Top 10 Amazing Places on Earth : Turkey

I felt like an astronaut on another planet.

Ok, I’m the first to admit it. I’ve been super spoiled. I’ve traveled everywhere and there’s not a day that I don’t reminisce and recognize how lucky I am. Here are some of the most amazing places I’ve visited (in no particular order):

1. Cappadocia, Turkey

One of the blessings of going to an art college was that they offered painting courses all over the World. I spent the summer of my freshman year painting on the Greek Isles, the summer of my junior year painting on the beaches of Sorrento, Italy, and the summer of my senior year sketching the ancient ruins of Turkey. We were stationed in Istanbul for most of the time, but then traveled down the Almalfi coast. On our one day off I decided I needed to go to Cappadocia.

I had heard whispers of that magical, alien landscape and was dying to see it, even though it was a 12 hour bus drive from Istanbul (on the Baghdad express line!). With my roommate, we boarded a bus at 10pm on a Wednesday night. Before leaving, however, the bus driver had to rearrange all of our seats to make sure that us tempting, single women were not sitting next to a vulnerable, single man. I knew I needed to get some sleep on the long ride, but they played a loud action movie on repeat for the entire time. Imagine heading toward Iraq with the soundtrack of machine guns and screaming in the background!

Another peculiar ritual they have on their buses is that they serve hot tea, and hand sanitizer every hour. So even if you were finally able to fall asleep, the bus attendant would nudge you awake, squirt your hands with purell, and then pass you a boiling cup of tea, if she didn’t spill most of it on you. And the happened every hour!

These narrow rock mountains were everywhere.

We arrived in Cappadocia at 11am Thursday morning. The valley of Cappadocia was filled with soft volcanic ash a really long time ago. Over time wind, water, and other elements have whittled away the soft stone and left these narrow, twisted mountain peaks, with rocks that are perfectly balanced on top (naturally). I’m sorry I forgot to  take pictures of the balancing rocks, but just believe me they were awesome! It looks like something Dr. Suess would create.

There are also ancient caves in these mountains, and almost every major army has lived in these caves, from the Hittites, to Alexander the Great’s army,  to the Ottoman Empire. I walked around with my mouth open the entire time. We had an amazing lunch of hummus and homemade pitas, walked around some more, and then boarded another bloody bus to get back in time for our Friday morning class. And to get another fix of Purell. Definitely worth it!

You'll see these evil eye medallions everywhere.

If you travel to Turkey don’t miss Cappadocia. Stay for 2 days, and make sure to make a reservation for a hot air balloon ride. People often think of traveling to Greece or Italy to see ancient ruins, but Turkey has more ancient ruins than both countries combined. It’s a country of profound natural beauty and fascinating architecture that illustrates the changing hand of power from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, to the current secular state. If you love history, exotic food,beaches, hiking, culture, or shopping in a giant bizarre, Turkey’s a must see!