Goreme - Cappadocia
Goreme Travel Blog› entry 4 of 36 › view all entries
Cappadocia was a great move! Stayed at the Kose Hostel in the small town of Goreme. Arrived in time for the sunset which was incredible. Cappadocia is set to the side of a plateau at about around 1,000m above sea level. The geology is largely sandstone, hence the fantastic sunset - amazing colours. To the east are snow covered mountain ranges where there are ski resorts, and Cappadocia itself is a large area (several hundred square km) of unbounded beauty - valleys and gorges, rivers filled with trout (no fishing unfortunately) and incredible rock formations.
The area is also significant in that it was a strong hold of early Christianity, and there are many hidden churches and villages.
On my first morning I decided to take a tour of the area - something that I am not normally keen on as I like to go at my own pace. However, the tour covered 200km in the day and included visits to the major sites, something that I would possibly not been able to achieve otherwise.
We started at a huge underground village used in the 10th and 11th centuries by the locals as a retreat when they were attacked. The experience was somewhat like pot-holing (but dry) with bigger rooms. Apparently this village alone could hold up to 50,000 people and live stock for months on end, and there are around 50 known such sites (although this is the biggest) and a further 100 suspected.
From here we moved on to view some churches carved in to the rocks, several with remnants of the original fresoes still on the walls, over 800 years old. Then came the Ihlara Gorge, a real highlight! We went on a 3km trek and the only disappointment was that it was not further. The gorge is very green in comparison with the rest of the area which tends to be fairly barren (they collect the pigeon dung for use as fertiliser - there are a lot of pigeons!). I saw a couple of kingfishers amongst the multitude of other birds, but unfortunately they were too speedy to take a photo. The walk ended with a fantastic meal by the river side, including possibly the best bread I have ever eaten.
Next stop was an old fort on the Silk Route (the name escapes me) which was pretty impressive and an interesting piece of history to see. It had stables for the camels, and it kind of smelt like they were still there. We also visited the town of Sileme which has some impressive rock formations, which the locals say were used in the opening sequences to the Star Wars film - whilst they wouldn't have looked out of place the general concensus is that this is not true (my understanding is that Tunisia was used as the location).
Whilst the tour was excellent, it did feel a little rushed at times, 2 days would have suited it better, especially as this would have allowed the full 14km of the Ihlara Gorge to be explored, but all in all a good choice to go (especially at the equivalent of 22 quid with lunch and entrance fees thrown in).
The following day I visited the Goreme open museum, about 1km out of town. I got down there early to avoid the tourist buses [mostly plump Germans and Japanese (not plump)]. This is also fantastic and well worth a visit. The site consists of several churches dug in to the rocks (dating from the 8th to the 13th centuries), along with associated living quarters, bakeries, wineries and so on. The highlight was the "Dark Church" (which had an additional entrance fee) which was stunnning with virtually complete and very vivid frescoes. As its name suggests, it is very dark and this helps to preserve the colours, although it would be interesting to know when they were last touched up (no-one seemed to be able to answer that question), whether 800 years or 8 years ago!
The food and company in Goreme were excllent. The hostel was run by a Shirley Vallentine type from Edinburgh who had gone on holiday to Turkey some 20 years ago and, as they say, that was that. Some really friendly travellers around, and two crazy Dutch guys who knew how to party. They would converse in Dutch, English, Swedish, French, German and a bit of Czech to make sure that everyone knew what was going on and having a good time, plus they had a copious amounts of vodka and were generous with it. Also bumped into John and Beth from Boston (met them in Olympos) and met a retired Oregon doctor called Mike who was fantastic company.
Left for Antakya (Hatay) Wednesay, and there is very little to say about this place, other than the mosaic museum is very good and worth a visit if you are in the area. Then caught my taxi to Aleppo (Haleb) in Syria, of which more on the next page.
But for now its Tesekkur Ederim & Allaha Ismarladik to Turkey, you've been incredible and a fantastic start to my travels - if the experiences here are anything to judge the rest of my journey by I might be gone some time. However, Turkey, I shall return!