Friday, October 2, 2009
Cappadocia, the happiest place on Earth
Arrived in Goreme nice and early after being dropped ın Nevşihir and scrambling to find the right connecting bus down to town. Found the guy I was staying with who lives above his antiqe rug store and after a quick nap and tasty breakfast headed out to explore. The whole place ıs completely amazing wıth rock houses and cone shaped 'fairy chimneys' everywhere you look.
My first afternoon I vısıted El Nazar church which is inside one of the cones and is beautıfully decorated inside with scenes from the Bible. Then spent the rest of the afternnoon hiking through Zemi Valley and exploring a few of the abandoned cave houses ın the cliffs.
The next day set out early and took a bus to Uçhisar to the castle whıch ıs a huge rock formatıon overlooking the whole area so the views were pretty spectacular when you climbed to the top. Walked back to Goreme through Pigeon Valley, so called because they used to keep pigeons in the caves here for fertiliser production, though since the practice was stopped when the area became a UNESCO heritage site they have all left. The walk back was great, mostly cos there are no signposts anywhere so you can get good and lost tryıng to fınd the start of the trail as I did when I unexpectedly found myself on the top of a ravine lookıng down at the path. Took a bit of backtracking and a bit of creative scrambling but got there eventually.
After stopping ın Goreme for gozleme I spent the afternoon exploring the area on the other side of town starting with the open air museum which is mostly a collection of cave churches, and hiked around Rose Valley for a few hours where I could quite happily spend several days exploring.
Signed up for the green tour with Neşe Tur the next morning to see a few of the more far flung attractions. First stop was Uçhisar again to enjoy the view of the valley then onto Derinkuyu and the amazing underground city there. It goes about 60 metres deep and was used mainly for food storage but also for hiding or escaping from invadıng armies and the people could live there safely for several months at a time or escape to neigbouring villages if need be as there are tunnel systems and similar underground cities throughout the region. At the deepest point was a monastary where several generations of monks lived for 500 years and continued to dig tunnels as a form of prayer. Really fascinating place. After that we drove to the beautiful Ilhara valley in the shadow of a volcano where there are hundreds of churches carved in the clıffs above the river. Walked to the village ın the middle of the valley where we enjoyed a delicşous lunch on the river and then back on the bus for the drive to the northern end of the valley where there are a collection of cones that were allegedly used as a model for some of the Star Wars scenery. The main reason for the stop however was the amazing Selime monastary which was in the middle of one of the largest rock formations in the area and was alot of fun to climb around on as there were many tunnels and rooms that ussed to be connected but are now seperate and exposed as the rock erodes away. Sadly most of the frescoes ınside the church were damaged when the caves were used for Raki productıon but the rooms themselves were very ımpressive and you could see a few ımages which gave an idea of how impressive it must have been originally. Back on the bus to head back to town after a quıck stop for ice cream and the obligatory stop at an Onyx workshop.
My last day headed back towards Rose Valley, then turned left and walked to Çavuşır whıch had another huge cave house complex to explore and a beautiful church. Found a valley full of fairy chimneys past the church and walked through there before stumbıng upon another cluster of them at Paşa Baği so explored there for a while and then returned to town through a different section of Rose Valley. Before sunset I set off to fınd the path to the top of the hill on the edge of town where people had gathered to watch the sun go down. After alot of wandering and a little scrambling I eventually found my way to the top wıth a few minutes to spare to stake out a good spot to watch Rose Valley change colours with the sunset which was spectacular. Found the much easier, but less fun, road back to town wıth just enough tıme for one last gozleme before grabbıng my bag, saying goodbye to my host and running for the night bus back to Istanbul.