Roadtripping through a beautiful Turkey

After our two-day hike and one more relaxing day in the baths of Borjomi, we left Georgia, a country we fell in love with. The six weeks we spent there were amazing and won’t be forgotten.
We crossed the border at Vale although the guesthouse owner recommended to make the crossing at Sarpi.
We still wonder why. The drive was amazing, one of the most beautiful I ever did.
Our goal was Cappadocia, a two-day drive from east to west and it was far from boring. We drove through very impressive landscapes of huge, snowy mountains, wide and endless plains, intimate little valleys with characteristic poplars in all sorts of green, yellow and brown, small villages and huge cities of more than one million people. If you travel like we do, by car, you really understand the vastness of Turkey. It’s such a big country that holds so much secrets and special places. More than man can ever imagine visiting.

But as I said, we had plans somewhere else, so things stayed with a drive-by-and-look-at.

Ahmed, the very enthusiast and helpful owner of campsite Panorama in Göreme made us feel more than welcome. We had the campsite practically to ourselves so peace and quiet was guarantied. Every morning we woke up with the distinctive sound of dozens of hot air balloons floating over the almost unnatural landscape of Cappadocia. This was formed by years and years (some say 1000) of volcanic eruptions after which the ashes covered the already rich peat soil. The thousands of years of erosion that followed did their work to form the unique landscape known for its fairy chimneys. That, and the combination of a rich history that dates back to early prehistoric civilisation, the Hittites, Romans and early Christians who all left traces in the form of excavated settlements, underground cities, churches and even cathedrals.
It’s hard to capture the concept of Cappadocia from a distance or a book. It’s a place you have to explore and not only by hot air balloon. (Which we didn’t do, it’s quite expensive.) It’s a great place to hike or drive around by car. Just go out and you’ll be amazed.

Hiking through one of the many canyons with children running from one hidden corner to the other, shouting they found something and that they need help to climb in. Discovering hidden places and wondering what they used to be, who lived there, what could have happened,…
Croozing around at your own pace and stop when you feel like it or when you see something that looks interesting. We visited the underground city of Kaymakli. If you’re on the claustrophobic side, you might consider doing something else, but it was fun and interesting. Who can imagine hundreds of people working, cooking, making wine, sleeping, loving under the ground in a maze of tunnels and rooms hewn from the rocks.
The possibilities in the region are endless.
And of course, there are hundreds of activities you can book: guided tours, horse riding, quad tours, jeep trips, balloon flights, climbing, spelunking,… Gorëme is packed with tour operators that all offer you the best deals and the most unique experiences.
Travelling in the off-season, we were glad to find a place where there’s still something going on. The exploded tourism didn’t completely affect the authenticity of the village. The cave towns that where excavated thousands of years ago and used by many different cultures are still used in the modern day life. As hotel, restaurant, store or simply as a place to store food for the winter.

From Gorëme we drove to the Ihlara Valley, known for the cave-cathedral and a beautiful hike through the canyon of the Ihlari River. We slept in a bit funny and tired spa/apartment/hotel. The water in the baths comes from natural heated springs and contains a gigantic amount of minerals that should be good for lots of things that I couldn’t understand. What I did understand was “natural heated”. Damn, the water was hot, I felt (and smelled) like a boiled egg when I came out. Still, it was a nice and relaxing way to end an active day outdoors.

The weather took us from Ihlara to Eğirdir and Cirali.
Eğirdir is known for the huge lake and there was hope that there would be some fishing involved, but the opposite was through. The lake is heavily overfished and is in big need of special programs to repopulate it. For me it didn’t have any appeal. They offer fishing trips though but that means that you can go out on the lake with a local fisherman to empty his nets and watch the sunrise. Not the fishing I usually have in mind.
The 25 degrees centigrade and the promise of camping, beach life and fresh picked oranges drew us further south to Cirali, our most southern destination of this trip.
We found a campsite between the orange and lemon trees close to the beach and immediately we noticed that tourist season had finished. The campsite, restaurants and beach were almost empty. It felt like we had the place completely to ourselves.
Life was simple and the activity rate dropped big time. The children did some necessary schoolwork before we left for the beach, I fished whenever I had the chance, we read, we swam, we snorkled, we ate, we slept,… you get the picture I guess.
The region has plenty to offer. There are beautiful trails to hike and when you go out, keep your eyes on the water, you might see some swimming sea turtles like we did. Or go out at night to see the burning rocks, the Chimaera. A very strange phenomenon.
This time I was able to catch leerfish that turned out to be a punchy fighter and a very tasty fish. Normally I don’t bring home any fish, but I promised that on our trip I would provide for my family. They were all very exited to taste something so fresh and seemingly took a lot of time to come by.
I wanted to go out on a fishing boat as well. Fishing from shore was fun, but not very rewarding and I wanted to catch more and more important BIG fish.
Unfortunately it had to be cancelled due to the heavy winds. No worries, we’ll be travelling the Mediterranean for the next weeks and months so there will be other chances and other stories.

Thanks to those who made our trip even better.

  • Campsite Panorama
    A campsite with a view over Göreme and Cappadocia. We’ll never forget the mornings we woke up under dozens of balloons. Thanks Ahmed for the friendly reception and being so helpful.
  • Catlak Restaurant in Selime
    Delicious food ON the water. Perfect place for a good lunch.
  • Soğanlı Kapadokya Restaurant
    Super good food in a wonderful setting. An absolute must.
    The service was great.

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copy by Jan Bergs
pictures by Katrien de Troch, Studio Gloria

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