28 April 2011

A modern stone-age family [Turkey Part III]

I arrived in the city of Goreme fairly early. I don't remember exactly what time as I had travelled about 1000kms in the previous 24 hours... But it was definitely early! Thankfully I was able to check into the hostel, so I had a shower, chilled out for a couple of hours and recharged.

Cappadokia generously spreads out before visitors an extraordinary and lavish bouquet of natural wonders exceeding their wildest imagination and elegantly graced with works by the hand of man... or so my brochure says. It felt more like stepping out on to the set of the Flinstones. I would not have been surprised if a few dinosaurs wandered on by. Rather than trying to explain, I think I will just show you...

See what I mean? Crazy, right? These rock formations are like nothing I have ever seen. They were formed by the material deposited after several volcanic eruptions. Over time the rivers, wind and rain have slowly eroded the rock away to form these ... things. The most cool part is that people back in the day decided that it would be pretty sweet to live in them. So they dug them out and moved on in. Most of the above photos were taken at Goreme open air museum, which I definitely recommend visiting. This area was actually 'built' (I guess I mean carved out) by early Christians, and the open air museum is full of churches. Some are really impressive - with vaulted ceilings, pilars and intricate frescos.

Not only is there action above ground level, there is a whole lot going on down below. There are whole cities that were built underground. The main reason was for protection from attacking enemies. I visited Kaymakli - the largest and deepest of all the 100 (not kidding!) or so underground cities. It has 8 levels and the deepest point is about 55m below ground level. They had everything down there - kitchen, living area, storage areas, places to keep animals, even a winery! ... (Can't go too long without getting on the chop). They have only excavated 10% of Kaymakli, but it was huge! Apparently tens of thousands of people could live down there for up to 6 months.

So from below to above, I visited Uchisar, home to the highest point in Cappadokia. There is a massive castle, but this is a castle like nothing you have ever seen. Again, I am no good with descriptions, just check the photos out. From the castle you have a spectacular view over the surrounding area, so definately worth a visit.

The area of Cappadokia is full of different natural 'wonders'. To add one more - the Ihlara Valley is just plain beautiful. A massive canyon with vertical rock faces plunge 100m down to the green valley floor, where you can find a nice stream, plenty of wildlife, trees... and blackberries! I hiked four kilometres along the valley floor; very calm, quiet and relaxing. Again, people have dug into the sides of the canyons and built all sorts of houses and churches, all linked by tunnels and passage ways.

The final thing worth mentioning is Agzibarahan Kervonsaray, a massive monestry built into the side of a hill. Our guide strongly suggested we did not try to climb to the top... so what did we do? But our efforts were thwarted - the path up is ridiculous - near vertical, slippery stairs in a pitch black tunnel... I valued my life too much to really try.

Most of these places were covered doing the "Green Tour". A lot of companies run exactly the same route, called exactly the same thing, so shop around. I got it for 50 Turkish Lira only because I chatted to one guy for ages and made friends. Everyone else was charged either 60 or 70. Cappadokia is quite widely dispersed, so if you are short on time I would recommend taking the tour, even though I am not really a fan of group tours. The first day I arrived I tried bussing around and found it quite difficult - you are tied to a bus timetable, and most of the buses do not run very frequently. There is also a limited number of routes - meaning travelling from A to B will often meaning going through another town and transferring bus. If you have a lot of time it isn't a problem... But we also had a very nice guide who gave us a lot of information about what we were seeing which was really cool.

I based myself in Goreme, which in itself is crazy awesome! The town is literally full of hotels and hostels, but it also full of awesome rock formations. I stayed in a freakin' cave, how cool is that? And being off season it was cheap; I paid 14TL/night, including breakfast. Yes, being a cave the facilities are very basic, but try it out for a night or two (I am sure the novelty would wear off pretty quick). If planning on visiting - stay in Goreme. You could easily spend half a day just walking around the town itself - it is literally packed with interesting (weird) rock formations. The only bad thing I have to say is that it has been COLD! Like, winter cold. I had to dig my jacket out after banishing it to the bottom of my bag in Greece. Apparently it is very unseasonable; just for me :/

I am currently on an overnight bus from Goreme to Istanbul. In the last couple of hours I have already met some crazy Iranian dudes at one stop (they would not leave me alone!), witnessed a guy locking someone else down in the baggage department, who smiled and waved at me while the door closed, and had a baby screaming in my ear. It is going to be an interesting trip... When I finally get to Istanbul I will meet up with my friends Ben, Sarah and Buck. The following day we will make our way out to Gallipoli for the Anzac day services. I hope to catch up with a few other friends from London while there too, so I am really looking forward to seeing some friendly faces.


  1. You stayed in a cave??? That is so freaking amazing! I would totally do that. And I read about this formations back in my Geology class and how the caves are pockets in the lava.... kind of. It's pretty amazing to think how long it takes to form that, ya know? Aren't you glad you made this little side trip?? :)

  2. I am happy to hear that you had a great time in Cappadocia!!! Yes, I am sooooo happy that you got great impression from there!!!
    You said it was like Flintstones, and to me it was an another universe :)

    Turkey is not so bad, right? :))) turkish people always say that japanese always goes to Cappadocia (instead of going to seaside), but it's definitely worth visiting, right? :D


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