"Turkey | Travel - Caving in to Luxury in Cappadocia"
BY ANN WALLACE,
Imagine a landscape that appears to belong to another planet; a land where time, wind, water and geological phenomena have formed great stalagmite-like monuments that stand, resembling armies of giants, as far as the eye can see. Then imagine the hand of ancient man hollowing out these soft rock formations and the adjacent cliffs to form hiding places, homes, churches, monasteries, wineries and even cities.
People have been dwelling in the caves of Turkey's Cappadocia region for centuries and now, thanks to the vision of an Istanbul businessman, travellers of today can also experience sleeping in a cave. Sound primitive and uncomfortable? Well, there's nothing primitive or uncomfortable about the Yunak Evleri Hotel in the town of Urgup. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Enter one of the six cave houses that contain a total of 17 rooms and suites and you will be amazed. It is unlikely you have ever seen caves like these: caves — many of them split-level — decorated with Ottoman-style bedsteads and kilim-covered sofas; caves holding antique trunks, chests, writing desks and chairs all fashioned from fine woods; caves with gleaming wooden floors strewn with richly coloured Anatolian carpets.
Need more proof that you will be comfortable? Every cave-room bed has an orthopedic mattress and anti-allergenic goose-feather quilts and pillows.
"Ha!" I think I hear you say. "The catch is — no electricity!" Wrong again! Concealed lights illuminate the cave-wall niches and their Turkish artifacts, while lamps on bedside tables and writing desks cast gentle shadows on the cream-coloured, curved cave walls.
Now perhaps you're thinking that because your room is a cave, it won't have a bathroom? Well, again you're going to be surprised. The bathrooms are gorgeous, with stylish fixtures and the finest smooth marble lining the stone walls. All rooms are en suite with tubs and/or showers, while the Honeymoon Suite and Ottoman Suite offer a Jacuzzi and steam bath respectively. Other amenities in each room include a direct-dial telephone,, hair dryers, a balcony or patio, efficient heating for those who visit during the chilly Anatolian winter and the deluxe rooms also have remote-controlled CD players.
The Yunak Evleri Hotel was the brainchild of an Istanbul restaurateur, Yusuf Gorurgoz, who had always dreamed of creating an elegant, small hotel that would complement the bizarre landscape of Cappadocia. Soon after he started to search the area for a suitable site, Gorurgoz heard of a cliff overlooking Urgup that contained a series of ruined cave houses dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries.
What foresight and vision Gorurgoz must have had when, in 1996, he first surveyed the rubble-fined caves hollowed by hands in ancient times. It was to be almost four years of daily labour by 25 workers, toiling under the watchful eyes and creative hands of restorers and architects, before the restoration was completed.
During that time, 2,500 tractor loads of rubble were removed, but the original shapes of the cave rooms were exactly preserved and every room is different. Then, more than 15,000 old stones were brought to the site to form the walls and terraces where today visitors can relax and enjoy the views.
Each hotel room faces south across a balcony or courtyard with views over the ancient houses of Urgup to the distant hills, while all around stand the weird geological formations that have drawn hiders, seekers and visitors to Cappadocia throughout history.
Adjacent to the cliff that holds the rooms stands a 19th-century Greek mansion. This is the location of the hotel's reception room, a Turkish-style lounge where guests from around the world can meet and relax. The mansion also houses the dining room, where the traditional Turkish breakfast of aromatic fresh bread, eggs from a nearby farm, local cheeses, fruit, yogurt and locally made preserves is served on bone-china plates on white linen tablecloths. Dinners featuring local dishes can also be arranged (for $15 U.S. a person), or guests can request something special such as a barbecue on their terrace or courtyard.
Locals describe Cappadocia as a geological poem, written by wind, water and time. A stay at Yunak Evleri provides the traveller with an excellent base from which to explore this fascinating region, while the hotel itself gives the visitor a glimpse of a unique, traditional past combined with all the luxuries of the present. I doubt you will ever find a better cave in which to lay your head.
The property is located at Yunak Mahallesi, 50400 Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey, Tel: O0 90384 34169 20, Fax: O0 90 384 341 69 24, e-mail: email@example.com, Web site: www.yunak.com.
The hotel is open year-round, but travellers should remember that the winter months are cold, with the region often snow-covered. The best times to go are in April and May, when Cappadocia's apricot trees are in blossom, and September and October when fall colours touch the trees.
Urgup is situated in the heart of Cappadocia, about 35 kilometres from the airport at Kayseri, with regular flights via Turkish Airlines, (www.turkishairlines.com) from Istanbul and Ankara. The Yunak Evleri Hotel can arrange transfers as well as a variety of excursions within Cappadocia.
Special to The Globe and Mail