A few months ago Brandon Fralic emailed from his cave room in Cappadocia to say he had scored a volunteer position we had mentioned on our other site, the Jobs Abroad Bulletin. We told him how the hotel cat gets into his room and, in exchange, he tells us more about his job:
“This morning I awoke to the most incredible sight: hot air balloons soaring over Göreme at sunrise.”
These were the first words from Cappadocia to reach my readers back home. In September 2011 I quit my office job in Bellingham, WA to travel. One month later I found myself blogging from a WiFi-equipped cave in Cappadocia, Turkey.
I never planned on going to Turkey. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about the country before traveling there. Unsatisfied with the 9-5 routine, one day I decided to start hunting for an adventure. Lots of possibilities turned up – teaching abroad, volunteering here and there. It was overwhelming. I stumbled upon the Jobs Abroad Bulletin and was immediately hooked by their “Volunteer Work in Cappadocia” posting. The region’s landscape looked so surreal and enchanting that I just had to go.
I contacted Dr. Andus Emge, owner of the Fairy Chimney Inn in Cappadocia’s hub town, Göreme. We exchanged emails for a few weeks, sorting out details and getting a feel for one another. When Andus invited me to volunteer at his wonderful little B&B I couldn’t resist. And so I went.
Arriving rather unexpectedly one evening during dinner, I was welcomed by the family and staff. Andus runs the Fairy Chimney Inn with his Turkish wife, Gulcan, and her brother Unal. They each bring something unique to the table and together make quite the team. Andus is a cultural anthropologist, Gulcan a fantastic cook, and Unal ties it all together with great guest service.
That evening Andus led me up to the rooftop of his cave hotel for an introduction. The history is unbelievable. Fairy Chimney Inn’s caves used to be part of a 1500 year-old Byzantine cave monastery. They were later used as a dwelling place by locals, and eventually purchased by Andus and turned into a B&B. Now there are ten modern, comfortable cave-rooms with WiFi access and heated floors. These are not dark, damp caves, but rather spacious, dry, and well-lit rooms. A delicate balance between modern functionality and traditional Turkish lifestyle is achieved here, seemingly effortlessly.
As a volunteer I had several responsibilities. First and foremost: wake up every day at the crack of dawn and prepare breakfast! Turkish breakfast consists of a variety of veggies, olives, cheeses, jams, eggs, and an endless supply of bread and tea. Here’s an excerpt from my blog, written during my first week as a volunteer:
As my hosts have mentioned many times, life in Turkey is ‘easy’. Especially here in Cappadocia, away from the bustling city centers of Istanbul and Ankara, the pace of life is slow and relaxed. Just the way I like it.
My job title is “volunteer” and I do everything and anything necessary. At breakfast I prepare and clean; at dinner I am a server. In the afternoon I might help out with techie things (there are Macs, iPhones, and iPads everywhere) or go exploring with guests. The other day I helped Unal set up email and download some apps on his iPhone. He was quite excited to use Google Translate and receive his Yahoo mail.
We serve breakfast at roughly 8am each day. I go down around 7, unload the dishwasher, set the tables, put out some food, then chill for a couple hours while our guests meander through the brunch buffet. After eating with the other staff and cleaning up, I am free for the afternoon until dinner time.
Overall, I typically worked 3-4 hours per day in exchange for delicious food and an authentic cave room. One of my favorite daytime activities was playing tour guide for our guests. Cappadocia’s surreal, moonlike landscape is the perfect playground for curious visitors. There are underground cities to explore, hot air balloon rides, and gorgeous valleys to hike through. Not to mention the region’s fascinating history…
My experience was an unforgettable one. The people, landscape, history, and of course the food will stick with me forever. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Cappadocia, you absolutely must take it. Be sure to stop by the Fairy Chimney Inn and wish them my best!
After Cappadocia Brandon travelled around western Turkey, then up to Berlin for a week. He is currently looking forward to his next adventure – possibly South Korea – and plans to return to the Fairy Chimney this summer. He blogs at bfralic.blogspot.com.