We arrived to Ürgüp around 6 a.m. on the overnight bus. The sun rose during our approach to town, splashing pink hues over the stone alleys, while the morning’s blue hot air balloons ascended. When we stepped off the bus to find a place to stay, the sky was already lighting up the apparent ghost town in the yellow phase of early morning. We walked up the street and up the stairs toward a mini plaza raised above the streets around it. All the tables and chairs were out, left to sit alone throughout the night, though none of the cafes or shops were open. Nobody in the streets. We sat down at one of the tables wishing for tea and joked how in Chile we would never see so many tables and chairs, even fridges cooling iced teas and water left out in plain sight overnight. In most places the furniture would be stolen or vandalized. Of course there’s a lot of vandalism in Turkey as well, mostly of national treasures, like the landscape and buildings carved into the rock in Cappadocia. It’s the same lack of respect for natural and/or ancient wonders we see everywhere. There’s really no escaping it, an education lack, but it’s another story.

Cappadocia may very well be one of my favorite places. After writing that though, it’s impossible to make such sweeping statements. In any case, Cappadocia is magic, it is lunar. It’s bizarre. The landscape created by volcano eruptions around 30 million years ago, covering the area with ash that eventually hardened. The rock, known as tuff is extremely malleable by weather and by people. Over time the rock has disintegrated creating spiky valleys known as fairy chimneys. They say the early inhabitants of Cappadocia called myriad towers “fairy chimneys” because they believed them to be the chimneys of fairies, who lived underground. What’s more amazing than the shape of the land, though, is the fact that people carved homes into the rock. Not just homes, there are entire underground cities that go down seven or so levels. Old homes were connected to escape routes and tunnels below the Earth. Today you can stay in renovated cave hostels, with rooms etched out from the rock or chill out in underground bars. There is a definite Flinstone feel; even a few eponymous businesses to boot.

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