Travels / Turkey

Turkey: Cappadocia

We woke up after our post-balloon trip nap in time for breakfast (again)! Our hotel had two dining places; either the enclosed dining room or the open-air roof-top terrace. We ate in the dining room (with nice big windows so you still got a good view) and what a good breakfast it was! We were each brought a plate with a variety of fresh fruit, olives, cheese, dried fruit, tomato, cucumber, butter, jam and halva, as well as a basket full of the most amazing bread rolls I have ever had. We were also offered eggs cooked however we liked – omelette, fried, scrambled – so Andre had an omelette.

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After breakfast we headed into the town centre and stopped at a coffee shop for Andre to get a coffee, then headed to the Göreme Open Air Museum on the other side of the town. The Open Air Musem is a complex of monasteries cut into the cliffs and fairy chimneys, giving an example of cave monasteries and churches which are scattered all over Cappadocia.

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Picture of fairy chimneys taken on the walk out of Göreme to the open air museum

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The monasteries and cave cities in the region were used at different points within a 900 year period between the 3rd and 12th centuries, sometimes to hide from persecutors and sometimes just for the hermit lifestyle they provided.

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Andre at the open air museum

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Inside one of the dining rooms – this is a dining table and benches carved out of the rock

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The entrance to one of the churches. You can see where some of the external rock has fallen away, having been weakened by the carving out of rooms inside it.

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All these rooms are visible as parts of the rock have fallen away, like in the church image above, having been weakened by having rooms carved out of them.

We spent a few hours at the museum before deciding to return back to the town centre for a late lunch. We picked a place that had comfy-looking cushions out the front to sit on (they were actually a lot firmer than they looked) and ordered what the menu called an ‘Aussie’ meat pie. We had not had a decent meat pie since we left Australia so were keen to see if this pie stood up to its claim!

It didn’t. As Andre says, it’s like someone has described a meat pie to a Turk who has tried to recreate it without ever having seen one. It was so far off the mark we had to take a picture of it.

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Our very off-the-mark ‘Aussie’ meat pie. It still tasted ok though, and the chips, salad and bread were good!

After lunch we returned to our hotel room to recharge the camera battery and take another nap (we had a lot of sleep to catch up on!) Later in the afternoon we talk a walk up one of the ridges overlooking the town to watch the sunset.

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We found dinner in town and bought a pide (PEE-day) and salad to share between the two of us as we were quite full from lunch. The salad was a bit pathetic – not as big as the picture on the menu had shown – but the pide was good.

The next morning when we woke up we could hear a rather familiar sound out our window… poked our heads out and look at what we saw!

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The view from our window when we woke up!

Not long after breakfast we were collected for a day tour around part of Cappadocia. We had signed up for the ‘Green’ tour. There are three tour routes – Red, Blue and Green – which all the main tour operators follow. A friend from our Anzac tour had recommended the Green tour. The Blue tour only operates in the high season and the Red tour includes places close to and in Göreme, like the Open Air Museum, which you can do yourself.

Our first stop was at a panoramic look-out over Göreme. Here our guide explained how the fairy chimneys have been formed – after a volcanic eruption left a layer of basalt on top of softer sandstone. Water and weather have eroded valleys and sandstone columns, and as the sandstone columns get skinnier the hardier basalt remains in a lump on top. Not all of the fairy chimneys have the basalt tops – some are just strangely-shaped eroded sandstone.

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Panoramic lookout

Our next stop was an underground city, Derinkuyu. It’s the largest underground city in Cappadocia (8 levels which extend to 60m underground and could shelter up to 20,000 people plus livestock) and while it’s not certain when it was built, it’s possible it was extended by Byzantine Christians to be used as a refugee settlement (there is no indication it was used as a permanent settlement).

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Between each floor were rolling stone doors like the one you see here. They could be operated only from one side to close off the lower floors in the case of attack from the surface. Passageways were only wide enough to admit people in single file, making it easier to defend against intruders.

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Underground chapel (if I remember correctly)

After Derinkuyu we stopped for lunch. This was the best provided lunch of any of the tours we took while in Turkey. It started with – as always – lentil soup, followed by your choice of chicken, beef, fish or vegetarian dish – I got chicken shish kebab while Andre had chicken casserole – with side salad and orange slices. Oh, and the ever present basket of bread! (And Turkish bread is always good.)

Then it was off for a walk through the Ihlara Valley, which is actually more of a gorge (or canyon) than valley. It also has churches dug into its walls, one of which we visited.

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Andre towards the top of the gorge

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This was the Church of Daniel, or something similar, and the painting on the back wall depicted Daniel in the lions’ den. You can still see the lions on either side, although Daniel is mostly missing now.

We walked down the valley for a few kilometres, and the climate and vegetation reminded us a bit of Australia. We stopped for a break to buy drinks at a little rustic kiosk part way along, where I got fresh-squeezed orange juice – extremely popular in Turkey. On average a glass of fresh orange juice cost about 3 -5 lira; in very touristy places, or places where one person had a monopoly it could cost 8 or 9 lira; the cheapest we saw it was in a less-touristy spot in Istanbul for 1 lira. I think at this spot we paid about 6 lira.

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The guy squeezing orange juice at our stop along the walk

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The canyon walls

We then headed on to St Katherine’s Monastery, another monastery cut into the weird rock formations of the area. This was quite an interesting one as it didn’t have as many stair cases and instead had paths worn into the rock, like a track up a hill.

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Andre in the general entrance area of the monastery

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Me also in the general entrance area with the kitchens behind me – if I remember correctly!

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I think this was a kitchen

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On our way back to Göreme we stopped at a look out over Pigeon Valley, so named for the ‘boxes’ that have been carved into the rock of the valley walls for pigeons to nest and feed in.

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For dinner we found a little place suggested by our hostess, and we were rather impressed with their blackboard out the front that bragged about their Melbourne-trained barista! We were not terribly hungry and each had a chicken doner kebab sandwich. They were a little on the spicy side which surprised me – none of the doner kebab sandwiches we’d had so far were spicy. We then decided to get dessert – Andre had an affogato and I was surprised to see ice-cream sodas on the menu, so had my first ice-cream soda in a long time!

 

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