Day 86 - Monday 26th June - Sivas to Urgup

Again we had a delayed start so that the team could see the sights with guide Tony. I took the tme to catch up o stuff and repack the car as we had bought stuff and it was not easily accommodated. We needed to jettison things that were not being used (like 4 rolls of toilet paper) to make room.

When we eventually left at 1030, the city was still like a morgue. The busy street where we had parked the cars the night before was empty, as was the way out of town.

The leader for the day had decided to take us on a scenic detour, rather than follow the highway. The first problem was a non existent bridge over the river. The next was the dirt roads and pot holes that we had all secretly parked in Turkmenistan. However, it was pleasant to meander along the wild flower strewn roads, watch the cows and sheep graze, try to work out what all the scare crows were protecting in the small green paddocks and marvel at the number of bee hives that can be stacked together.

Photo of cow herder taking photo of the navigators taking photos of his cows, while the drivers navigate through the herd

Photo of cow herder taking photo of the navigators taking photos of his cows, while the drivers navigate through the herd

Towards Kayseri a large snow capped mountain appeared in our view. At a bit over 4000m, Erciyes Dagi is the second highest mountain in Turkey, another volcanic peak and home to the local ski resorts.

We arrived at our destination around 1600. Urgup was crowded with tourists. Garmin took us the back route to our hotel up some very narrow and steep cobble stone lanes, winding its way through the stone and dug out houses. The area is known for its cave houses and underground houses.

Cappadocia has been settled for thousands of years. Its searingly hot (40c +) in summer and bitterly cold in winter (-20c). The locals decided to make their houses underground, or in caves in the local tuft pinnacles which give the landscape its distinctive character and attractions for tourists.

Its dry, but there is enough water diverted from the rivers that run off the mountains to cultivate the soil. Grapes are grown as small bushes, not on conventional terraces, and the usual range of fruit (apricot, peaches, cherries) and nut trees (almonds) dot the landscape. It was an early Christian settlement, visited by St Paul, but constantly attacked by the Hittites. The underground houses provided protection from the marauders.

We stayed in Urgup 12 years ago when we visited Cappadocia. Then, it seemed quiet and relaxed, a bit off the beaten track. The centre of action being in Goreme. Being away from all the tourists and sharing a bit more local flavour suited us. In the space since our last visit, development has been frenetic. The town has grown to a resident population of over 20,000 and the main dormitory for tourists. Goreme does not seem to have changed much.

The temperature was climbing into the 30s by the time we arrived at our hotel. So we took advantage of the bar set in the shady garden. It was the first time we had been able to have a beer in a relaxing environment since entering Iran a couple of weeks before. The EFFYS Pilsner is not a bad drop, but at 5.0% alcohol stronger than we had been drinking in the past 86 days.

Unusually, we ate at the hotel as well, rather than wander down into town. I am sure that it was the offer of the garden dining that attracted us, rather than the local red wine, made from a number of unpronounceable grape varieties. It was quite good, but like all alcohol in Turkey, on the expensive side.

The group was starting to relax again. I don’t think that it was an issue us needing cold beer to function normally, although it did help, but rather the tension of Iran combined with Ramadan, the constant difficulty of finding somewhere to eat, and the lack of variety in the menu had put on more pressure than we realised. I had expected a vibrant food scene in Iran, man be something out of an Otolengi cook book, but that was not the case. It was pretty much kebabs each night. And had also expected that something to drink may have been varied, such as hot and cold teas and juices, rather than a dozen varieties of sugar and fruit infused zero alcohol, fake beer.