I had no idea what other areas of Turkey to explore so I reached out to my lovely community of couchsurfers and received a wonderful invite to a historic town called Nevşehir. I was a bit hesitant to visit a new area of Turkey, where people had warned me about travelling as a solo woman. But I took the gamble to visit the region known as Cappadocia that was famous for its fairy chimneys and cave hotels, a region my host was very proud to be from. He was also a teacher and was interested in Korean culture meant at least our conversations would be interesting. So I booked a flight in the middle of a snowstorm and landed very delayed, in a tiny airport at 1am.
I was the sole woman on the airport shuttle at this time, surrounded by middle aged Turkish men who spoke zero English. ‘Ok, this is the adventure,’ I thought to myself as I was secretly panicking since I had no idea how I was going to get in touch with my host (to be fair I assumed the airport would have wi-fi). I knew he had work the next day and as it was very late I figured I better get a hotel for the night. It was a pretty touristic destination, so of course a hotel would be available, right? WRONG! As the shuttle bus drove down the tiny ‘downtown’ area, I saw the shut down state of the hotels. There was no 24 hour reception; I was a city girl stuck literally in the middle of nowhere! I was preparing mentally to sleep in the park on top of a blanket of snow. After a few glances with a few of the men who were staring at me (probably wondering what the heck is this girl doing here?!) I finally used my hands to gesture if I could use their phone. Being a foreigner I had to somehow convince them it was a local call. To my luck, my host was still waiting for me! Which meant I wouldn’t have to spend the night in a snowy park!
Actually it was my host’s friend, Onur, who was waiting in the cold for me and took me to my home for the week, my host, Atilla’s aunt’s apartment. It’s incredible what these two men are doing for the Couchsurfing community in Cappadocia. They spent their summers in the USA and decided that during the year, they will help travellers explore their home since it created great networks and friendship and simply because they just loved meeting and helping others. Atilla and Onur quickly became my family, escorting me to the wonderful sites, teaching me about the history of the area, and we celebrated Attila’s father’s birthday together as well (with a Korean couchsurfer and her parents). It didn’t even feel like I was travelling solo at all!
Cappadocia consists of Göreme, Nevshir, Uchisar, Avanos and Ürgüp. It is a very arid landscape with numerous valleys. The cave homes which make this area famous, were once used as secret churches and some still have beautifully preserved frescoes on the walls. It’s amazing to think families and congregations were lived inside these caves, thousands of years ago. Most of Cappadocia consists of underground cities, which were used to escape from Christian persecution. It feels like a place from a fairy tale, and hiking up to get a view of the hundreds of caves is highly recommended.
Another activity that is highly recommended is taking a hot air balloon ride. It’s a bit expensive but SO worth it! I had to get up at 4am, in the bitter cold. But once you are on that balloon and you see the blue sky with the hundreds of balloons rising up, while staring down at this vast, incredible landscape, you realize how wonderful life is!
I am so grateful I took the opportunity to explore a place I had never heard of before because it turned out to be one of my most cherished adventures. And it’s more proof that the best trips are the ones that are unplanned.