As this was our second trip to Cappadocia, I already knew many of the local tour companies who all operate pretty standard and similar tours, so I was delighted to find Cappadocia Travel Center offering something a little different.
I had never heard of Cappadocia Travel Center, but a little research revealed that it is a fairly new company, owned by Yasemin, who has considerable experience in the travel industry and particularly, locally, in Cappadocia.
We exchanged several emails as Yasemin ensured our tour would be exactly to our liking, explaining which local markets operate on different days, and allowing us to choose where we would like to do the actual cooking part. We chose to cook in the kitchen of the hotel she is also running – the Buket Hotel in Uchisar, as I’m a sucker for having a look at all the lovely cave hotels.
We did not visit the bedrooms but the public areas were lovely – and any hotel, which is not afraid to allow visitors into their kitchen is commendable, as far as I am concerned! This hotel would certainly be on my shortlist if we visit Cappadocia again.
Anyway back to our tour! Yasemin picked us up from our hotel in Goreme and we headed straight to the local market to buy fresh herbs and vegetables for our cooking class later in the day. It may sound stupid but it was great to actually be able to buy some of the lovely veg we always see in Turkey - so much bigger and tastier than the supermarket stuff we get at home.
Our next stop was at a local farm where we picked our vine leafs, onions and herbs straight from the field, before continuing on to explore some of the local villages, by car and by foot. We stopped for coffee, visited the Ethnographical Museum and my daughters climbed to the top of Ortihisar castle with Yasemin. I opted out of this climb and explored an excellent antique shop just at the foot of the castle instead! Some of the streets we travelled down by car were hair-raising – Yasemin was determined to show us places I would not have dared to drive!
I found that as well as being very knowledgeable about the historical facts, etc that you usually learn from a tour guide, Yasemin was very good at giving us a better insight into daily life, etc. I learned lots about things like farming and daily village life which I did not know despite our previous visit to Cappadocia, and several visits to Turkey.
Now to our cooking class – it’s a good job all the kitchen staff are so good and understanding with our pathetic efforts! First we helped prepare the herbs and veg for the many dishes that were going to be prepared, we could just about manage that! Then we moved outdoors to make some stuffed vegetables – our attempts at rolling vine leaves caused much amusement, despite the fact that we think we’re quite good having made then at home few times! The peppers were easier - and we also stuffed some pumpkin flowers – a very unusual, regional and tasty dish.
It got worse with out attempts to roll out the pasta and make the tiny little manti. Luckily the ladies had made plenty extra! What a great way to spend a day – sitting out on the terrace, in the Turkish sun, on traditional cushions with the low tables, and a drink, preparing - or attempting to prepare - this food!
The chef must have been working much harder than us, as all the dishes we had helped only a little with, were soon presented for our lunch – lentil soup, stuffed vine leaves, pumpkins and peppers, manti and rice pudding – and our okra! It was all so delicious and we ate so much that it was quite an effort to get moving again for our last stop of the day, Goreme Open Air Museum.
We had ran out of time and energy for this “must see” on our previous visit so it worked well for us, and leaving our visit until later in the afternoon meant it was not too busy. We were able to view the various churches and amazingly well preserved frescoes quite easily, with Yasemin giving us just the right amount of time and information.
We shared a drink with our hotel owner and Yasemin to end of a splendid day, on a very unusual “tour,” which I would happily recommend to anyone.