Fwd: Cappadocia, Centrald Anatolia, Turkey.
Jim drove all day until we reached Cappadocia and the village of Goreme in the early evening. The hotel we had booked a few nights before was called the Stone House Cave Hotel and it was truly lovely with stunning views. There were seats on the balconies for you to be able to sit and enjoy the view. The rock cut monasteries light up at night and the whole place took on a magical sight. We quickly booked the day tour for the next day as we realised Turkey is a very big place and the amount of distance the tour was going to cover was more than we would have done in a day with a guide explaining everything the history to us.
It was indeed a good choice and our lady guide duly picked us up at 9.30 and off we were visiting the first panoramic view within five minutes. Cappadocia was formed by erupting volcanoes around 30 million years ago which covered the region with ash. The ash solidified into an easily eroded material called tuff and in places with layers of hard volcanic rock. Over time the tuff has worn away creating distinctive formations including the capped cone “fairy chimneys”.
The Goreme valley holds the greatest concentration of rock cut chapels and monasteries in Cappadocia. From the 9th century onwards the valleys 30 or more churches were built out of the soft volcanic tuff. Many of the churches feature Byzantine frescoes depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament with pictures particularly of the life of Christ and the saints. The cultural importance of the valley has been recognized by the Turkish government and they have restored and preserved many of the caves. UNESCO has declared the Goreme Valley a World Heritage site. During a 2006 excavation of tombs human skeletons were found.
Our tour took us to the Derinkuyu underground city where up to 10,000 people would hide from their enemies. They would stay underground until it was safe to return to the surface. The underground caves would stretch for miles and would be joined by narrow tunnels to other underground cities many miles away. Derinkuyu is thought to be one of 36 cities in the Cappadocia region but very few have been excavated.
Before lunch we visited the Ihlara Valley where we climbed down the 300 steps and walked along the valley by the River Melindiz which winds along the canyon floor. This was another hiding place for people from their enemies. The church hidden by the tree we visited still had frescoes on the interior walls unfortunately only in a fair condition but good enough to follow the story they told. The scenery around the valley is beautiful and very dramatic. You can imagine people hiding in the caves around the walls of the cliffs. Luckily we stopped for lunch at Belisirma and our coach driver picked us up from the restaurant area saving us the walk back up the steps.
Another stop for a panoramic view at Yaprakhisar before visiting the Selime monastery where the first Star Wars movie was filmed among the caves and we climbed up to go in the monastery, kitchens and tombs. Afterwards we went on to Pigeon Valley where we witnessed even more areas where the people use to keep pigeons in the cliffs because they collected the pigeon droppings for fertilizer to grow their vegetables.
The last stop was the onyx demonstration which was very interesting and then you are walked through into their beautiful shop full of jewellery. Beautifully designed items and I could have bought so much but the guys in the shop kept pestering you and not letting you look so we did leave empty handed as it was so annoying probably to Jim’s relief.
Once we returned to our hotel the manager took us to a wine merchants shop where we purchased local wine. After 4 small glasses they all tasted wonderful!