It was rainy and windy when we took a super early flight from Istanbul to Kayseri, the reason? A two day trip to Cappadocia. Upon arrival we looked for our guide who kindly guided us to the van where we met a big group of people from China. After a few hours driving, I finally woke up properly, looked out the window and saw nothing else than snow along the road, endless snow everywhere, after a while the van stopped at a small town and it left us there (only Diana and I).
This was one of those situations when one wonders: what the heck is going on? why on earth we were left in a small town somewhere in the middle of Turkey? To stop our woes a couple minutes later Aykut (this time he was our guide for the whole trip) and the driver came to pick us up, to our surprise he said: “This is supposed to be a group tour but you are the only ones, so it will be as a private tour, lucky you! ” and a smile came back to my face for the first time that morning.
Our first stop was a view point over Pigeon Valley, where we had some hot tee and ate a small bit before going outside to appreciate the immensity of the valley. It was like dreamland to me, like if that sleepy morning was nothing but a strange dream and suddenly I was into another world. What I saw was a vast valley, covered by snow, the whiteness was highlighted by the beautiful blue sky and the bright sun. Around us there were some trees where lots of “evil eyes” were hanging.
Our next stop was the underground city of Derinkuyu where we explored the spaces underground which amazingly included a Winery :), people were ready to live hidden and alert to scape at anytime, yet they didn’t sacrifice their wine intake! wise people.
Lunch as usual was some kind of potted kebab in a cute restaurant, one of the nicest meals I had in Turkey. after that we headed to Selime Monastery and a gorgeous walk on the snow, with blue sky and sunshine, the day was coming to an end but it left us with a warm feeling despite the low temperature… it was a magical feeling, a blend of joy, excitement and amazement, hard to explain but I think I made a good effort with these words.
Given that we had a very early morning and had walked a lot throughout the day we were extremely tired and couldn’t wait to get to our room at the Kapadokya Lodge, a warm room was awaiting for us, and a cozy bed was the perfect way to end such marvelous day. The next day, if weather conditions allowed we could fulfill the dream to fly on a hot air ballon.
I woke up early and tried to do a short work out before we started the day, I was knackered from the previous days waking up early and walking a lot, weather outside was not the best, and my gut feeling was confirmed when we received a call from reception telling us that our ballon ride was cancelled due to bad weather. Bad news from one end, but good news was that we could use some extra time to sleep.
Our day was great nevertheless, we took longer time at other places to explore, take pictures and enjoy of the route with no hurry. We went to Göreme open air Museum and then Devrent valley. Another kebab in our belly and then a slow ride back to Göreme where we waited for our transfer to the airport in Kayseri, we said goodbye to Aykut and our driver, really two incredibly nice guys who made our trip fun and enjoyable.
Two happy humans entered the airport, and despite the initial chaos and desperation that followed, we found the kindest person in the world.
Once at the airport we waited for the flight to be announced, when we booked the tour it only included our flights from Istanbul to Kayseri, but not the return flight, so we tried to save some money and got cheap flights on Pegasus airline, huge mistake! Weather wasn’t good and Pegasus’s small planes couldn’t take off only the well equipped Turkish airlines planes departed. We where then told to queue to receive a refund for the tickets, but that didn’t solve our problem, since we needed to be back in Istanbul to take our flight to Cairo next day.
Some people were talking about going back by bus, but the ride time was so long we wouldn’t get back to Istanbul in time. Then Turkish airlines offered an early flight to Istambul which was convenient for us, and we decided to sacrifice what was left in our credit cards to buy the flight tickets. Flight problem solved, right? guess what, now the next challenge was where to sleep?! It was about 9pm, I thought: We can spend the night at the airport, no biggie… it was followed by another but, the airport closed at 11pm until 5am the next day so we couldn’t sleep there.
This brief moment of my life was called: Desperation! We had no phone connection, nor a phone number from the agency to call in case of emergency, we had no internet and the airport didn’t have free wi-fi, so on top of everything we couldn’t connect to internet, almost no one we found could speak English, only people at the airlines counter, and a lady who was in the same problem as we were (she was the one who explained what was happening as we were queueing before) with the difference that she was visiting family so she could just return to their house. Desperate me asked her if we could crash the family’s living room, but it was not possible, then she offered to search for a hotel where we could sleep, which she found quickly, but then the price was about USD 110, which we didn’t have, we had used all was left in our credit cards to buy the flight for next day, and since it was a two day tour with almost everything included we had left most of our cash in Istanbul.
I said sadly and with a void in my head, we don’t have the money to pay for it… Diana was silent while I realized the precarious situation we were in. Then the lady pulled me to one side and said, opening her wallet: “Here have USD 100 and stay safely at the hotel I found, I know you will one day do the same for someone who is in need” I was speechless! never in my most remote dreams could I imagine myself in such situation, and even less finding someone like her, tears were running through my cheeks before I realized, with broken voice I said thank you! and then asked her to at least give me her email address so that I could contact her later and see how to give her back the money. She just smiled, gave me a pice of paper with her name and email address in it, her name was Sayyora. I hugged her as if trying to express what I couldn’t quite express with words, thanking her with every little piece of my being.
Diana couldn’t believe it when I told her what had happened, still processing the act of kindness we took a cab to the hotel, when we got there, we found out that the actual price for the hotel were 110 Turkish lires, which was almost everything we had in cash. Turns out our kind friend had mistaken the currency, and thought it was USD instead. So, yes, we didn’t have the need to use the USD 100, but I decided to keep it in my wallet as a reminder of her, and promised to use it only in case of an emergency, by the way I still have the note in my wallet, four years later. As I write these lines I remember the gratitude feeling for her, and wish her all the greatness this world can offer in her life.
We spent the night safely, and the next morning we got on board of the flight back to Istanbul without problems.
This experience makes me think about the stereotypes and prejudices that we carry unconsciously. Most of the time, as I said before, we gather information from international news, where we are given just one small image of what a country, a nation and its people are, we are told most of the time only about the negative things, because sadly only the negative things make headlines in the news. We are never told about how nice, kind and warm hearted people can be. And I tell you from my own experience as a traveller and also as a local, from the endless times people who visited my country and city leave with a different, a better concept from that they had before coming.
Concerns about safety, about women travelling solo, about cultural differences. All kind of theory and everything we read in the news give us just one small piece of information, please keep this in mind. I have learnt to travel and meet people with an open mind, trying to leave prejudices and stereotypes aside, instead I ask questions, I am curious, I listen, and I see people, how honest and kind they can be when they perceive you as a friend and not as someone who is judging them. There are risks everywhere, there is violence everywhere and there might be traditions and ways to do things that are quite different from what we are used to in our cultures, but as my dear professor Jean Vanhoegaerden says, if you only focus on the differences you will never connect with people from another culture.
So I challenge you to stop your fears and put your excuses aside to visit and explore a country where you don’t know the language, where traditions, religion, and food are totally new to you. I had the time of my life in Turkey and I would go back happily anytime. We found out that language barrier was not big enough to block communication, people helped us, was kind to us, and respected us at all times, never we felt in danger or threatened, all the contrary, even when we thought we were all alone at that airport in Kaisery, we were reminded that above anything we are humans and as such we should care for each other and help each other.
What are you waiting for? is there a place you always wanted to go but felt unsure about? tell a friend and organize a trip together, life is too short to live with fear, who knows, you might find the experience quite different than what you thought in the first place. Be kind, be transparent, have good intentions, do no harm and respect others, you will soon see that you will receive all that back.
Until the next adventure, this time a speed dating with Cairo! that’s right not in Cairo, with Cairo, find out why in the next post. In the meantime… Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!