Sunday, April 19, 2015

Middle Earth

We’ve just spent a few marvellous days in Cappadocia in central Turkey and were blown away by this extraordinary landscape.

We found a wonderful campsite with fab views and hot showers. The guide books describe the terrain in various ways – fairy chimneys, phallic outcrops, pinnacles etc etc, but to me it looks like Middle Earth, or what Middle Earth should look like. It’s quite surreal.


The “Open Air Museum” is walking distance from Kaya Camping and we made a good decision to get there very early. We arrived at 8.15am to avoid the masses of Tour Coaches which disgorge hundreds of tourists all over the place. The Museum is actually an ancient monastery/village with each church, room, refractory etc carved out of the rock pinnacles.
Where are the Goblins?
One of the churches had a jaunty fresco of the two dudes on horses slaying a dragon, but to me they looked they were on a Merry-Go-Round (Carousel). The 1000 year old frescoes in these remarkable cave churches were really something to see.

I developed a nasty head cold which I generously shared with Lawrence, so we were both feeling poorly and couldn’t manage the wonderful walking paths here, even so we had a grand time touring about.

‘Hot Air Ballooning’ is quite the thing here, but I just couldn’t see myself getting out of bed in pre-dawn sub-zero temperatures to waft about in a landscape I could see very clearly from the comfort of my warm bed. Plus it’s hugely expensive and I’m scared of heights! We prefer to spend our money on tasting what they do with the local grapes.
Up, up and away - taken from our campsite
We’re finding Turkey interesting and loving the food. The wine is very good, but the coffee is dire. Turkish coffee tastes like mud and is unspeakably awful. Next is the nasty Nescafe machines that produce something indescribable, and then there is the occasional authentic espresso machines that no-one knows how to use. So, imagine our delight when we saw a sign in Goreme stating “No Bullshit, the best coffee in town, Aussie trained”. “Eureka” we cried! Now imagine our dismay when a vile cup of bitter, over-extracted coffee arrived. The Aussie barista was obviously long gone.
Vineyard at sunset from our campsite
Handmade leather shoes - how can a girl resist??
We’ve found ourselves seeking out Starbucks (sshhh – don’t tell anyone), for a reasonable espresso. This option doesn’t exist in rural Turkey.

Anyway, from the wonders of Cappadocia we headed back to Ankara to collect our Kazakh visa. We had previously spent 3 days in Ankara, mainly to get visas sorted. I’ll outline this process below for those that are interested – or who have trouble sleeping.*

Ankara is a large modern city with an old heart that we explored, but not much else to it. We stayed in a hotel, as there really isn’t much option.

Yesterday we spent in Safranbolu, a UNESCO world heritage listed Ottoman town. The Ottoman architecture is wonderful and the restored houses are a feast for the eyes. I just adore them, so a whole town full of them was a brilliant way to spend a day. PLUS the sun was shining, and the temp reached about 25 degrees – sheer bliss.
We woke this morning to a warm sunny day, that put a spring in our step as we headed for the Black Sea coast and the allegedly pretty port town of Amasra.

Sadly it is 8 degrees, foggy and raining. We are NOT HAPPY. We hadn’t planned to stay here, but from here to Sinop is slated to be the most spectacular drive of the entire Black Sea Coast and we didn’t want to do it in thick sea fog.

So we went to lunch instead.

For those who might wish to undertake the getting of visas for Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in Ankara.

We did this on a Monday morning.

Despite what the websites say, the Kazakh Embassy opens at 9am and the Uzbek at 10am. Both close at 12 midday. They are both easy to drive to with GPS and there is easy parking on the street.

So here’s how we played it. We went to the Kazakh embassy first and handed in our completed forms and passports. They duly noted all this. We then took our passports back from them. We then had to go to the bank to pay the fee. There is a Garanti Bank a short drive down the hill at the Panora Centre, parking is easy. The catch is that if you don’t have a Turkish ID number you can’t make a deposit at a Turkish Bank. So you need to accost someone in the queue and ask to use their ID. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. The tellers are used to this procedure.

One must, of course, keep the receipt.

Next we went to the Uzbek Embassy with passports, completed forms and letter of invitation. We now know that you need a photocopy of your passport for this. Do this ahead of time as they won’t do it the embassy. Now you need to pay. Same procedure, go to the nearest AKbank, which is a 5 minute walk, ask someone if you can use their ID, make the payment and go back to the embassy.

With all your ducks are lined up, the visa is issued on the spot.

We then went back to the Kazakh Embassy with passports (you need to leave them there) and receipt from the bank. The visa takes 5 days.

Our advice is to now go to Cappadocia to spend a few fab days until you can pick it up!! Stay at Kaya Camping - it's really good.

Pick-up time is after 3pm on any day. We picked ours up on the Friday – they were waiting for us.

Make sure you have US dollars for the payments to the banks.

If you want more info, you can email us at

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