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Stephanie March's Istanbul Diary: Technicolor Cappadocia

by Stephanie March

Cappadocia, in dramatic silhouette.

CAPPADOCIA – Today my guide luck ran out. It had to happen sooner or later, but I was so annoyed. I spent a lot of the day surreptitiously emailing and messaging my travel agent trying to adjust tomorrow's itinerary as a result. Having to get internet passwords from a random cafe via the guide you are trying to shake is so lame.

He was not dangerous or scary, but he was touchy-feely, had a lot of dopey, practiced guide jokes, and was vaguely misogynistic.

I quickly realized there are four awesome things to do in Cappadocia, and the rest is filler. "My aunt makes the most amazing ceramics, not like other touristic places. Come. Let me show you." I was getting a lot of that. Um, fuck no. Take me to the underground cave city.




That said, he was actually quite knowledgeable and I learned a lot today. I had to earn it, but I got it. I visited cave monasteries dating back 2,000 years. Seriously, they are in caves carved into pumice stone that rise in weird ridges to about five stories. I was in one frescoed church that has been virtually untouched since 1100 AD. Due to the darkness of the caves and dry climate, nearly every picture is intact. Abandon your notions of faded colors and smoky outlines: These frescoes were intense and detailed with sandal straps and fingernails and eyeballs and turquoise robes. It was technicolor breathtaking. Lapis lazuli all over the walls. The guard in the church was distracted by his tea when I took a photo (no flash, of course).



Then I went to an underground cave city dating to the Hittites (1200 BC) where up to 5,000 people lived in underground fortresses during raids. They had supplies for five months. It was like a lava rock beehive with layer upon layer of rooms — wine press rooms, food storage, amphora storage, giant Indiana Jones-type stones ready to roll at a moment's notice to keep out invaders. Crazy. And claustrophobic. I would have surrendered as a Persian slave instead.

Museum Hotel


After seeing the big three, I ditched my guide and went back to Museum Hotel. I am sitting on the terrace having dinner. There is a harpist, white-gloved waiters, a fire pit, and white tablecloths. Oh and me. Just me. I am the only person dining here. I wish someone else was here to see it, but that might ruin the weird hilariousness of it all.

Hot air balloon ride tomorrow and then I fly to Istanbul to catch my morning flight. Cappadocia is like visiting Tatooine, and I am so glad I saw it. And now I want to leave.

Stephanie, a Fathom contributing editor, is an actor, activist, and chronic wanderer. You can follow her at @marchstephanie on Twitter and Instagram. She travels for the sheer animal pleasure of seeing something new.

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