Cappadocia, Turkey: Details on how to get there, where to stay, what to do
Turkish Airlines is one of the few commercial airlines to fly to Baghdad, so a stop in Turkey on the way home seemed like a natural choice. Also, I had this vague feeling that I wanted to continue exploring the vestiges of the ancient world that had opened up to me in Iraq. Seeing shepherds minding their flocks on a dusty road to Kirkuk, for example, had evoked biblical times. And in Turkey, which had been a refuge for the early Christians, there are still communities that speak the ancient tongue of Aramaic.
Most of all, though, I wanted to go somewhere cool. Literally.
After a bit of Googling, I hit on Cappadocia, the region in central Turkey known for its volcanic rock formations. After a bit more Googling, I found Serinn House, a boutique hotel set into the ashy cliffs of Urgup, with cave rooms outfitted in chic modernist decor.
But as my plane began its descent into the airport in Kayseri after a short flight from Istanbul, I started to panic. From the air, the landscape below had the arid look of the desert I’d just left behind. As a mountain range came into view, I realized that I’d been so busy covering al-Qaeda attacks and troop movements that I had no idea what those mountains even were. Disembarking, I faced lost luggage and a pounding headache from a drop in temperature of about 40 degrees. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision.
All I wanted to do was to sit on a stone terrace somewhere and sip a crisp white wine. I was hot, tired, sweaty and overwhelmed. Had I made a terrible mistake?
My fears were somewhat allayed as the airport shuttle rattled through a Mediterranean landscape of apricot trees and terra cotta houses. After a little more than an hour, the driver took a sharp left turn and climbed a bumpy stone hill, depositing me in front of Serinn House.
Owner Eren Serpen, warm and friendly, opened the carved wood door to greet me, offering me a chilled glass of water and a snack. The hotel — now charming — was a ruin when Serpen bought it in 2004 and hired Istanbul architect Rifat Ergor to design its six rooms.
I declined the snack and went right to my cave. It didn’t disappoint: The raised bed was nestled beneath the arching cave wall, and the room was outfitted with a white Habitat sofa and trendy lamps. I opened the window to let the fresh air in and flopped onto the bed for a nap.
I awoke to dusk and the familiar sound of the muezzin — the Muslim call to prayer from the local mosque — floating through my open window. There was something else, too: divinely cool air. I got out my journal and wrote, “The cool air is like a bomb,” before I realized my mistake, crossed out “bomb” and wrote “balm.”