Bucket List for Cappadocia

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Turkey is one of those amazing countries where tourism runs the show (and the economy) by and large. While it is fair to say, that the more you see this culturally and historically rich country, the more you’ll want to explore it deeper.

Today, I will talk about Cappadocia – a natural wonder in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey covering the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir. Cappadocia means the ‘Land of Horses’ and the region is best known for its quiet, serene and soothing aura. You can call it either Cappadocia (cap-a-doshia) or Kapadokya, both are correct.

After a lot of thinking, I decided that the best way to share my experience would be to put down a bucket list for Cappadocia for all travel buddies, highlighting what all can you expect from this unique region of underground cities, cave churches, cave houses and natural rock formations. So here goes:

1. Take a Balloon Flight

Balloon Flight

One of the many clicks capturing the moment

You can’t be in Cappadocia and miss taking a balloon flight. Cappadocia is one of the very few tourist spots in the world where balloon flights are carried out. Being a rare adventure, it is a bit pricey, but it’s absolutely worth the once in a life time experience. Basically, each balloon is divided into four  compartments and can carry about 5-6 (adult) passengers. The fun is in the view seriously; fly amidst the clouds with so many colorful balloons in the air and look at the beautiful valleys on the ground.

The balloon goes really high in the air…I mean seriously high (anywhere between 500 to 1,000 metres, depending on how windy a day is), so if you are afraid of heights, you’ll have to scrap this adventure, sadly. It is a 45 min to 1 hour ride and a photographer’s dream come true kind of activity. It might get a bit boring though for some, after the initial 20 minutes. Once you get back on the ground, which is quite fun by the way too,  the pilot and passengers celebrate and all passengers receive their flight certificates.

Tips:
* Ticket per person: $105
* Universal Flight Company is 100% secured with certified pilots

2. A visit to Kaymakli Underground Cave City

Kaymakli Underground City

Walking through a tunnel in the cave city

This cave city was built in 8th or 7th century BC. History tells that the inhabitants, mostly Christians used the caves to protect themselves from their enemies to avoid persecution. The city is planned over nine floors, of which only four are open to tourists. It is best to take a guide, who can give you a detailed tour of the cave city and the way people lived in there. It is interesting to note how intelligent the people in those times must have been looking at the construction of tunnels, the ventilation and climate control put in place, their tools and equipment, considering it was all done over a thousand years ago.

Tips:
* Tall people will find it difficult to walk through the narrow tunnels.
* Not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia or arthritis.
* Not suitable for senior lot or people with special needs.
*Don’t forget to take a look at the shops outside the cave city to buy some memorable souvenirs. Oh and you must learn to bargain like crazy.

3. Goreme Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum

The cave churches are well preserved with impressive frescos inside

The museum exhibits a number of cave churches from the 10th and 11th centuries. Some of the churches still have their original frescos well preserved. You will come across a few cemeteries in some rooms with real skeletons of the inhabitants. Photography is not allowed inside the caves to avoid flash light that harms the original structure. For the same reason, guides are also not allowed to go in any of the churches and rooms to avoid noise pollution.There is a Dark Church, which has an additional entry ticket, and it is in a far better condition compared to all the other churches. If you’re interested in history, do visit this museum along with the gift shops.

Tips:
*If you don’t have a guide, get an audio guide to help you through the tour of the museum.
*Not suitable for senior lot or people with special needs as the tour requires plenty of walking and climbing up and down the stairs.

4. Admire the Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys

The fairy chimneys are natural rock formations

Drop by at Pasabag to take a closer look at the fairy chimneys, which are naturally stunning rock formations shaped over a 1000 years. They are known as mushroom rocks too and the story goes on to say that the rocks on top of the natural chimneys were placed by a fairy, from where the name ‘fairy chimneys’ originates. When we went, it was too cold along with the unexpected rains that didn’t allow us to fully enjoy or climb the chimneys. So hope to visit Pasabag on a sunny day to make the most of your visit.

5. Use your Imagination

Imagination Valley

What can you spot there? Unfortunately, I didn’t take too many pics here

While exploring Cappadocia, do take a 15 minute stopover at Devrent Valley, also known as the ‘Imagination Valley’ to spot rocks with a range of shapes (again formed solely by nature). You will see rocks that resemble the swirling dervish, a huge camel or dinosaur, bird, rabbit, frog, dolphin, ducks and much more. No matter what your guide tells you, the game is to use your own imagination here. Don’t forget to take pictures.

Tips:
* Keep a close eye on the kids here as these are, at the end of the day simply rocks and you don’t want any unforeseen accidents due to carelessness.

6. Walk with the Pigeons

Pigeon Valley

The pigeons were too far off at the time, but what an amazing place to sit and relax

Do take a walk in the beautiful Pigeon Valley, with pigeon roosts built in the rock formations and a zillion pigeons flying here and there. It is quite a sight really. Look for the tiny holes where the pigeons have built their homes. You will also come across the Evil Eye Tree here, another specialty of this amazing place. This is also a 15-30 minute stop over max.

7. Meet the original Pottery Makers

Sultan Ceramics

One, out of a million brilliant pieces!

Cappadocia is the place where pottery making has been a flourishing industry. It is an intricate work of art from handcrafting to designing each piece. We visited Sultan Ceramics, which is owned by a family of pottery craftsmen. They have been in this business for over 250 years now. Yes, there are me too, cheaper versions of pottery too readily available, but the high quality of pottery exhibited by the experts here is fantastic and unique, to say the least. You will get so confused what to buy and why not, the endless variety of items will kill you.

8. And the Carpet Makers

Cappadocia is home to the carpet making business. We visited a carpet factory where we learnt how significant this craft was since the good old days. It is said that a long time ago, it was especially important for girls to make carpets, so much so, that only if a girl could handcraft a particular type of carpet on her own, she was eligible for marriage. Of course, with time the craft is only done by a limited number of women. However, the state is preserving the craft and the tradition by funding the industry and ensuring that young women get trained in this craft. We witnessed how intricate and interesting carpet making is. You will get amazed to see how much effort goes into making a single carpet. In two words, it’s all about getting the ‘knots right’. A cursory look at the carpets exhibited was simply breath taking. These carpets are quite expensive by the way, but those who understand and appreciate the craft, pay any price to purchase them.

8. Try the Turkish Food and Tea

Turkish food

I ate a lot on that day

This is of course a given; you can’t possibly not dig into some Turkish food. Although, I am quite bipolar when it comes to food, but surprisingly I enjoyed the Turkish food (well, mostly chicken, cheese, pasta and bread). It is not spicy at all (and that is a bit challenging for Pakistanis and Indians), but I loved the way they served their salads and meals followed by bakhlavas or fruits. Turkish tea is a vital part of their cuisine and while the original Turkish tea is great, do give a shot at the flavored tea as well…the apple tea in Cappadocia was particularly mind blowing.

9. Hog onto some Turkish Delight

Turkish dessert

Dwell in the sweetness

Turkish Dessert

Simple but sweet

If you miss out on having the Turkish Delight (with endless variety) and the other desserts, that would be a cardinal sin. So DON’T! Also, you will find some of the most finest quality of nuts, peanuts, cashews etc. here. Try these out. They are so good!

10 Say ‘Hello’ to the strays

Cappadocia

A walking tour on our own – no guides, no time limits, no worries at all

Turkish Dogs

They mind their business

Turkish Dogs

And they love to take naps

Exploring Cappadocia on your own is necessary. Do step out and take a walking tour on your own. Watch the scenery, the rocks, the simple life of the locals, the barber shops, the tea shops, terrace restaurants and most importantly, say hello to all the stray dogs and cats that cross your path. Be prepared to meet a LOT of furkids. They are harmless, mostly neutered and busy taking naps. But they are huge and can scare those who are not animal lovers. I loved watching them, never disturbed them and just took a few clicks from a distance.

So basically, I had a great time here and loved the simplicity of life displayed in this wonderful part of Turkey with such hospitable and sweet people. Well, here was my recommended ‘Bucket List’ for Cappadocia and I hope you’ll find it useful. Don’t forget to share your experiences too!

 

 

 

 

Five reasons why I miss the month of Ramzan

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Via Pinterest

I don’t remember about the good old days, but ever since I entered the corporate rut, the standing up on your own feet or the feel good independent mode, I have been a huge fan of the holy month of Ramzan. I continue to enjoy this month so much more with each passing year and today, I want to share five good reasons for this undying affinity and why I miss the month of Ramzan so much.

1. Super half-day routine
Unlike many others I know, I love, like really, really love the half days at work routine. I mean nothing beats the happiness of leaving work at two in the afternoon. Honestly, I have been more productive at work with these timings and always end up achieving much more in the limited hours. The flip side is that office starts one hour early also, but comeon nothing is free in this life then, is it?

2. Iftari at home
If you follow my posts, by now you would have a good idea about my anti social approach towards life. So yes, I enjoy iftars at home along with my family. It’s so peaceful with customized home cooked iftari including mommy dearest’s special ramzan menu. Call me boring or eccentric, which I am by the way, but I hate going to iftars in crowded, noisy restaurants nor am I a big fan of the zillion iftar deals they put up each year. It’s just not my thing and it always reminds me of an iftar at a restaurant (a famous top notch place) where their cutlery and plates were falling short and their servers kept asking the customers to return their plates. That was a nasty experience! However, apart from these one off sad incidents Ramzan is amazing. I am already dreading the pre and post Ramzan lunch scenes, that will be spent at the hot and crowded office cafes amidst people with no morals whatsoever. I don’t quite like that.

3. Sleep Haven
Ramzan kind of serves the purpose of the much needed hibernation phase for me. In the first few days of Ramzan I sleep so much it’s mind boggling. It also kind of shows how bloody taxing my regular work and home routine. But in this month, I get the chance to set the clock straight and I can actually feel the difference in my health in a good way.

4. Reading Goals
Believe it or not, I do read quite a lot during Ramzan. It is more to do with will power and determination though, but somehow Ramzan gives me the extra push to not lose the momentum on reading. Hence, my reading routine stays on track.

5. Feel Healthy
And of course, most importantly Ramzan makes me feel so fit and healthy. I don’t really indulge in outside food as I mentioned earlier, and along with regular physical workout and daily chores, the reasons to stay and feel healthy are numerous.

So here were my five reasons for missing Ramzan so much. Do share why you miss the beautiful and blissful month too (if you do). 😊

A Slow Reader’s Note

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I finally managed to finish the book, ‘Marley & Me’  by John Grogan after a long time – it’s less than six months though, so I didn’t really set a new record this time. Not that the book was slow or boring, in fact I loved it cover to cover; it’s just that I am a genuinely slow reader really (quite in contrast to the way I write) and this is every bit a slow reader’s note.

I am often mocked at this slow trait of mine, especially when the rest of my intellectual family are certified book worms and super quick readers. I mean, talk in hours and minutes with them and they are done with a new read. I am just not in their league.

Anyway, proudly maintaining my pace, I am so happy at my achievement for the day. So what, if it arrived after immensely exaggerated delays. It still brings so much joy!

Well, in all honesty, I really wanted to finish the book much earlier, especially ’cause I love the story and the adapted movie version of it so much. I even took it with me as my travel read on my last trip, but due to my busy and tiring routine (as I already mentioned in one of previous blog posts Turning the Clock Backwards at length), I really have to pave my way through prioritizing daily tasks carefully. Hence, I really struggled through the chapters mostly.

This morning though, I woke up quite determined. I was on ‘Mission Completion’, heavily supported by my incessantly high energy level, owing to the abundant amount of sleep I am getting due to Ramzan these days. Yes, I am sleeping a lot, and I mean ALOT!

So, today I grabbed the book at seven am and just finished the remaining 150 pages in roughly about two hours, which is not all that bad, considering it’s me you’re talking about. It almost made me realize, I am not such a slow reader after all, I am just mostly tired and suffer from an inconsiderable lack of time.

Anyway, Marley & Me was an overwhelming book. I am so glad I picked it up two years ago on a random bookshop visit with my colleagues. Being an animal lover, and a dog lover, with two rescued dogs of our own, I mean of course, it was a story I can so relate too. Of course, no two pets can be exactly the same in their traits and personality and our dogs are not really like Marley, but yes, dogs share this godzilla like loving spirit with which they touch our lives unlike any other pet. That’s what makes them so unique and special.

Just the way Marley touched the lives of the Grogan family, our dogs have done the same for us. Time is passing quickly and we have already witnessed so much growth and change in the attitude of our mama and son pair, it is truly quite amazing. Unlike Marley, though we are dealing with one seriously ill, epileptic dog, who was once quite a hyper dude himself (a bit on the Marley side), but has sobered down now drastically, and the other female who is slowly slipping into the senior citizen arena with a disturbing past of living on the streets.

Parts of the book made me so happy and they made me applaud our once hyper male and our female mom, who is actually the ‘best guard’ dog in town in so many ways. Yes, they have their moments and special needs that need to be attended to (which is the responsibility of a dog owner, regardless), but they are actually great pets, especially if you consider their mongrel breed, their life on the streets (in the case of our female dog who escaped the notorious Karachi DHA’s CDC dog killings several times, till we rescued, spayed and officially got her registered) and the fact that they are merely a four legged creature in a society that lacks compassion for animals at large.

On the other hand, the book also brought a few tears especially from the part Marley grew old and weak till his family funeral. Animal lovers can understand how tough it is to lose their fur pals after years of bonding followed by helplessly watching them grow old and weak as their systems collapse slowly and gradually. It’s an ordeal that all animals lovers go through and there is no escaping it.

I did too, since I belong to a household where pets are like family, siblings and kids, literally speaking. I lost my ‘youngest in the family’ title many years ago to our furkids happily. Yes, pets are just as important as any of us in the house. The love, joys and memories shared with them are so pure, beautiful and non-disappointing – a rare quality in humans of the world. And then finally comes a time, where you prepare yourself and them to part ways. That is heart wrenching, but the entire experience with a pet leaves you so much more human and responsible at the end of it all.

But, as I truly believe, you can’t force such things on you. It’s in you and you’re chosen for this stuff. You can’t force or pretend yourself to be an animal or dog or cat lover just like that. It’s just something within you.

Anyway, the reason for today’s blog was to cheer my own book completion. Secondly, to praise how amazingly simple and relatable Marley & Me was as a read, full points to John Grogan. I am sure all dog lovers have already read it by now, but if someone hasn’t I fully recommend it. Go get a copy today! Lastly, it took me through a showreel of my pet encounters in a way I can’t really put down in words. Somethings are better left unsaid, as they say.

Well, what’s next for the slow reader? I think I kind of have an idea of what to read for the next zillion months. I’ll fill you in with another slow reader review a whole lot later guys. So, just wait up till then 🙂