Like the sound of a deranged man gasping for his final breath, the crackly minaret echoed an alarming blast throughout the Cappedocian valley—for 5 minutes—at 5 a.m.
It was the first prayer of the day, but not the first time I had been caught off guard by the Muslim call to worship.
The Kayseri bus station was undoubtedly speaker linked to a nearby Mosque and gave Crystal, Bradley and me our first taste of the outside-Christian world at…you guessed it…5 a.m.
We arrived at the station around 9 p.m. after a nearly 12-hour trek from Trabzon, a city we decided to skip over due to its unpromising weather and relatively boring layout.
Because the next bus to Goreme—our next travel stop—was not until 7 a.m., we decided to bite the bullet and crash in a small cafe on the opposite end of the station.
When the prayer started, I was in mid stride to the lavatory, (as I had suffered a bit of food poisoning from some Turkish doner sandwich that had probably been sitting on a shelf for the better part of the day) and literally almost had the shit scared out of me—for real.
The second 5 a.m.-er hit me (with less bowl-erly force) while I was sound asleep inside a cave hostel, yet it woke me with a smile on my face.
I was in a cave. I was in Turkey. I was in culture bliss.
Despite the touristy aspects of Goreme, the small Cappedocian town carries a lot of charm, as well as a lot of historical marks that can only be described fully by pictures. The plateaus, rock formations and BC-dated caves that outline numerous valleys of lush vegetation are in fact like many locales in Star Wars—only without vicious Tuscian raiders or jawas.
For three days we roamed the landscape and explored Pigeon and Love Valleys, as well as nearby towns and rocky cliffs that hid ancient churches and religious relics. We also ran into numerous TLG friends and also had an awkward animal experience.
Now, I can’t say Turkish people are anymore overbearing salesmen/women than Georgians, but they certainly are a lot better at swindling camel rides.
After Crystal showed interest in taking a picture of a couple humpbacks we discovered parked behind a shop just outside of the city, we were quickly (forcefully) thrown onto the beasts and dragged around a small perimeter for about…hmm..I dunno…five minutes.
Five unwanted camel minutes= 30 lira (or 18 bucks).
I told the guy “No way, no how.” And split like a camel jockey fleeing from a sandstorm.
After exploring a nearby ridge on our first day in Goreme that was roughly 3 km or so from the Panoramic hostel where we were staying at, we decided to pitch the tent we brought and give it a go for the second night.
We had a fire. We had a stray dog. We had food and drinks. But we had no clothing preparations for the elements.
I obviously can't speak for the others, but I had never been so miserable in my life. My feet at one point curled on their own and my butt felt like it was stuck to a piece of dry ice that was somehow hidden beneath the thin piece of nylon protecting me from the outside. The minaret preaching from nearby towns was actually the most welcomed thing my ears had heard in years, as it signified the break of dawn was near.
And if there was some consolation for the busted experience, daybreak exemplified one of the prettiest scapes in the world; with hot air balloons draped over a rising sun and Mt. Erciyes peaking above a layer of clouds.
It was cold…but perfect.
Despite the beauty and history lessons provided in the Gorematic experience, the ultimate goal of our trip to Turkey was to find some better weather than what we left with—preferably on the water.
Antalya, nestled upon the Mediterranean Sea, provided not only a climatic change from the cold and the rain of the north, but also a pretty nice beach and a more European-style town than any of us expected.
Not far from our town-stay in Old Town was a large bazaar, and a harbor that sat on water as clean as that of Nassau or St. Thomas. Near the waters' edge of the public beach, Crystal made friends with some Turk kids, who were quick to relocate to our towels and request pictures and our Facebook contacts.
Besides doners and the westernized fast food (that the country surprisingly has a lot of), Antalya's choice for nom included boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame bread, spiced meats and lots and lots of yogurt.
The Turks as a whole drink mostly tea—lots of tea. If you are in a café you drink tea. If you are walking on the street you drink tea. And much like the South, sugar is a big part of that drinking.
After a day on the coast, we headed further west to the ancient Greek town of Olympos to stay in what we thought would be a tree house hostel. It wasn’t exactly a tree house, but I believe the buildings were made out of some type of wood (at least they looked like it).
Our housemates included an Australian/Swiss (it’s a weird story) and a German named Mathias Burger, who we became hiking buddies with. Like us, Mathias is a teacher in a foreign country (Bulgaria) working for he government and came down on holiday to basically do exactly what we were doing—whatever he wanted.
Most of the guests in the town were westerners, with a large concentration of Brits and Aussies camping at our “tree house.”
It’s usually pretty easy for me to differentiate the two Queensland nationalities, but when you throw in a South African (Bradley) to the mix, I have to go back to the drawing board and listen more closely so I don’t step on any toes.
The trails around Olympos are quite exotic, littered with ancient Greek stadiums, bathhouses and ruins. The Med is also a five-minute walk from the main road.
Although the water was far colder than I would ever dare to venture into in Florida, I decided it was now or never for a swim in the Gobbler. Right off the beach is a sharp set of rocks that were perfect to scale—if you had shoes.
I made it about 15-feet up the side of one of the less straight edges before deciding to jump and save my feet for another day.
It was probably a good idea since the long walks from bus stations and hikes in one pair of damp Sauconys provided plenty of blisters without any help from me purposely being an idiot.
Our last night before departure (24-hr bus home) was expected to be another bus station crash, but we luckily stumbled upon a couch surfer who worked at a bar we were watching a Turkish cover band at.
So instead of no sleep, we were able to scrounge up four hours—a pure lifesaver for a group too tired to even argue. I don’t remember the guy’s name we stayed with but I do remember his hair, which was different than most of the younger males in the country.
I don’t know how to describe the hairstyle other than a mullet with Turkish flair. Some guys even had a bit of a rattail that fell just below the last bit of the horrifically awesome do (I totally wanted one but dreaded explaining to my host family what the hell I was thinking).
As the last minaret I would hear sounded in the distance from the Antalya bus station, I, like many others walking through the terminal, never flinched. The secular atmosphere and borderline Western hustle and bustle had already gotten to me. I had only been out of the Republic of Georgia for 9 days and realized that it’s hard to leave the industrial and organized world—despite early morning wakeup calls or crappy camels.