and the Muslim Turks in Greece were sent to Turkey). This mass migration left countless empty homes across Anatolia. Most of them are not recognizable anymore but in Mustafapaşa, a village 15 minutes outside of Ürgüp, you can catch a glimpse of their lives and culture.

* Various overlook points – These are points from which you can see Göreme or Pigeon Valley or various other beautiful parts of the region. These are usually included on the package tours to give visitors good photo opportunities.

* Belisirme Monastery – This amazing monastery is built into the side of a cliff that sits right outside of the Ihlara Valley. It is included on the Green Tour.

* Soğanlı Valley – Another region of the area with cave churches, hiking trails, and shopping opportunities. This area is highlighted on the Blue Tour.

* Besides the wine and pottery listed in the previous section, you can also shop for carpets and onyx jewelry. These shops are located in most every town in the region. The package “color” tours will usually include a visit to one type of shop.

Wow! That is a list. Now that you have added a few days to your trip (or started planning your return!), you need to make some decisions.

Put all of this together, list your priorities, and have a great time. Your boutique cave hotel manager will be happy to help you arrange transportation, tours, hot air balloons, or whatever you need. If you are not sure, plan on sitting down with them once you arrive and mapping out your stay. Or you can email ahead of time and work it out.

Let us know how it goes.

Taskonaklar Hotel Furnishings and Design

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Many of our guests ask about the interior design and furnishings of our rooms. We thought it would be helpful to talk about that in a blog post and here it is.

Maybe the first thing our guests notice about our rooms is the almost exclusive use of natural materials. Except for the flat screen TV, wireless modem, and refrigerator in each room you will be hard pressed to find any plastic. All the decoration is wood, stone, metal, and glass.

Our owners, Mr. Bulent and his son Tolga, have collected antiques from all over Turkey. These have each been carefully selected for each room including refashioning pieces into the beautiful glass covered tables. This includes the old handmade Turkish carpets and even the fireplaces. If the room’s original fireplace was not usable, then we searched other old homes to find authentic stone fireplaces. And you can enjoy the fire while lounging in the antique or custom made beds with top quality mattresses in each room.

Then we used over 50,000 hand cut Saritas stones from Nevsehir for the inside and outside walls of the hotel. Of course, this does not include the marble used in the spacious bathrooms each of which is fitted with a rain and regular spray shower. Each room was kept as closely as possible to its original shape. The hotel is made up of a number of old houses that have been renovated and luxurified while preserving the basic structure.

But we did not avoid anything to make our guests comfortable. The tap water is purified making it drinkable. But for those guests who are still unsure, we include 2 complimentary bottles of water in the minibar/fridge. We have also included complimentary coffee and teas and a complimentary 5 o’clock afternoon tea and cake time for all of our guests.

All of this has been done to make your time at Taskonaklar as comfortable as possible. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

The History of Cappadocia

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Today Cappadocia is a tourist hotspot in the heart of Central Turkey but this has not always been the case. The human history of Cappadocia stretches back thousands of years and spans many empires.

When you visit this geological wonderland please consider that you are walking on ground ruled by the Hittites, Eastern Mushki, Persians, Macedonians, Romans/Byzantines, Seljuks, Karamanids, Ottomans, and the Republic of Turkey.

The boundaries of the area of Cappadocia have changed through that time. At one point it extended north all the way to the Black Sea and south to the Taurus Mountains, but today it is not even an official region in Turkey. The historical name of the area has been kept for tourist reasons and what people visit today is only 150 miles by 250 miles touching five Turkish provinces (Kayseri, Nevsehir, Kirsehir, Aksaray, and Nigde).

The current name comes from an adapted form of Katpatuka which it was called by the Persians. With the fall of the Hittites around the 12th century B.C. the Eastern Mushki ruled the area. Then King Croesus is known for whom has a fabulous wealth and ill-fated oracles and comes on the scene but is quickly defeated by the Persians in the 6th century B.C.

The Persians ruled the region from a distance, i.e. the local leaders most likely had their way as long as they did not get out of hand, until Alexander the Great defeated them. At that point somehow in the chaos of Alexander’s death, Cappadocia became a kingdom. Ariarathes I was king from 331-320. His sons followed him, and Cappadocia was ruled as a kingdom until 17 A.D. when the Roman emperor decided to make it a province. The Cappadocians had had good relations with the Romans since 188 B.C. but the Emperor Tiberius changed the status in a fit of anger at the Cappadocian king.

From that point the history of Cappadocia is rather straightforward, at least from a big picture view. The Romans gave way to the Byzantines (who were actually Romans) who controlled the area until the Seljuks moved into the area after the battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Seljuks of Rum ruled for a time until they were defeated by the Mongols and the Karamanids (from Karaman southeast of Cappadocia) took over in their rivalry with the growing Ottoman dynasty. During your time in Cappadocia, you may visit a caravanserai as they are popular on many of the tours. You have the Seljuks to thank for this. Be sure to note the unique architecture they introduced to this land. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, the Republic of Turkey was formed and that is how things currently stand.

CHRISTIANITY
But in all of this changing of empires, the most striking aspect of Cappadocia, its cave communities, has gone unmentioned. The first Christians arrived in Cappadocia shortly after the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the Christian religion. They are mentioned in the Bible on at least 2 occasions, most clearly when the apostle Peter writes them in his first epistle.

The Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, played a significant role in the development of Christian theology in the 4th century. They also established the monastic communities that would survive for hundreds of years.

ISLAM
Islam arrived with the Seljuks and was continued with the Ottomans. Both ruling groups built mosques and madrasas, many of which are still standing today.

For most of the Ottoman days there was a mix of peoples living together, but that ended with the forced people swap between Turkey and Greece in 1923-24. You may visit Mustafapasa while you are in Cappadocia and see the remnants of the Greeks who inhabited the area.

NEW CITY
One other note worth pointing out was the creation of Nevsehir, the provincial capital. This town was first famous as Nyssa, the home of Gregory mentioned above. Then it fell off the map and was just a small village until Damat Ibrahim Pasha became Grand Vezir to the sultan in 1718. He poured money into the region transforming his small village into a “new city”, thus the name Nevsehir which translates as new city. The mosque and hamam complex he built are still in use today.

And with that we have flown through 3000+ years of Cappadocia history. Hopefully this will make your time here more meaningful. As you trek through caves and valleys think of all those who have come before you and enjoy the legacy they have left to us.

A Journalist’s Impression of Taskonaklar Hotel

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Luxury in a Turkish Cave
By Jonathan Look

My passion is traveling the world and searching out unusual experiences. On a recent trip to Turkey, after several wondrous days in Istanbul, I wanted to try something a little different. I had dreamed about visiting Cappadocia, an enchanted place on the fabled “Silk Road” in central Turkey where stones sprout from the ground like mushrooms, cities are carved from mountains, and the winemakers have been plying their trade since before the 4th century B.C. I also wanted to enjoy a uniquely authentic Cappadocian experience, so I arranged to stay in one of the regions’ best cave accommodations; the Taskonaklar Hotel.

The thought of staying in a cave—a cold, damp, musty chamber with no light—is not on the surface very appealing, but I deferred to my friends who had visited Cappadocia and said that staying in one should be at the top of my list of things to do.

As I drove my rental car from Kayseri, through the legendary landscape of the Anatolia, I found myself traveling in a surreal painting of crumpled, terra cotta colored hills pierced by cream-colored spires. This was not the place of my dreams; it exceeded them. In the distance, I could see Uçhisar, my destination. This citadel of barren rock, the highest point in Cappadocia, towered over the surrounding plains. Just below the summit, carved into the solid rock, I could see dozens of windows peering over the surroundings, with the city itself spilled further below surrounding the fortress. I navigated my car through absurdly narrow alleyways and finally found the small sign announcing the Taskonaklar Hotel.

As I arrived onto the property I was presented with a panoramic view of Pigeon Valley below. The vista was interrupted by scores of “fairy chimneys,” skinny pyramidshaped
spires that jutted from the valley, many of which themselves have been carved by
Byzantine settlers into desert homes. I was shown to my suite and quickly discovered that, although I was going to be living in a cave carved from solid rock, I wasn’t
going to be living as a troglodyte. My suite had a huge private terrace that overlooked
the stunning surroundings, hardwood floors, a stone fireplace, Turkish rugs, fine linens, and all the modern amenities you would expect from a world-class hotel. I asked for a tour of the property and was proudly shown an establishment that shows evidence of accommodating travelers for millennia. Each suite is unique; some had ancient tandoori ovens carved into the floor while others had wine presses, and vats
carved into the rock. Others had hot tubs with unimpeded views of the landscape.

On the surface, thoughts created when you think “cave hotel,” don’t inspire luxury or even comfort, but once again, travel has altered my expectations. Not only did I get a huge helping of unique, I also received a generous measure of luxury, which I couldn’t have imagined from a cave before.

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Look, Jr. writes about life, retirement, and travel at his website LifePart2.com.

Thank you Jon for your lovely article!!

Turkish Food

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Turkish Food in Cappadocia

One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting Turkey is the food. Turks may not be the most famous in the kitchen, but that means delicious surprises await you upon your arrival.

BREAKFAST
Coming to Cappadocia will give you no lack of opportunities to sample tasty Turkish treats. Begin each morning with Taşkonaklar Hotel’s renowned Turkish breakfast full of locally grown products. Fill your plate with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh baked breads and rolls (poaça), honey, homemade jellies/jams, and eggs (try menemen to be really Turkish, a mix of peppers, tomatoes and eggs), and Turkish tea or coffee. That should tide you over until lunch, but if you need a snack in between we recommend pistachios from Antep or locally grown and dried apricots.

Breakfast at Taşkonaklar

LUNCH
For lunch the choices are all mouth watering. Begin with a steaming hot bowl of lentil soup (mercimek). For the main course perhaps you will prefer the grilled meatballs (köfte) or chicken on the skewer (tavuk shish). If not, try the Adana kebap (spiced ground beef on a skewer) or the Kuzu shish (lamb on a skewer). If that sounds too heavy, then you may want the cheese or mince meat pide (pronounced pee-day) which is an elongated Turkish version of pizza without tomato sauce. Or you can try the baked beans (kuru fasulye) and rice, which are the favorite of many Turks. Each of these goes well with an Efes Beer. Once you finish take some time to sit and chat while enjoying a cup of Turkish tea and some baklava.

Pide (Turkish pizza)

If you need a snack before dinner while you are out and about on a tour, try some Turkish Delight and a cup of fresh squeezed pomegranate and orange juice which can be found at most tourist stops.

SUPPER
When you sit down to the dinner table be ready for a Turkish feast. Begin with some appetizers (mezes) which could include a tomato-pepper salsa, yogurt and dill (cacik), roasted mushrooms smothered in cheese, humus, an eggplant/aubergine (patlican) salad, and fresh bread (the Turkish meze menu can go on for pages).

For the main entree someone in your party needs to order the Testi Kebab, a Cappadocian specialty. Take cubed beef and put it in a seramic pot; add tomatoes, peppers, garlic, spices, and a special sauce; seal it and throw it in the tandir oven for 2 hours. The waiter will bring the sealed pot to your table and break it open in front of you. Once the steam clears enjoy.

Testi Kebap

For the others in your party (or for the other evenings of your trip) order Imam Bayildi (Imam Fainted) which is Eggplant/aubergine stuffed with sauteed tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic, or Karni Yarik which is similar to Imam Bayildi except that it also has ground beef. Both are wonderful if you enjoy eggplant.

Wash this down with a Cappadocian wine of which Kocabağ and Turasan are the most well-known. You may be surprised at the level of quality Cappadocia wineries have achieved.

AHHH!
And with that you have feasted and can be rolled back to your cave hotel room. But, honestly, this is just a sliver of Turkish cuisine. We could go on and on with recommendations, but we will not except for a few items we could not fit into our perfect day.

You may be staying in Turkey for longer than 2-3 days and want to try a larger variety of dishes. In that case we can recommend a few “common” items that almost every Turk, from the lowest street cleaner to the president himself, enjoys.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS

* Lahmacun is an Anatolian specialty, truly a “food of the people”. It is usually the least expensive item on the menu. It is pizza-shaped but is thinner and has no tomato sauce or cheese.
* Simit looks like a type of bagel with sesame seeds. It is chewy and delicious, especially when it is fresh. You will find two kinds of simit. The street vendors sell a harder, darker type whereas the bakeries will offer a golden brown, softer version. Try them both and let us know your favorite.
* Gözleme is similar to a Mexican quesadilla except that it is usually square and comes in more flavors. You can get it with cheese or spinach or potatoes or onions. The bread is called yufka and is thinner than a tortilla.
* Döner comes from the Turkish word which means “to turn” and describes the way the spiced meat (usually lamb or chicken) is cooked. This is Turkish fast food at its essence and can be found on almost every street corner in urban areas. This is also called Gyro or Schwarma in other parts of the world.
* DRINKS – Two drinks not mentioned are Ayran which is a salted yogurt drink that is the staple of every child in Turkey and Raki which is an anise liquor (think liquid black licorice) made famous for being Ataturk’s favorite drink.

And with that you have enough to keep your plate happy and your stomach full. If you leave Turkey without gaining a few pounds, you have more self-disicipline than most. Consider it a way to take Turkey back home with you.