Western Turkey

Urfa was a very pretty city. Clean and probably the touristy city of the East. They like to claim they are the oldest known city in the world (Jericho’s not the only one to say they are). We didn’t stay long because, well, our mouths were happy if our stomachs weren’t…
We stayed at Lizbon Guest House, which had the unique distinction of being run by two former nomads. Why did they leave the mountains to come to Urfa? They say it’s too hard to be a nomad anymore. The nomads fight over the land they can have, the government tries to regulate them, and there’s not many Kurdish nomads left.

It was interesting to have them regale us with tales of living in a huge tent for 50 (different families travel together) and the fact that Aziz and Farida had grown up together. They married when she was 14 and he was 18 (but no sex before then, Aziz assured us). Both have tattoos made from the juice of cat’s liver and other ingredients, symbolizing the sun, etc. They were a cute, conniving pair, the two of them: partners in crime, but a lot of fun.

I say partners in crime because Aziz offered us lunch. After we finished eating he said, “The price is not included in your stay. But don’t worry, it’s not so much. I give you a good deal: 5 lira per person.” Jacob got a little angry at his sneakiness, then decided to play a joke. We offered to bring them back ice cream that night. We had a great time talking together and playing backgammon, and then Jacob said, “The ice cream was not free. Five lira!” Farida literally rolled on the floor laughing. She laughed too hard not to know her husband’s little trick he plays on tourists. Aziz sheepishly wouldn’t look at Jacob and said, “Good joke.” I think he got the point.

Aziz did take us on a tour of the city, which is holy to Muslims because they believe here is the cave where Abraham was born. There is holy water in the cave and some women take water bottles and fill them up to save. This was one attraction that, for whatever reason, the women’s side was way bigger and more interesting than the men’s. But Jacob had the camera.

The lake of fishes also has a lot of legends associated with it. My favorite is that if you eat Abraham’s holy fishes, your eyes will fall out. Here is a painting in a church illustrating this:

We debated about going to Harran, where Jacob and Rachel met at the well. Due to the fact that there was no wireless, and Urfa wasn’t cheap to visit, we decided to skip it. We also missed Gobekli Tepe, the oldest temple site ever found. It’ll be on our list of things to do when we return. For your viewing pleasure, here is your typical Turkish toilet:

We spent a day on a bus leaving the East and returning back to western ways. I was quite looking forward to Cappadocia, because my guide book describes it as the closest you’ll ever get to Mars. Essentially an alien landscape. What I experienced, though, was truly an alien feeling after being in the East. It felt like…something familiar…was it…America? There were actually large houses with backyards, no animals, and American-looking stores. Truly strange. It was very touristy in this city, but the landscape really was fantastic.

Our hostel owners were a Turkish man and Miriam, from the Netherlands. Talk about a leave from Turkish hospitality…we were scolded for staying in the wrong room when it was the room we were shown to stay in. True, we showed up a day early, but sometimes we miss America where the “customer is always right.” The breakfasts here were great…French toast every morning after daily breakfasts for three months of tomatoes, bread and jam, and eggs was a treat.

We took a scooter for a day which was a blast. And we took our first hot air balloon ride. I felt like my heart was going to stop the whole way through. When it wasn’t the blinding fog, bursting blasts of fire above your head, the pilot yelling to brace yourself for landing, or veering among sheer cliffs of rock, it was serene views, the highest up I’ve ever been without a window to block the way, beautiful balloons all around, and a romantic way to celebrate an anniversary with my favorite person :) Jacob’s parents gave us the ride as an anniversary gift, which was beyond thoughtful.



People actually live in these phallic (I learned a new word, ;) bizarre formations:

And then we were off to Pamukkale, or Cotton Castle, with a new gift: Miriam let us have the Lonely Planet’s Shoestring Guide to Europe after Jacob asked four times. Sometimes it’s nice to be married to a persistent man :) It’s a handy book for people who are likely to hit many of the countries…

Pamukkale was the least friendly out of all the places we’d been. We did a daring thing, too: we left Cappadocia without arranging a hostel, because we didn’t have time after our tour of Ilhara Valley, Underground City, and jewelry shop (Pictures below)



When we arrived, we got a shuttle into town by a man who asked us if we had a place to stay. He told us Koray Otel was “very nice. I love it so much. It has a garden… beautiful.” When we asked if we needed to pay for the shuttle, he said, “I hate money!” Then he drove everyone in the shuttle to Koray Hotel, where he happened to be owner. Wow. We stayed there though, the rooms were nice but there was no hot water, not so uncommon in Turkey.

That night we walked in front of the travertines and enjoyed the frog chorus.

Pamukkale was a long walk up (and you have to take off your shoes) what looks like a snow covered mountain but what is actually calcium deposits. It’s really a pretty view. The blue water is the coldest, and the muddy water the warmest…Jacob had been looking forward to swimming in the pool with Roman ruins, but when we saw it was basically a swimming pool (albeit with warm spring water) behind a huge restaurant that cost 24 lira per person we decided not to go.



And guess what! I’ve found a great new way to annoy people! The guys at the touristy restaurant there served us food that looked way different than the picture. As in a huge fat sandwich photo compared to cheese on a hot dog bun. So Jacob said he wanted his money back. He gave his money back for his but he wouldn’t for my burek, which was also a very small portion. He was just doing it to be rude, because it would be easy to just put it back where he got it. So, I started taking photos of him. He tried to hide behind the glass so I shot pictures behind the glass. I continued to do that before we left. It was funny! And the burek was even pretty tasty!


Hierapolis is an ancient Roman city up on the hill. I think it’s mentioned in the Bible once… Crazy to think there were actually people living here at one time…

Waiting for our bus to Selcuk…

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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