I felt like I had dropped off the map. Few sounds and nothing in the distance; quiet like the flickers of a detached reel of film failing to spool. Without the pale colors of my view, I would have assumed that I was still just waking up. The light was like Mars, but not as warm: muted browns, earth tones, natural, and calming. Other travelers might have been uncomfortable walking into this scene, but I've always found solace in doing so. What was transpiring elsewhere in the the country was the furthest thought from my mind. Later, I would learn my friend was scared for me due to a terrorist attack in the south. I should be worried, but I didn't care. What mattered most to me was that I was here now. Did I mention how quiet it was and how the slow anticipation had been building in me for two days? This was not an impulsive trip, no not at all. This trip was planned months ago, and now all I had to do was wait just a little bit longer.Sitting in the shuttle patiently waiting for more passengers, I started to drift in and out of sleep.
Eventually, we got going. I vividly remember looking out of the window to get a better view of the small and quaint town of Neyseir in Central Turkey. The hallmarks of this city were apparent: a few houses, a skyline composed of a few buildings...,but as I took in everything, we were exiting the town and heading into the Cappadocia region.
Once again, I saw earth tones as far as I could see.
I decided to come to this region because of its history starting between 1800 – 1200 BC during the Hittie era when the region was a place of refuge from rival empires and latter as a religious refuge from the Romans in the early days of Christianity.
The locals decided to hide within the rocky formations to avoid capture.
They hid among these so-called mushrooms, chimneys, pillars, and other tall structures and stayed out of sight until the invaders left. These hideouts were created millions of years ago, and erosion has made them what they are today a UNESCO heritage tourist attraction.After I first heard of them, I knew that I had to see them. They looked unworldly like images of a lunar module or tall, thin, spaceships made of clay and dirt ready for launching into outer space. The fact that they even existed on Earth made me curious.I chose to stay in Goreme, which is the closest town to the structures. To match the structures, hotels where built in a style that reflected the formations in the valley. The town consists of only a few houses, restaurants, stores, and a mosque located at a roundabout. Hiking and bike trails crisscross the landscape, but most of the few tourists who do venture here either walk aimlessly like me taking photos or drive quads and zip up and down the paths that in and out of town.I soon started to miss the sounds the English language creates particularly the A's and E's. To compensate, I made a sport out of guessing what people were saying to me. Don't expect to hear English here, except a few short and broken sentences.The landscape has hues of yellow, brown, and pale reds. Passing rain storms fill the valley like water from a faucet pouring into cradled hands. The terrain is rough but elegant and simple in this region carved mostly made out by hand.On some mornings, I hiked up the terrain past homes and restaurants to get a better view of the surrounding region. My admiration for this view increased as I walked far enough to look down on the adjoining towns like a Greek deity pushing past the clouds to view his or her worshippers below. Eventually, my “worshippers” down below were rewarded when I came down the mountain ahead of the rain showers as if I were bringing them with me.My lazy afternoons involved looking at the landscape while sitting in cafes eating calamari, grilled meats, and humus and trying to make conversation with the locals and visitors. I followed the same pattern in the evening by wandering the few “streets” listening for live Turkish music before indulging in deserts in a pastry shop as other tourist ate their treats at another table.I started a simple conversation with a prodigal son from Brooklyn, who had come home to work in his family's restaurant. He offered to provide his skill as an interpreter. “This is the slow season,” he told me. “It gets much busier in the summer.” But I wondered if that would stay true this year with what had been happening in Turkey recently.At night, I lay under a bed of stars so bright they lighted the paths.
The town was quiet. Oh how I enjoyed that quiet. I watched buses leave under the cover of night with some going east in the direction of Syria and a few going to Istanbul or Antalya. The only people still awake were a few locals playing games in a small social club. I wondered what they talked about probably politics, family, and whatever else floated into their minds. For a moment, I wished I could understand, but I enjoyed just imagining that I could.I finally took a tour to learn more of the chimneys and history of the region. I joked with my fellow tourists, breaking bread with them, and laughing at the overpriced items at the Tribal Collections rug store in Nevsehir, Turkey.As we are given time to shop we are offered tea and it is then that I learn, “When someone Middle Eastern offers you tea, that means they want to keep you there for a long time,. It is best to say no if you are in a hurry and want to leave”. I took my lesson to heart and thought back on the many times I was offered tea and found myself still there 20 minutes later.I was enjoying the conversation and the tour. We watched pottery being made and ate lunch as the rain poked out from time to time to remind us that it was still there. The ground was so slick that I slid across the smoother parts of the terrain. We went in and out of the caves like children playing hide and seek. I had no idea were where so many.A sign cautioned: BE CAREFUL. WATCH YOUR HEAD.The past inhabitants of this area were short, so banging our heads was easy.
So many tourists surrounded me, but not many from the Americas. Besides one family and couple, I heard only Arabic and Hebrew. It made us feel unique. We were the only ones who braved the trek out here.We ended our tour with a walk up a boulder to see a group of fairy chimneys and to pose with them before being taken back to our hotels. Since my hotel was the closest, I asked to be let out early and decided to walk the road back to Goreme.Once again, I admired the view that evening. I dined with the whole kitchen at my disposal as I sat attentively studying the rough and elegant terrain as another night came to a close in Cappadocia. “Good night, Brooklyn.” I waved to him as he brought in a few Asian tourists who were looking for strong Wi-fi and a snack.Good night, stars.
Good night, chimney fairys.“Allahu Akbar” rings out. It was time for prayer.
I was amazed that this was the first time I had heard the call.
Perhaps I have always been so far into my mind that I previously ignored it.
To make amends, I say good night to the mosque.