Turkish delights
The unique landscape of Cappadocia.
Pepper Teehankee on a Leica C Digital Camera

Turkish delights

THE PEPPER MILL - Pepper Teehankee (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2020 - 12:00am

I recently traveled to Turkey with the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) and I got to explore this wonderful country that I truly fell in love with.

Our discovery of Turkey continued to Pamukkale (or “cotton castle” in Turkish) in the city of Denizli. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its calcium-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a hillside. Its ruins include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis filled with sarcophagi that stretches for a few kilometers. Here, one may also opt to swim in the pool where Cleopatra reportedly swam in. Also worth seeing is the nearby ancient Roman spa city of Hierapolis.

We then took the long journey eastward to Cappadocia. On our way there, we passed by the quaint city of Konya, the seventh most populous city in Turkey. Almost everything here was cheaper compared to Istanbul from Turkish delights, pistachio cotton candy and apple tea to pomegranate halva. Also in the city is the Mevlana Museum, where one can find the tomb of Persian poet, theologian and Sufi mystic Hazreti Mevlana, also known as Rumi. In the museum is a showcase of treasures of Turkey like ancient prayer rugs and consecrated shirts. I had time to shop and found a unique Turkish souvenir I’ve been looking for — onyx apples. I also tried the Turkish doner there.

From Konya, we traveled to the town of Sultanhani for the caravanserai, a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. The Sultanhani caravanserai, built in 1229, is one of the most significant tourist attractions in central Anatolia, also the largest and best-preserved Seljuk caravanserai in Turkey.

Captivating Cappadocia 

After a long journey, we finally got to Cappadocia, which is known for its hot-air balloon experience  at sunrise. (Unfortunately, due to strong winds, all hot-air balloon rides scheduled for the next morning were cancelled.)

Cappadocia produces some of the most beautiful carpets and intricately designed ceramics so the group checked them out the next morning.

In the unique landscape of Cappadocia, one can find caves and stone houses converted to hotels. Its government health restrictions no longer allow residents to live in these caves and houses for long term but it was said that it’s safe to convert them into hotels for short-term stays.

Also in Cappadocia is a popular hiking trail called Pigeon Valley, which stretches from Göreme to Uchisar. It was named as such because of the countless manmade pigeon houses that were carved into the soft volcanic tuff.

We also visited the Goreme Open-Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose rock-cut churches dating from 10th to 12th centuries bear stunning and well-preserved frescoes; and the Kaymakli Underground City, the largest underground city in Cappadocia. (Exploring Kaymakli is not advisable for the claustrophobic.)

In Avanos, a town known for its pottery, we tried the popular Anatolian specialty called testi kebabi. The must-try dish was prepared in a jug or a clay pot sealed with dough and left to simmer in the oven for hours. Once cooked, the pot was cracked and then discarded. I chose veal (other options were lamb or chicken) with onions, garlic, butter and thyme.

The next morning, the hot-air balloon activity was still suspended in Cappadocia so some people in our group went on a 4x4 jeep ride around Pigeon Valley while others went to Katpatuka Mud Cave to bathe in mud with reported health and beauty benefits. I enjoyed my time shopping and eating Turkish doner.

During our dinner before heading to the airport, the PTAA board of directors gave a token of appreciation to Turkish Airlines representatives that were with us in the trip for the airline’s continuous support with the association’s projects.

We then flew from Cappadocia to Istanbul for our connecting Turkish Airlines flight to Manila. I was in awe as to how big the new Istanbul airport is! The Turkish Airlines lounge is an oasis I did not want to leave. It has various food stations, free massage, a movie theater and a whole selection of mezze and other Turkish food like manti, a delicious tiny ravioli filled with beef and topped with garlic yoghurt, paprika butter dressing and spiced olive oil.

Our flight back to Manila was enjoyable with a “candlelit” dinner above the clouds, and a snack bar that offered cheese sandwiches and dried fruits.

This was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had. I fell in love with Turkey and it is now one of my favorite destinations ever. When I go back, I will catch that elusive hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia.


(To check PTAA member agencies  and to inquire on its Turkish package tours, visit ptaa.org.ph. These Turkish tours can be tailor made to your preferred touring pace and hotels.)

(Turkish Airlines has daily round-trip direct flights between Manila and Istanbul. For more information, call 8894-5416 or 8864-0600, e-mail manilasales@thy.com and ticketing@thy.com.ph,  or visit www.turkishairlines.com.)

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