2012 Trip #8 - Cappadocia, Turkey

18:15 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

When Paul read to me from the guided horse tour brochure that Cappadocia meant "Land of the Beautiful Horses," I called BS on it. I mean, that had to be a marketing gimmick if I ever heard one, right?

I stand corrected - a few tour guides later and for correctly answering the question of 'what does Cappadocia mean' to win an onyx egg, I have been humbled.

This last weekend, Paul, his parents and I ventured to the land of the beautiful horses.

We stayed in Göreme which is a great starting out point to get around the region. I thought 2.5 days would be enough for exploring, but as our last day wound down, I found myself wishing for more time to explore even more.

 Our "cave" hotel. It really was built into a cave, but most of the times the rooms are built outside of the cave with only certain parts of the hotel inside

 View of the fairy chimneys from our room

 The best way I found to see the most of the city, and perhaps the most frightening, is a hot air balloon ride. If you are not scared of heights, no fears. Even if you are scared of heights (like me), have no fears! I felt fine (almost) the whole time and we had smooth sailing.  We did the one hour tour and floated along some of the valleys, although I wish we could have seen even more.

After a nap, because waking up at 4:30 am is always too early, we set out to explore more of the city. We strolled through Göreme up to the Göreme Open Air Museum. The museum is full of caves that were used a churches, kitchens, living areas and more during the Byzantine period. It is different from many churches you see with frescoes painted on plaster put up on the rocks and the earlier period paintings are sometimes just rudimentary red paintings.
Göreme Open Air Musem
Fresco inside the open air museum

On day 2, we decided to venture outside of Göreme and visited some areas to the south of the city.

First were the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu - the deepest underground city. We went down 8 stories, but there were even more which have since collapsed or are a part of the 90% of the city that aren't available to the public.  Personally, I don't know if I could live in a cave at all, much less for 3 months, so props to them.

People were tiny. Or Paul is large.

This tunnel was something like 4 km long and linked up to another underground city

Next, we trekked through the Ihlara Gorge and visited St. Daniel's Church there. When I say trekk, I mean we really hiked through by the river for 3-4 KM.

According to our guide, this is the second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. According to our research, the Grand Canyon is the second largest canyon and this one does not rank. So, always trust your tour guide.

View from the inside of the St. Daniel's valley located in the gorge

Finally, we ended up at Selime Monastery. According to the guide, the producers of Star Wars wanted to film here, but weren't allowed. I have to say this is my favorite stop of the trip. We were given free reign (or as much as you can have in 25 minutes) to wander around the caves, climb up to rooms that are less frequented and snap away to my hearts desire.

Walking up to Selime Monastery

Church inside the Selime Monastery

On our last day, I wanted to explore the famous Love Valley with the famous fairy chimneys. We started up the steep hike over the hill to get down into the valley and received a ride on the back of the truck of some friendly locals.  After depositing us near a path, we thought we were lucky and happily trotted down the trail. Who knows how many wrong turns, streams, ropes and 2 hours later, we finally came out near where we were supposed to hike. While we missed the magnificent Love Valley, we certainly got our exercise in for the day and still enjoyed some majestic landscape.

 View from the top of the valley

Pretty view of the valley looking up - all those pushes were scratchy.

 Quick History:
- Cappadocia is actually a region, not a city, in central Turkey. It is famous for its unusual rock formations that were created in the region which was triangled between 3 volcanoes and eroded over time to form what they are today.
- It is thought that the earliest settlers founded what is now Kayseri around 2000 BC.
- The region has had quite a few changes in control - first the Hittites, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and finally the Ottomans.
- There is a lot of Christian history in the area - first during the Roman period with Christians hiding from persecution in the caves, then during the Byzantine period. There are churches everywhere as evidence of this.

What to See:
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: hands down the best part of the trip. It can be pricey, but it is worth it to have a reputable operator. Usually your hotel can arrange this for you.
Göreme Open Air Museum: a short walk from the town of Göreme, this is a must see. The Apple Church, Buckle Church and Dark church were some of the best preserved churches. The extra entry for the Dark Church is worth it (no pictures though).
- Zemi (Love) Valley: walk through the fairy chimneys (this is what we tried to do but missed)
- Underground Cities: there are several different underground cities, but these are difficult to reach with public transportation, so look into a tour or car rental options.

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