Caves of the Ilhara Valley in Cappadocia (notice the little spots for pigeon nesting, which people used to encourage near their houses)
As you can imagine, a cave is not the best living environment. It’s cold, cramped, and the walls are hard and rough. However, thousands of years ago, people in the Cappadocia Region in Central Turkey perfected this lifestyle. They didn’t live in caves all the time. They built monasteries and churches in which to worship, as well as dwellings that have lasted for thousands of years. In my visits, I could see doors, pillars, and air shafts in the caves. I also saw places to tie up animals, blackened ceilings above cooking areas, coffin-like trenches for the deceased, and religious paintings (frescos) on the walls. The people who built these, by hand, must have been very smart!
Since I arrived in Turkey, I’ve also been trying out cave life. In Goreme (Cappadocia), my hotel was built into the rock, amongst the real ancient caves. This is common for the hotels in that town, and I loved it! My only complaint was that it was a little dark since there was only one small window. Overall, it felt very peaceful and it was fun to fit into the natural world around me. Many of you requested a video tour, so here it is. It was pretty unusual:
Busy Istanbul, as viewed from the Bosphorus River ferry
I’ve also been living in a cave-like room in Istanbul, although I don’t think these hotel managers had that intent in this case. Istanbul is just more expensive to travel in. So, for about the same price that I paid in Cappadocia, I have a room that is so small that I can barely walk around the bed. In addition to the small size of the room, my bathroom has that musty smell that unfortunately is coming from shower mold this time and not from natural rock. It’s not ideal, but it’s otherwise clean and in a great, centrally located spot. You don’t need a video tour of the hotel though — it’s not so exciting.
I also felt a bit like I was living in a cave today because it was my first real lonely day since I left the United States. I’ve been lucky to have met so many warm new friends in Ukraine and Turkey. Today, I spent most of the day by myself. In the morning, I tried to meet up with a Turkish woman who was actually my sister’s middle school penpal. Unfortunately, due to the Labor Day holiday here (May Day), there were many political demonstrations and roads were closed. I spent close to two hours trying to take public transportation to meet her, but eventually gave up. The journey was challenging but interesting. I had one bus driver spend a long time trying to help me figure out where to go, even though he spoke no English. He drove me to the spot to get the right bus and wouldn’t let me pay him. I also had a second bus driver who literally got out of the bus and had a fist fight with another bus driver (a bunch of passengers on my bus got out and broke up the fight — they were responsible bystanders!).
An old Turkish man on Prince’s Island gave me these flowers, even though he couldn't answer my question about directions due to the language barrier.
In the end, some people here are very kind and some are not, like anywhere you go. I mostly did my own thing, wandering the city and taking a public ferry to a place called Prince’s Island. It was nice to explore on my own, but I am starting to look forward to coming home to the familiar places that I know and love.
It’s likely that the early people who lived in the Cappadocia caves were squished inside in large groups. While sometimes our classroom space can feel squished like that, I imagine that it would be easier to live in a cave if you had good company. I do wish you all could join me over here! Tomorrow, I will try to visit some of the big tourist sites in Istanbul, like the ones listed here. Since you can’t fly over yourself, let me know what sites YOU think I should visit!