We figured that we'd pop a Lunesta and sleep for the 10-11 hour trip on our night bus, and save a bunch of money in lieu of taking a plane. That was optimistic. The night bus was extremely uncomfortable and not well suited for sleeping. Aside from the discomfort, there were strong odors surrounding us, threatening our nostrils. One seat behind us was a woman with two young children, and a loud cell phone that she would allow to ring till it hit voicemail. She'd stuff her children with sugary treats at every stop we made which resulted in the children becoming amped up then cranky, fall asleep, get woken up by the cell phone and cry, then start the cycle all over again. Seth was able to feel some of the effects of the pill and was able to sleep a bit. I did not sleep more than 20 minutes the entire trip. And it was not 10 hours. We began our journey at 6:30pm and didn't hit the final bus station until about 9am.
Needless to say, we were absolutely exhausted. But, we arrived at our cave hotel with 10 minutes to 'freshen up' in the communal bathroom in reception before heading out for our all day tour. Luckily, our tour began with a hike. Oh man. That was rough. And I think our mood detracted from the beauty of the area. Sandstone formations shot up into the air to make for an interesting landscape. The formations originated from volcanoes so the colors of the rock varied from whites, to rose, to blacks.
Our day passed us in a haze, stopping at one destination here and a panoramic viewpoint there. The highlight for us was an elaborate underground city comprised of tunnels and rooms that even connect across different towns throughout the vast region of Anatolia. The Christians used this underground city to hide when under attack from the Romans. They could live underground for a couple of months at a time. The cave system was elaborate, going down 8 floors, with ventilation systems and everything.
We ended up making friends and going out to dinner in town at Sofra Restaurant. Though I'm not sure of it's name, both Seth and I ordered a regional special. Mine was with lamb and his was with chicken with peppers and tomatoes. It went great with Efes, the Turkish beer. We ended off the night with a game of Farkle. Yes! Somehow Neil won, after Farkling a million times. Beginner's luck!
Our second day of tour was a bit better because we were well rested, but we were still dealing with our bad choices from the Istanbul market. Remember the ice cream, yogurt, and pickle combo? Our stomachs were still not 100% better.
The Open Air Museum was pretty cool. It is a series of churches built into the stone formations. After a few descriptions from our tour guide, we decided to explore on our own, and it turned out that we made a good choice. The people who stayed with the group only saw like 4 churches, while Seth and I saw a ton.
We eventually made our way to another place where we were free to explore all the cave like structures on our own. Seth and I went clambering up to the tops of as many structures as we could. These were like homes carved out in the middle of large rock formations. Kind of hard to explain, so I hope the pictures do them justice.
By the evening our stomachs were finally better, so we got a recommendation from a local in town and had a really good dinner at Micro Restaurant, once again. Seth got the Ottoman Special, and I can't remember what mine was called. His was chicken with gravy and a garlic yogurt sauce atop a bed of shoe string french fries. Mine was eggplant topped with a yogurt garlic sauce and lamb.
We went back to our cave to sleep. I mention this, because the area is known for its caves. The history of the area is as a cave culture. The people still build their homes into the mountain side. The temperatures in a cave are such that they are fairly stable, making it cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. So our hotel was a cave hotel. Our room was pretty cool.
Since our experience on the night bus was so unpleasant, we decided to book a flight back to Istanbul. We had already had a miserable day due to lack of sleep and we didn't want to mess up a day in Istanbul too. Plus, we didn't want to get sick. Since we were trying to book our flight so late the availability was pretty slim. Only two seats left on the plane, and one of them was business class. When we got off the plane I asked Seth how his in flight snack was. "Snack?" Seth had gotten a meal. Which brings me to something I've been meaning to mention. Some of you may remember a time when you received a meal for free while flying. If it was a short flight you received a snack. Well, they still do that outside the United States. On every flight we've been on since we left the US we've received a meal, and they've been decent and quite interesting, and they don't charge you a cent. They are usually representative of where we are flying in some sort of way. For example, Turkey is big on yogurts, and my snack included a yogurt with mint. That was pretty good.