Never in a hundred years did I expect to be drinking homemade wine in a cave with a caveman. But here I was in the middle of the Cappadocian Turkish desert sipping on a glass of surprisingly delicious bootlegged merlot-syrah making small talk with a caveman whilst watching the Turkish sun set against the pink rocks.
Let me start from the beginning. After several pleasant days basking in Trabzon on the Black Sea, soaking in the vibrancy and colour that is Turkish culture, we decided to head inland toward Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is a UNESCO listed heritage site smack dab in the middle of turkey known for its unique rock formations and ancient cave dwellings.
After a tumultuous bus ride (which was meant to be 5 hours, but ended up being 12) followed by a second 4 hour bus the next morning, we arrived with high expectations and a newly-found hatred for Turkish busses.
We were instantly awed. The town of Goreme (Cappadocia region) sits in a valley surrounded by hills covered with cave hotels jutting into the sky. It’s simply breathtaking.
There are several more valleys surrounding the region, each possessing unique rock formations with different characteristics.
We considered taking a day-tour of the region, but we opted for the off-road DIY version. What was meant to be a day seeing a few sites turned into a two day hiking adventure exploring the meandering trails of Cappadocia’s national parks. We rarely saw another sole and felt like the entire valley was our own.
Cryptic signs scrawled onto the rock with spray paint outlined the routes. We followed the signs, sometimes reaching dead ends, sometimes leading through spectacular tunnels, up ladders and into lush valleys. All the way dotted with ancient cave homes open for exploration. We rounded each corner with the excitement of toddlers, in anticipation of what we might discover.
Many of the homes were simple consisting of one or two hollowed-out rooms with an entry way and some windows. Others were more elaborate, with the churches being the most exciting. Churches had murals painted across the ceilings and walls, sometimes accompanied by carvings. Finding an abandoned church was like waking up on Christmas morning.
On our second day exploring the valleys, we stumbled upon a cave – not your typical cave, something about the cave caught my eye as we rounded the crest of the hill. There were lights in the cave and something that resembled a bar…was I hallucinating? “Merhaba!” (hello in Turkish) echoed from the doorway as a weathered old man appeared beckoning for us to come in.
We soon came to learn his name was Amit and one day he decided to leave his village and set up house in a cave. The modest cave home had a living room, stove, bed, solar power, WIFI, and of course his makeshift bar where he served wine he grew and cultivated in the clay soil of Cappadocia.
When offered a glass of wine from a caveman, one can never decline. It’s the unwritten rule of caveman etiquette. I took a sip with low expectations. It was surprisingly delicious! Much better than any wine we tried in Georgia.
After chatting for a few minutes, he invited us to return that night for the sunset and a BBQ. It took a bit of convincing, but I finally got Tim to agree. Invitations like this always lead to the best travel stories, even if it all goes horribly wrong.
We hiked through the sandy rock maze of Cappadocia searching for Amit’s cave home again. Dusk began to set in, and our worries grew – would we be able to find the cave? As I said, even if it all went horribly wrong, it would make a great story.
We retraced our steps from earlier in the day and found Amit’s place with relative ease. Amit had prepared a fire with roasting chicken, tomato and onion. We knew this would be a good night.
We watched the sun set over two bottles of wine and a feast fit for a cave family, with the contentment that no other tourist in Cappadocia was having a better dining experience that evening.