I have several friends who live in a place called Cappadocia. This is a central Anatolian province characterised by many weird and wonderful structures known locally as ‘Fairy Chimneys’. They are made, as are the surrounding escarpments and caves, from volcanic tufa rock thrown up millions of years ago when Turkey was a land of fire and lava. Over the centuries many people have lived in and then left Cappadocia. The caves and the chimneys have, over that time, been used as houses, dove-cotes, churches, wine cellars and as refuges from many and various invading armies. Now Cappadocia is a national park and is a vital part of the country’s tourist industry. I’ve been there many times and know Cappadocia to be a beautiful, fascinating, mysterious and crazy place.
Just to sum up, in the past I have met men weirdly reminiscent of characters in my Çetin İkmen books (one with a name identical to a character!), I’ve flown in balloons over this weird landscape with a bunch of wildly enthusiastic and very camp boys (and my mum!), danced in the moonlight amongst the chimneys, tried to sleep in a cave with wolves howling outside, listened to otherwise very sensible people talk about fairies and laughed for hours at the often staggered responses of new tourists to the chimneys. Because the thing about the chimneys is that they do indeed look like chimneys but they also look like huge erect penis’s too. It has to be faced and the sooner a ‘newby’ to Cappadocia gets it over with the better. Whenever I’ve arrived by bus, from İstanbul or Ankara, it has usually been in company with a load of other Europeans who, upon seeing the chimneys, don’t know what to do with themselves. They look at the Turks, who are of course completely accustomed to such sights and at me, who is likewise, inured, and they just don’t know how to respond. Some I believe, think that they might be having some sort of psychotic episode. But someone somewhere will eventually laugh and then we’ll all be off. Even otherwise very demure Turkish grandmothers will laugh until they cry as the entire bus explodes in a riot of unspoken ‘nudge, nudge’ gags and ‘Carry on’ style internal innuendo. That said I do remember one very memorable occasion when all the tourists were screaming with laughter when suddenly a very respectable Turkish man got up and said in English, ‘Yes, they do look just like that!’
Like most places, Cappadocia has a dark side. There are wolves in the mountains, the winter snows are heavy and can be deadly and not everyone you meet will want to be your friend. But for me it is one of those places that I can visit again and again and again and never get bored. İstanbul and London are my first loves, but Cappadocia makes me laugh and now that (hopefully) the winter is over and my leg is on the mend I am beginning to dream about being there. I need a good laugh as well as some truly peculiar experiences just to restore my faith in life. Even though it is raining today, I do feel very much as if summer is finally on the way now and I am determined to be hopeful. Last time I was in Cappadocia I danced in the moonlight amongst the chimneys. In the past I’ve witnessed a solar eclipse, climbed out onto the top of a chimney via an ancient monk-built staircase and met a very odd Englishman who wanted to bury himself alive in one of the warrens of caves that were used by the ancients as underground cities. What this time, I wonder? Quad biking Hare Krishna’s? Oh, no done that already.