Isn’t this that all (or at least most) moms do when they visit their children? Even if the said children are 30-year old married English teachers. Yep, my momma visited me from Russia and it was wonderful! (Except for when all three of us had to share a hotel room where the bathroom had no door but more on that later). I had been looking forward to her visit ever since we booked her tickets in May and so, on the day of her arrival, I was nervously pacing outside domestic arrivals, worried about mom getting on without English or Turkish, but I underestimated her. She got here all right, along with a suitcase full of presents for us and even our friends. She even brought me a whole electrical steamer!
Upon arrival, she examined my kitchen cabinets (naturally) and gave me my presents, the best of them being an embroidered portrait of Sharon the sausage dog.
We planned for my mom’s visit to coincide with Kurban Bayram, a public holiday, so we had a few days off. We drove to Cappadocia (our 4th time!). Somehow, we took a wrong turn and ended up driving through small town and villages instead of a highway. We are usually pretty chill about getting lost and go with the flow (unless we are in a hurry), so we did the same this time and even stopped at a roadside kiosk for some fresh home-grown grapes and melons. The owner was very happy for us to take pictures and actually insisted that I take a whole bunch of them.
Our go-to hotel, Traveller’s Cave Pension was all booked up, so we tried a new place, Kemer Cave House. That was an …. let’s say, interesting experience. The owner recently acquired the hotel from his parents, had it renovated and opened it only a few weeks before we stayed there. Consequently, there were some issues like the aforementioned bathroom with no door – just a shower curtain, cold showers and freezing rooms. The owner didn’t have any helpers and we spent a very frustrating hour waiting for our breakfast as he painstakingly assembled food trays and brought them up to the second floor terrace. But on the other hand, the owner was nice and we spent a few hours on our first night chatting to him and drinking the home-made wine he offered us and the room looked like something our of the game of thrones and there was a dog at the hotel, named Panda. The dog almost made up for all the inconveniences.
In addition, the hotel’s roof terrace offered a great vantage point for watching the hot air balloons take off and fly, so when we woke up before 6 am (me out of habit, mom out of jet lag), we wrapped up in our ponchos and went up onto the terrace to watch the balloons and the sunrise.
On our first day we visited a city called Urgup, or rather, we drove through Urgup to get to Turasan winery and get a few cases of the excellent local wine. I`ve always been a fan of white wine but have switched to red wine for health reasons and I`m learning to appreciate it and even have a favorite one – a wine made with Turkish grapes called Öküzgözü Boğazkere.
You can also do some wine tasting at the winery but the price is somewhat exorbitant so instead we had lunch at a nearby restaurant and sampled the wine there. It was a wonderful afternoon, sunny and warm, with amazing food, wine, and of course my mom was there!
Lamb in tomato sauce served with eggplant puree. Mouth-wateringly amazing!
Speaking of mouth-watering food, there was this whole lamb being roasted outside Ala Turka restaurant in Goreme. We had lunch there and were told the lamb would be ready in about 5 hours. We walked past it a few times, getting hungrier and hungrier. We went back there in the evening and were told we needed reservations! I was figuring our how to say ‘I don’t need a table or plate. Just give me a piece of that meat and I’ll be on my way in Turkish’ when my mom dragged me away.
And then of course we went souvenir shopping. I think we spent no less than 5 hours trying on bracelets, unrolling bed covers, weighing bowls in our hands and trying to decide if they were worth paying excess baggage fees for. My mom loves all things ceramics, so when we stopped in Avanos, a town famous for its pottery, she fell into a kind of trance and looked around with a stunned expression. It’s a good thing most things there were expensive, or we`d have to charter a flight for all the bowls and vases she bought. I remember being 12 or 13 and going on my first trip abroad to Bulgaria with my mom and my sister (just like this time, daddy stayed behind to work) and dragging a bag full of beautiful Bulgarian pottery on the floor of the airport. 17 years later, we still have some of those bowls and cups left.
Most of these pottery shops had workshops attached where you could watch masters (and their young apprentices) work and quite a few of them were located in caves with extensive underground galleries. I though it was quite cool until I saw something more creepy than cool. This.
Yes, you are reading it right. Hair museum! It was an interesting way to spend 5 lira. We weren’t allowed to take pictures and the guy who showed us around spoke only Turkish, so it wasn’t until later that I fully understood what it was we saw. The museum is housed in a dimly lit underground chamber at the back of a pottery workshop and showroom. The collection consists of 16,000 strands of hair, clipped to a piece of paper with the female owner’s name, and, sometimes, a photo.
According to http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/the-hair-museum-of-avanos.html, “The story goes that the museum was started over 30 years ago, when one of Galip’s friends had to leave Avanos, and he was very sad. To leave him something to remember her by, the woman cut a piece of her hair and gave it to the potter. Since then, the women who visited his place and heard the story gave him a piece of their hair and their complete address. Throughout the years, he has amassed an impressive collection of over 16,000 differently colored locks of hair, from women all around the world. Twice a year, in June and December, the first customer who comes in Chez Galip’s shop is invited down into the Hair Museum to choose ten winners off the walls. These lucky ten will receive an all-expenses-paid week-long vacation in beautiful Cappadocia, where they will get to participate in his pottery workshops, for free. This is the artist’s way to give back to the women that helped him create the unique museum which bring in new customers every day.”
Photo credits: http://www.turkey-in-photos.com/photo/chez-galip-196350.htm
Yes, pretty creepy. When I told my students about this, their first question was, Does it smell bad in there? I don’t think it did, but can’t be too sure because we didn’t spend that long there – it was too weird.
Anyway. Cappadocia. We couldn’t leave without showing mom at least one valley, which Cappadocia is so famous for. Since she isn’t much into hiking, we drove to a plateau overlooking the Love Valley and admired it from atop some cliffs. Guess why it’s called the Love Valley?
Mom and Michael being goofballs For the rest of mom’s visit we walked around Kayseri, did a bit more shopping, watched our favorite movies and of course, mom cooked. She made us a chicken and cabbage stew and borsch – the famous Russian soup with meat, beets, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. At some point, she had all 4 burners on the stove going but she made it look so easy. What can I say, years of practice!
All in all, it was a good visit and it was so good to have my mom here. I think it was a bit weird because our roles were somewhat reversed – back home mom is always in charge and she knows everything and I always ask her for advice, but here, in this foreign country, not speaking the language she was dependent on my to do the shopping and to convey here greetings to my colleagues when she visited me at work as that took a bit of adjusting to. So I was really proud when she walked all the way to my work and found my office after being there only once. She even made herself a little note, with the help of Google Translate, so that she could tell my colleagues about her proud achievement:
Every morning, my grandma demands that we take a selfie (yep, she knows what a selfie is) and send it to her. I usually do it on my way out, in a floor-length mirror in the lobby. It was nice to take one with my mom.
When I said goodbye and hailed a cab to go back to the city, I was all geared up to cry when my friend CeAnn called me and invited me over for some chocolate cupcakes and Grey’s Anatomy both those things really helped. So I can console myself with two things: even though my family is far away, they are there, and we try to find ways to see each other and we are able to speak every day (and send selfies) via Whatsapp. And we have amazing friends here, who are our family, too.