When we began charting our course around the world, bridging Asia to Europe, we were limited as to where a stopover would occur. Istanbul seemed like the most appealing location, and instead of a one hour layover, we made it a one week stay over. Our first destination was the region of Cappadocia – pronounced and spelled Kapadokya in Turkish. This region is know for its Dr. Seuss-looking rock formations carved from the soft volcanic tufa. Fairy chimneys and pigeon houses are the main draw with ceramics and Turkish hospitality a close second.

We booked a room at the Cappadocia Suites Hotel and found our room was, in fact, a grotto carved into the iconic tufa yet fitted with modern-day accouterments such as heated floors and an oversized bathtub. The hotel itself felt like a centuries-old village with attention paid to every detail.

Our first day was spent with Aminah at her home, and in her kitchen. She spoke very little, well almost no English, but her smile assured us she was loving every moment of our time in her kitchen. Her son Eminah stayed with us for the duration and translated for his mother and taught us about the culture of the Turks. Every ingredient from the dishes we made came from her garden and was either dried, canned or frozen. We toured her dry storage room where she was aging her own cheese and the garden that included a fruit orchard with at least a dozen trees.

The following day we discovered the region. We found breathtaking overlooks with panoramic views of the tufa spires and fairy chimneys. We descended into Derinkuyu – one of the many underground cities. Thought to be occupied only during times of danger, the subterranean behemoth travels 85 meters underground spanning 16 stories. Aside from living quarters, it included a church, a morgue, and even stables. Even more interesting, when it was stumbled upon in 1920’s it was empty, and thus, undateable. The actual population and age of the dwelling is all speculation.

No trip to the region would be complete without landing at a
family-owned pottery factory. Our host expounded about the high fire temperature and thus superior quality compared to common market trinkets, but the proof was in the artistry. The plates, bowels, and carafes were so intricately decorated it was mesmerizing.

Food has been the ultimate determinant whether or not we truly love a region, and Turkish cuisine did not disappoint. Warm freshly baked bread was always in abundance and healthy portions of grilled meat and stewed vegetables were subtly spiced with intricate flavors. It seemed like any meal was really just an opportunity for baklava, and we indulged enthusiastically. Turkish tea and coffee were flavorful, warming, and energizing. Ayran was a new experience, and the anise flavored Raki is our new favorite aperitif.

Turkey has kept pace with the Western world with sealed roads and convenient travel throughout the country. Flights, buses, and trains are easy to navigate without speaking the language. Our destination was Pamukkale for the travertine pools. Our hotel clerk was kind enough to drive us to the South entrance of Hieropolis. If you can imagine a European Disneyland without any rides. We wandered among the millennia-old ruins and waited until sunset to descend along the pools and back into town.

We made our way back to Istanbul to meet up with familiar faces, our parents. We got a guide and enjoyed a tour of the historic city. We marveled at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (blue mosque) named because of the blue tiles that line the interior, though it smells of feet from the thousands of barefoot tourists it was still a stunning site. Hagia Sophia the 6th century Byzantine architectural wonder was once a church that later became a mosque and is now a museum. The Basilica Cistern, a romantic and ominous underground candle lit sanctuary use to be the place which brought drinking water into Istanbul. Walking the grounds of the Topkapi palace, the residence of the ottoman sultans for 400 years we saw a 87 carat diamond and Muhammeds cloak and sword. Our blood sugar was bottoming out so we made a detour for the best baklava in Turkey- to me no baklava is bad baklava. Finishing our day with a overlook of the city from a rooftop and a lil stroll through the grand bazaar and spice market.

Our next journey together will be to learn about the land and history of Israel, I feel so blessed to do this my parents-in-law. As always thank you for following us.