The overnight bus was not particularly comfortable but I managed to sleep quite a bit. We drove through the snow and cold (quite the change from Istanbul) to the middle of Turkey and finally arrived in Goreme, a small town in the middle of the Cappadocia region at around 10am. Our hostel arranged for us to be picked up and upon arrival informed us that we had been upgraded to a private room – actually a cave room carved out of the rock! It was really nice and we immediately passed out for a couple hours. When we woke up we headed out to explore and found (with some difficulties and much help from the locals) the Goreme Open Air Museum – an amazing old religious community that’s been carved out of the soft rock of fairy chimneys. It was pretty incredible to think of people living in these buildings! We decided to try to walk to Cavusin, a recommendation of the hostel owner but by the time we got half way there it was getting dark so we turned back. The beautiful coat-not-needed weather we experienced during the day quickly disappeared at night as it dropped to -3 and cold we went into a restaurant where the owner started about three fires in the place to try to warm us up. One was right behind me, which I very much appreciated! We had delicious lentil soup (heart lentils!) kebab of various types – pretty tasty! We walked back to our hostel and ran into the cutest puppy ever (again) that we would have stolen except that we found its owner just in the nick of time!
The next day we signed up for a tour of the Cappadocia area that we couldn’t visit on our own – turned out to be a great value and an amazing day! First we collected all the members of our little group (12 in total) and drove to one of the highest points around the town, an area called the Goreme Panorama because of its spectacular views over the valley. Photos don’t do it justice, but you can see for yourself! Then we drove about forty minutes to reach Derinkuyu underground city – the deepest in the region reaching eight stories below ground. These structures were likely never intended for permanent occupation, but were fortified areas for the local people to hide in during raids and attacks. The city is highly complex in order to confuse anyone unfamiliar with its layout and has very small corridors to prevent easy movement of anyone carrying weapons. There were about 600 entrances to the city, many located within individual homes so people had easy escape routes. It’s not a place for the claustrophobic, but very cool.
Next we drove to Ihlara Valley, the deepest cut valley in Anatolia where there are the ruins of almost 100 cave churches. It’s thought that at one point 80 000 people lived in the valley, and everywhere you look there are openings cut high up in the caves. We walked about four kilometres along the beautiful river and stopped in at one of the old cave churches (The Church of St George) to see the very well preserved old frescos. After lunch where we made friends with an Australian doctor who was on our tour, we drove a little ways to Selime Monastery.
The monastery was carved out of the rock by monks in the 13th century and is an incredible place to scramble around an explore (so long as you’re not afraid of heights). It has one of the largest churches in the area, a two story cathedral as well as extensive kitchens, but unfortunately most of the old frescos have worn away.
The next day we decided to walk to Cavusin again, this time with more success. However, as we set out along the highway accidental eye contact made us a friend – a very cute black and white dog that decided to accompany us the entire four kilometre walk, acting as our guide dog and making us worry when he chased and barked at speeding cars. In Cavusin we stumbled across this teeny restaurant with two men sitting outside (the owners) who called for us to come and have tea. Hoping to ditch our doggy companion, we agreed, and were brought apple tea. One of the men offered to take us to the church of St. John the Baptist, the ruins of an old and mostly forgotten church on top of the hill. The church was built in the 5th century and it is the biggest cave church of Cappadocia. Unfortunately an earthquake in Cavusin in the 1970s made the church hard to get to and drove away tourism, although the town is hoping it’ll pick up again in the next few seasons. We were lucky he took us, because it is quite tricky and dangerous clambering around the rock structures, but our guide knew all the best and safest ways.
When we got back we were pushed into staying for lunch which we were not allowed to pay for, and the other man played music for us and tried to get us to show him our musical skills (of which there are none). We were feeling like we should get going, so we said we were going to head to Rose Valley to see the fairy chimneys. Unfortunately it would prove harder than that to escape, as they said that they would come with us and proceeded to shut down their shop! We again tried to pay them for being our tour guides, but the absolutely refused to take the money. They walked us to the valley, which was incredible, but I began feeling a little uncomfortable. My feeling was confirmed when one of the men (who were much much older) started making inappropriate comments and getting touchy. We got out of there very quickly after that! Our bus was later that night, so we just went back to our hostel and packed before grabbing a quick dinner (Turkish ravioli) and getting on our bus to Selcuk.