CAPPADOCIA - TURKEY
When Bruce and Lisa came to visit us in Turkey it was a great opportunity to rent a car and take a 2 day road trip, destination Cappadocia, the land of enchanting fairy-chimney rock, cave churches and underground cities. We had a great time getting a glimpse of the stunning southern Turkey coastline, stopping at the Lycian caves in Fethiye and driving through the rural interior of the country.
>>>Lunch stop at Kalkan
We reached Antalyla as dark was approaching and really had a difficult time trying to penetrate the huge castle wall surrounding Old Antalya town with our car. The area is primarily pedestrianized with no streets for vehicle traffic. After circling around many times, we were finally escorted to the hidden guarded gate by a local on a motor bike. From there we drove through a maze of narrow streets asking shopkeepers along the way which way to go. Eventually we reached a great Pension, ready for a cool beverage and some relaxation.
Later we wandered around the streets of the medieval town, converted into a tourist attraction with its alluring shops, restaurants and quaint pensions. Gord managed to join some young boys playing soccer in the street.
The following morning we were able to resume our exploration, shopping, walking under the "broken minaret" and through the bougainvillea lined streets before continuing on our journey to Cappadocia.
Once past Antalya, the highway to Konya consisted of barren steppes but is the heart of Turkey's "bread belt". Roadside stands sold local produce, with major offering of the in-season pomegranates and their by-products. I am guessing that this area is home for tortoises by the sightings of "Turtle Crossing" signs, although we didn't see any. Between Konya and Aksaray, the highway crossed flat grasslands as far as the eye can see with only the occasional tumbleweed. We all took turns napping!
We stopped to visit one of the best preserved camel stops on the silk run. Traders used to gather at these caravanserai built every 50 miles along the trade route, a resting place that provided food and shelter for man and animal. Rooms once served as stables, prayer room, baths, and bedrooms.
The arched entranceway was elaborately carved. Inside the courtyard were displays of old pottery and other implements dating back to days of the Silk Run.
After the rather monotonous drive the last 200 miles before Goreme, we descended into a large valley with its limestone "sand dunes" and strange conical shaped spires, speckled with holes cut into the rock.
We checked into our room at Elifstar Hotel, which was a cave cut into the rock! From our little balcony, the bewitching view of the strange exotic landscape was complimented by the colorful hot air balloons gently floating overhead.
Since our time in Cappadocia was so limited we hired a private guide to show us how to get to as many placed in one day as possible.
Our first stop was the edge of an flat outcrop overlooking the Goreme Valley. Our guide explained how the chimneys were formed
How the rock formations were made:
The Cappadocia region is surrounded by 3 now dormant volcanoes, which 30 million years ago, erupted, covering the area with different layers of easily eroded volcanic ash called 'tuff'" overlain in places by layers of hard volcanic rock. With the passing time, the wind, rain and changing temperatures eroded the tuff to make incredible shapes. "Fairy Chimneys" were created by high projections of tufa, capped by the harder top layer of basalt. The basalt served to shelter the underlying soft tufa from the elements that wore away the stone.
Starting from the top ridge, rock cascades with branching flows of solid tufa, looking like sand dunes, some tinged yellow from a high concentration of sulfur, other's red from iron, while most are white from calcium.
The giant basalt cones, rising up to 40 meters from the ground, are carved with rooms and homes.
Not everyone gets a room with a view
Underground city of Derinkuyu
Although referred to as "cities," the multilevel underground communities of Cappadocia thought to date back to the 2nd century B.C. and having supported up to 20,000 people at once, probably served as temporary shelters during times of danger and religious persecution rather than as permanent homes. The incessant darkness is hardly conducive to life and some of the passageways are little more than crawling spaces that would have been intolerable in long-term situations.
Derinkuyu is the most extensive and impressive of these cities with 9 levels of discreet entrances that give way to elaborate subterranean rabbit warren of air shafts, waste shafts, wells, chimneys and connecting passageways. The upper levels were used for living quarters while the lower levels were used for storage, wine making, flour grinding and worship in simple chapels.
Our guide gave us a great insight as to the sensation of living in a Swiss-cheese like labyrinth like this. The circular and descending shafts from the surface to the lower levels were protected by massive Indiana Jones rolling stone doors - a reminder of the motivation for moving underground in the first place.
Bruce reinacts on the torture rack where insubordinants where punished.
Our journey continued south passing workers digging in potato fields and where we would sometimes need to stop for a herd of sheep or goats crossing the road.
As we approached the quaint small town of Ihlara, we stopped to chat with some colorful local women as they sat on the wall overlooking the village
The red roofed homes nestled in the valley of the Ihlara Village, the beginning of the Ihlara Valley Gorge which yawns very suddenly open in the rolling hills of the area.
The land surrounding the Gorge is mostly brown, yet inside the Gorge is a lush greenery, cultivated by the river that runs the Gorge's length. We hiked a part of the Ihlara Gorge, The sides of the Gorge are like huge, vertical, tightly pressed fingers of basalt. Here erosion works differently leaving behind expanses of flat, hard basalt topped plateaus that characterize this region.
We climbed down 360 steps to descend into the steep sided valley
The valley became an important center of monasticism that lasted from the 4th to the 14th centuries. There are an estimated 150 churches and several monasteries in the canyon between the villages of Ihlara and Selime. Here Christians took refuge and monks sought isolation in the 16 km long valley.
We visited a few of the churches, which involved a climb up the rock to reach the entrances. Inside, some of the churches still displayed colorful frescoes on the walls and ceiling despite the fact that, because none of them were protected from public destruction or graffiti, many were damaged.
Our hike continued through the lush green valley, across a creek
bounded by the steep rock walls pebbled with pigeon holes and
rock cut homes and churches, passing villages where the locals
were seen picnicking or carrying out duties of everyday life.
Yaprakhisar is interesting architecturally with numerous facades carved into the cliffs. The rock cones are only seen in this area.
Guzelyurt is a sleepy farming village filled with stone houses and rock cut churches and mosques. Here women dry grain on the street, while the men chat and relax nearby.
Our next stop was Selime, a monastery and village carved into a cliff face. This spot is supposedly featured in Star Wars: Episode I. We climbed through the winding tunnels and explored the unidentified rooms that reached upward from the base of the cliff to perhaps 50 meters above the road below.
|Monks lived and worked in these hollowed out formations which included living quarters, churches and stables.|
Pictured above is the vast kitchen with the soaring chimney
Pigeon Valley is named because of the thousands of pigeon houses that have been carved into the soft tufa since ancient times. Although they can be found throughout Cappadocia, they are especially plentiful in this valley which must have one of the greatest collections of pigeon lofts in the world. They were carved wherever space allowed including abandoned caves and the walls of collapsed churches.
In Cappadocia, pigeons have long been a source of food and fertilizer. The advent of chemical fertilizers has reduced the use of pigeon fertilizer but some farmers still maintain their lofts because they insist that the reputation of Cappadocian fruits as the sweetest and most succulent in Turkey is entirely due to the pigeons' droppings.
The town of Urgup is full of stone homes left over from the pre 1923 days when it still had a large Greek population. In the hillsides surrounding the town are rock cut homes.
Near the town of Urgup there are some unusual rock formations, cynical cones topped with mushroom cap basalt rock. The rock contours are somewhat famous as their picture appears on the 50 YTL Turkish bill.
Devrant Valley 'Zoo'
In nearby Devrent Valley, the rock formations form the shapes of numerous animals amidst the moonscape.
At Pasabag, near Zelvie, we stopped and wandered through an extensive and wondersome outcrop of spiralling dome-capped fairy chimneys. Spread over 3 valleys, Zelvie was inhabited until 1952. Now souvenir shops take advantage of the visiting tourists.
There were quite a few churches to explore, some difficult to reach. The climb was rewarded by vistas of frescoes and decorations
The road from Urgup to Avanos was an remarkable drive passing colorful conical shaped formations.
Avanos is world famous for its pottery and there were shops piled high with pots made from the red clay of the river.
We were taken to a high end pottery workshop and gallery, where the prices certainly reflected the outstanding quality of the earthenware ceramics.
Around Goreme Town
We had a full day of sightseeing and it was starting to get dark when we returned to Gorome. The town of Goreme is small and quaint with many little pensions scattered amidst the hilly surrounds. Lots of restaurants to choose from, but we soon found our favorite dig that served delicious borek and other Turkish delights by a very social cook and staff that soon became great friends. Bruce got right into party mode in the street to the beat of the Turkish music!
A visit to a music shop ...and the boys dropping what they were doing to entertain us playing their Turkish instruments.
|A walk around Goreme|
One street off the main road dominated by restaurants and tour shops, Goreme transforms into a quaint rural village, where shy Turkish people go about their day to day business as if the tourists frequenting the many pensions in the area didn't even exist. Old women sitting beside the road would quickly hide their faces whenever a foreigner approached.
Local Life in Goreme has not changed much over the years and the narrow streets revealed many indications of the traditional way of doing things. We came across a mill, where grain is still being ground by hand. A cave opening with wagons, and nearby a barn, attached to the house, with donkey and cows.
The villagers were so incredibly friendly. A young woman
carrying a platter of fruit actually went out of her way to come
over to us to offer us some! We met a woman who showed us
through her cave home, complete with attached church! She showed
me how to tie the traditional headgear that all the Turkish
women wear. Not very becoming I must say!|
When you live amid a landscape composed primarily of porous volcanic tufa, it doesn’t take long before you realize, “Hey, I could make a great house out of this stuff."
|In fact many hotels, restaurants and pensions in Goreme are hollowed out of the rock. Some of the resort hotels are very high-class and expensive.|
We were invited to visit one of the few still inhabited cave
Almost ever home had its own church and this one was no exception. We climbed the steep stairway and entered into a room decorated with stunning medieval frescoes.
Time for Bruce and Lisa to catch their plane back to Canada. We drove them to the Nevsehir Airport, then returned to Cappadocia to visit sites that we missed the first go round. We drove to Uchisar, which wraps itself around a tall volcanic tufa castle (pic left) and capped by another tufa village.
The view from this point was just stunning - you could see the various tufa valleys stretching out like fingers and arms, the plateau of harder basalt rock in the distance, the rolling soft brown hills
The old part of the village of Cavusin is an abandoned village of homes and churches cut into the rock.
Gorome Open Air Museum
From as early as the 9th century, a number of small communities with their own churches formed the large monastic complex that is now the Open Air Museum. There are 30+ churches, many decorated with frescoes, although some of the faces have been scratched off caused because Islam prohibited representing people in religious art.
Gorome Museum is a World Heritage sight.
Some floors in the churches had open empty slots that were once graves cut into the floor.
An amazing example of the rock cut monasteries is the Kislar Monastery. Ladders were used to reach the upper levels.
Hiking Pigeon Valley
Immediately behind our hotel was the beginning of the trail through the floor of Pigeon Valley that ended at Uchisar. The trail, more like an old creek bed, meandered through through vineyards, olive and fruit trees, and grape vines separated by stunning pinacles of fairy chimney rock and towing tufa cones.
The cliffs around were honeycombed with pigeon homes and secret entrances. led through a series of tunnels cut through the rock.
The trail wound under thickets, up slopes of tufa, through a series of tunnels cut into the rock, or along narrow trenches that the rainfall had carved in the claybed.
Suddenly we came upon an old couple harvesting their grapes. Although they did not speak a work of English, they insisted on loading us up with vines of grapes for our onward journey. Their home was a cave house cut into the rock.
Our bus didn't leave for Marmaris until 7:30 pm so we killed some time waiting at our favorite restaurant again. The night bus from Cappadocia to Marmaris was a l-o-n-g ride. It's really hard to sleep because the bus stops everywhere, each time all the lights go on and everybody gets off to have a smoke! Turks love to smoke. The buses themselves are nice, new Mercedes ones that tour companies use. A steward comes by several times on the trip with your choice of tea (cay ), water (suyu) or coffee (Nescafe!).