We have now been on the road for 235 days. That’s a long time to be away from your own bed, your own kitchen, your own bathroom. Personally, I love the nomadic life, but perhaps that’s because I’m the one that bears the bulk of the responsibility for maintaining our domicile back in Atlanta. To me that bunch of rooms, while comfortable and lovely, represent a lot of work; to the rest of the family they represent home.
We’ve been surprised to discover that home, while thousands of miles away, can also be found on the road. There are certain places we’ve stayed that just feel right, like we belong. For the most part they have been backpackers’ hostels and lodges, places lacking in luxury but oozing in friendship and familiarity. The kids have perhaps never been happier than they were in Capetown, playing with Cheese the goat, watching the Cricket World Cup and swapping stories with fellow travelers, and sleeping in a tent at SaltyCrax. They still enjoy luxury, and a healthy dose of Sheraton (aaaaahhhhhhh) is an Andrus necessity, but big hotels afford a privacy that isolates us from people and the cultures we are trying to immerse ourselves in. Imagine our delight then, when in Cappadocia, we found a place that offered camaraderie and comfort, informality and luxury, and to top it all off, was in a cave!
While in Istanbul, I told Tom a few nights in a cave hotel could be a highlight of our time in Turkey, but he was skeptical. He envisioned cheesy, modern facilities swamped by tour busses, but my instincts told me otherwise. Two different sources had tipped me off to a hotel in Urgup that was not just a place but an experience. Though the price was higher than our normal budget, for once I was willing to splurge. We took a two day tour that included one night in a different hotel, which was adequate, but when we made our way across town to the Esbelli Evi, we knew that we had found our place.
Softspoken owner, Suha Ersoz, welcomed us warmly and showed us a vacant suite that was a vision of heaven. Soft yellow stone walls flanked by warm wooden ceilings, wrought iron beds wrapped in fluffy white pillows and duvets, a glistening antique refrigerator, elegant yet understated Turkish kilims lining gently creaking hardwood floors, and fountain showerheads adorning two gorgeous travertine bathrooms. The suite was way out of range but Suha explained that he had two adjoining rooms that would be available the following day. When he quoted the price for each, we explained that we could probably fit into one if he would allow us to. Instead, he offered us both rooms for the price of one. Our love affair with the Esbelli Evi had begun.
When we arrived the next evening after our tour, we wandered the building, which is actually a group of buildings, and were dazzled by what we found. The kids didn’t make it beyond the rooms, where Suha had installed a wireless network for us, but Tom and I discovered modern washing machines in a stone courtyard, shelves upon shelves of fascinating books and music CDs in the common rooms, breathtaking valley views from the dining terrace, and a fully functional, well-stocked kitchen at our disposal. Never before had we found such a perfect blend of all our basic needs in an affordable yet sumptuous setting.
We decided to stay two nights and would have stayed much longer if not for the need to get to Izmir to pick up Tom’s parents a few days later. For the next 48 hours we nestled into our warm little caves and and emerged only for the most pleasant of diversions–eating, taking a leisurely stroll into the village, and visiting with Suha. Our rooms were toasty in the cool Cappadocian spring and steeped in rich, fascinating history. I asserted my seniority and claimed the deepest cave, the walls of which were originally carved in the 4th or 5th century. As I relaxed on at least 300 thread count sheets, I stared at the walls and wondered who had inhabited them over the past 1500 years.
Backpacks brimming with fresh smelling, sun dried laundry and calm, peaceful smiles adorning our faces, we spent our last afternoon lounging in Esbelli Evi’s most beautiful lounge listening to classical music (Dax and McKane preferred the more modern strains of their iPods). Suha proved himself a family hero when Tom told him the little kids had left an open pen on one of the beds, leaving a 6 inch ink stain on the duvet cover. We were prepared to pay for the damage, but Suha told us not to worry. The kids could do something to repay him when we return next year!
The reality is that for our family, home is not a place, but a feeling that dwells within us and accompanies us wherever we go. This is comforting since we’ve lived in many places and will no doubt live in many more as the years go by. No matter where we go or where we live, however, a few magical places will evoke the feelings we call home–contentment, belonging, comfort, a sense that all will be right in the world–and hold a special place in our hearts. The Esbelli Evi in Urgup, Turkey is one of them.