Day 109-110: Goreme, Cappadoccia

17 Sep

This is going to be relatively short on words, as I’m at a loss to find the best way to describe Cappadocia.

We’re blown away by the myriad dwellings carved into the soft tufa rock on the hillsides, some of them crumbling, some inhabited by locals, others tarted up as tourist accommodation ranging from budget to boutique. At times there’s a sense of stepping into a different era, as you stroll past men gathered around a game of rummikub, sipping tea from small glass cups. But in the next step, you’re right in the thick of tourist town, with souvenirs, taxi rides, restaurant menus and excursions being pitched at you from all directions.

Landscape

The entrance to “Love Valley” – phallic much?

We spent yesterday visiting a few key attractions in the area – the Goreme Open Air Museum, the Dervent Valley, the underground city at Kaymakli and the historic hillside castle at Uchisar.

The Open Air Museum is famous for the ancient churches carved into the rock and preserved over centuries. It’s a monastic complex, with most of the churches dating back to the 10th-12th centuries. Some feature red ochre painted directly on to the walls, in a primitive style, while others are decorated with frescoes. In most, taking photos is prohibited, so here’s an image courtesy of google:

Goreme

And here are some we took:

Overview

Nunnery

Hillside

Hillside detail

Entrance-way

Motifs

Inside a 10th century church

Monks’ dining room

Fresco

However, it is over-run by tourists, and sometimes it’s hard to take in the view as you’re shunted around by swathes of tour groups ticking sites off their lists and people trying to sell you assorted tat. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we too are tourists, no better than any other we encounter. After spending so long in places deemed to be ‘adventurous’ or ‘intrepid’, it’s odd to now be in a part of the world where people can make an easy two or three week vacation. No wonder we get some odd looks sometimes – we’re shaggy, dressed in decidedly non-resort clothing, and often wearing motorcycle boots as we visit the attractions.

After a couple of hours, we headed across the road, where there’s lots of ‘fairy chimneys’ just sitting there. You can wander through the area and climb through the spaces. I’m a bit chicken about stuff like that (small spaces where there’s potential for the roof to crumble down and all that…), so Igor did most of the exploring.

In the afternoon, we took a 40km ride to the underground city at Kaymakli. Given my previous disclosure about my dislike of small spaces, and especially those underground, this was a little scary for me, but I did it anyway. Underneath the town, there’s a network of tunnels connecting rooms inhabited by people taking refuge from invading hordes.

Kaymakli is eight stories deep, but only the top four are open to tourists. You can see cellars, kitchens, the stable, and living spaces. The tunnels are very narrow and short – we’ve been told that they were designed this way to make it difficult for invading Romans, as they tended to travel in a large group and it was easier to pick them off as they came through the tunnels one at a time. Many of the tunnels have large discs or millstones that were used to shut the areas off from invaders. It’s pretty fascinating Indiana Jones kinda stuff.

Underground rooms

Living space

Tunnel

Stone door

Another tunnel

We ended our sightseeing day by watching the sun set over the Roman-era castle at Uchisar, with a panoramic view over the entire region. Nowadays, most of the rooms of the castle are used for collecting pigeon poop, which is used as fertiliser by local farmers.

Castle at Uchisar

Cave houses

Looking out

Sunset #1

Sunset # 2

Minaret

Today is a rest day. We had to move hotels, because the one we were staying at was fully booked for tonight. It’s okay, there’s about 200 to choose from in the area, so within minutes we’d found a bed. This is the view from the terrace outside our cave-room.

We’re contemplating going to see a Whirling Dervish ceremony tonight. It sounds intriguing, but like everything here, there’s a tourist price associated with it. Likewise, we had almost talked ourselves into taking an early morning hot air balloon ride, but at 150 Euro each, it’s out of our budget. We recognise that it’s not possible for us to see and do everything on a trip like this, and we’re okay with that. We figure we’re seeing and experiencing a lot more than most anyway, and that’s enough for us.

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2 Responses to “Day 109-110: Goreme, Cappadoccia”

  1. Judi September 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Amazing. A bit like Hobbiton gone wrong…… well done you for overcoming that fear and doing it anyway.

  2. Rob September 20, 2013 at 4:55 am #

    After some hideuous accidents with Hot Air balloons I do not think missing that experience would have given you better views! Its all in the eye of the beholder and what you have continued to share with us is riveting and like a balloon ride I bet!
    Watch thoise crazy turks on the Road! For me they are the worst in the world and the suystems do not help, red, amber, green to green, amber, red, means: stop, go, and go to go, go and stop! No in betweens!!!!!!!! its develish

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