So……I finally had a chance to visit Turkey. It felt like a dream to me since I only got to spend three days there. I know that I should have written this story months ago, but I lacked motivation. Before I tell you about the whole experience, let me just tell you that this is my first English article on this blog, so yeah… this post is going to be very shitty (and long!).
In January 2018, my aunt took me to Istanbul after we had completed our pilgrimage in Mecca and Medina (No, I’m not going to talk about these cities now). Turkey was one of the series of our Umrah tour package. My aunt paid the entire trip, so I barely spent my own money on it (as if I had one LOL).
We arrived at Istanbul Atatürk Airport at night and it was super cold outside. We were picked up by our tour guide and then we left for Pullman Istanbul Airport by bus. To my surprise, the hotel was pretty average. I thought it was going to look very opulent, just like the one located in Jakarta (well, I’ve never been there, but everyone knows it’s one of the most luxurious hotels in Jakarta or even in Indonesia).
I didn’t complain though, the hotel was still nice, even though the room was a bit small (our hotel in Mecca was way fancier than this one) and I know I probably can never afford it myself. The breakfast was okay. I didn’t really enjoy Turkish cuisine, cause it was kind of tasteless to me, so I chose Western instead. Okay, let’s just focus on the trip.
Day 1 – Istanbul
On the first day, I had a chance to experience Bosphorus Cruise to see European side of Istanbul and I was very excited. I think a two-way ticket costs 25 TL. During the two-hour tour, I was presented with spectacular views of classical Ottoman architecture style buildings. I was happy because I finally got to be on the infamous cruise, yet I was sad because that was the first moment where I was so close to Europe, but I could not get there yet.
Next, we moved to this fancy fashion outlet, which turned out to be one of the obligatory programs in our trip. According to our tour guide, this was one of Turkey’s tourism ministry efforts in promoting their textile products to international tourists. The products were ridiculously expensive, even though the shop clerks insisted that they were way a lot cheaper than those at the mall.
After having spent more than two hours at that boring place, we went to Sultanahmet district where we could feel the atmosphere of the old city. This area is one of the main tourist attractions in Istanbul, surrounded by historical gems such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace (we visited this one on the last day), Blue Mosque, and many more.
The first place we visited was the Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque). This majestic mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 under the rule of Ahmed I. Today, it’s still functioning as a mosque. Visitors can come here for free, but it is closed during prayer times.
After having spent an hour inside the Blue Mosque, then I moved to the other side of Sultanahmet Park to explore another treasure of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia. It was first constructed in 537 AD as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral between 1204 and 1261. Later, it was turned into a mosque after the Ottoman Turks took control of Constantinople. Unlike the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia charges you 40 TL for an entry fee (children under the age of 12 can enter for free), since it’s now operating as a museum.
Yup, I know, the images are quite bad, therefore I highly recommend that you see these places yourselves!
After having spent another hour at Hagia Sofia, we went to this small Turkish restaurant to have lunch. It is still located in the old city, not far from the Blue Mosque. I had a pita bread, rice, potatoes, and meat. I know right, what a bunch of carbs!
We headed off to the airport right after lunch. And this was the moment that I had been waiting for my whole life. I flew to Cappadocia!!
We arrived at Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport in the evening and it was much colder there than in Istanbul. We left for our hotel by bus and everything went smoothly. The flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia (or Kapadokya, you can say either one of them) only takes 1 hour and 25 minutes. Our hotel was pretty far from the airport, it probably took an hour to get there.
Not much to tell once we arrived at the hotel. It was a small, old hotel (I didn’t take a picture of it, sorry) and they didn’t even provide toiletries for us. I had to ask for toothpaste from one of the members of our group. The food was okay, I ate a lot of Greek yogurt. So…yeah, let’s just get to the Day 2.
Day 2 – Cappadocia
That day was perfect and everything was beautiful. I didn’t really know where we would go but I had a very good feeling. I couldn’t even wait for my aunt or the rest of the group because I was too hyped. When everybody was still enjoying breakfast, I was outside, listening to my favorite music and pretending to be the main character of an indie movie. Despite the cold weather, I decided to take a walk. I couldn’t believe I was physically there……everything was just delightful to see, I swear.
Here are some pictures I took:
I was too caught up in the moment and I realized I had gone too far from the hotel. I didn’t want my aunt to get mad at me (again), so I decided to sprint to the hotel (literally). We were all gathered and then got onto the bus. First stop, the valleys of Cappadocia.
Never in my life have I seen such magnificence. I’m having goosebumps just remembering it. Fairy chimneys, carved-from-rock churches and chapels, minaret-like rocks that have been there since the 9th century, you can only find them there. There were also antique shops around and it was really hard to ignore them!
The only thing missing was the hot air balloons. There wasn’t enough wind to fly them. It’s not like I could afford them, but I just thought they would make the photos look more lively. However, the good side is I could really focus on the true beauty of the valleys.
I decided to separate myself from the group and I spent a couple of hours to hike and even climb the valleys. I fell a few times but it was worth it!
When I got onto the bus, everyone was surprised to see me covered in dirt and asked me what I did and where I went since they didn’t see me around for a couple of hours. Luckily, my aunt wasn’t mad at me. Phew! Our next destination was Uçhisar.
Uçhisar is situated at the highest point in Cappadocia, on the Nevsehir-Göreme road. There is a rock castle that used to be the main point of defense and the top of it provides an astonishing panoramic view of the surrounding area with Mount Erciyes in the distance. But instead of going inside the castle, I went straight to this beautiful cave house which is located across the castle.
The cave house that I found turned out to be a cafe. Since it was really cold, I needed a cup of tea to warm myself up, so I decided to sit there. The cafe is called Kapadokya Peri Evi and the name of the owner is Ahmed. He was such a really nice guy.
I had a very interesting conversation with Ahmed and I think I will make a separate article about him. I wanted to spend more time there, but I was actually almost left by our tour bus. It was already moving when I returned from the cafe so they made me run. And my aunt was outraged LOL.
Next, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was my first cave restaurant experience. They served traditional Turkish dishes such as roast lamb made in a crock pot, covered with bread dough. They kind of gave us a performance before serving the food to us (sadly, I can’t show the video to you). Here are some pictures that I took.
After having felt stuffed, we went to a ceramic factory. I’m not a fan of ceramics but I think you must buy them when you go to Turkey since they’re different from other ceramics you have ever seen in other countries! Turkish tiles say a lot of stories and are meaningful. Looking at them just makes me happy.
We probably spent three hours there. I bought a few plates for my family. I forgot how much they cost but they’re a bit pricey, perhaps around 25 TL.
To be continued…