Fez Bus Tour - Cappadocia

Cappadocia Travel Blog

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Fairy Chimneys

We arrived at Cappadocia at sunset, which granted us really cool views of the shadows playing on the crazy rock houses and fairy chimneys. Cappadocia is really a place that one needs to visit to truly appreciate. It sounds a bit lame to keep writing about the cool rocks, but there really is an air of mystery to the place that doesn't come across in pictures, or by describing the weirdly shaped landscape.

This time we stayed at another great hostel, the Rock Valley. It was a little disappointing because they didn't have a cave house to stay in, which is one of the main attractions of the region, but it was cozy, comfortable and had 24-hour hot water (quite a luxury in Turkish hostels!), so we were happy.

Male bellydancer
Our time in Cappadocia was actually split by a side trip to Mt Nemrut and some other places in Eastern Turkey, but more about those in my final blogs.

We got to our hostel just in time for Turkish night! I was looking forward to this because I had done it on my last trip to Turkey in 2003 and it was such a fun, memorable night filled with unlimited alcohol, Turkish folk music and belly dancers, all set in an old caravanserai that had been transformed into a restaurant. They had made some changes since then. We were treated to some Whirling Dervishes (but no live band, unfortunately) as well as the usual dancing. One of the novelties was, surprisingly, the belly dancer. I've seen quite a few belly dance shows after the several months of living in Istanbul, and on two separate trips to Morocco, but this was the first time I had ever seen a male belly dancer and he was simply spectacular.
He managed to outshine his inferior female counterpart. Unfortunately, Jon's nose got in the way of my best picture of him.

We struggled to get up in time the following day for a tour of southern Cappadocia. One of the places we visited was an area called Yaprakhisar, which looked a little bit familiar, not because I had been there before but because it was used as a background in the Star Wars films. Maybe that was part of what added to the mystical quality of Cappadocia – the fact that you could almost expect to see Luke Skywalker in his speeder come flying through the desert-like scenery.

One of my favorite things about Turkey is its apparent identity crisis. There are many Turks who long to be part of Europe. They wear blue jeans, listen to Tupac Shakur and study English.
Rustic Turkey
You could drop many of them into the middle of Manhattan and it would be hard to immediately identify them as a "foreigner." But for all the Turkish aspirations of modernity, there is still such a rustic, simple side to the country, which is most evident while traveling in the east with the omnipresent sheep herders. There was something so quaint, yet exotic about seeing a herd of sheep crossing an otherwise modern road and shows that Turkey hasn't yet lost touch with its traditional way of life.

After our brief venture into the fantasy land of a galaxy far, far away and some more sheep sightings, we headed to the Ihlara Valley for a pre-lunch hike. Unfortunately, I was again suffering from slight heat exhaustion, so the idea of trekking two miles through a gorge with no bathrooms or refreshments before lunchtime wasn't too thrilling.
More sheep crossings
Luckily, the Valley was beautiful, filled with gentle streams, more sheep, and great vistas of the surrounding mountains. And again, with no regard for safety, our Turkish guide walked far in front of the tour group, never stopping to count to make sure everyone was there and no one was left behind with a twisted ankle or keeled over from dehydration. But we made it to lunch with no major calamities and enjoyed some nice conversation with our fellow travelers.

The highlight of the day came after lunch as we pulled into the parking lot of the Derinkuyu Underground City. Cappadocia is filled with these subterranean abodes because of the soft volcanic rock that permeates the region. This is where the Christians came to hide from the Romans, the Arabs, and anyone else who happened to be persecuting them at the time.
Ihlara Valley
Whenever they were threatened, they fled to these labyrinthine underground cities, complete with stables, wineries, and a defense system of large stones that could be used to seal off an entrance for an advancing enemy. Although I'm not really a claustrophobic person, the thought of living underground for weeks or months on end is quite frightening. There are plenty of air shafts and places where the sun may shine through, but there was a real sense of fear that still permeates Derinkuyu.

Cappadocia is home to such an interesting and diverse set of attractions. After the excitement of our southern tour, we decided to spend the next day on our own at the Open-Air Museum of Goreme. It's another fascinating, one-of-a-kind place that showcases monasteries and churches that were carved out of the rock.
Derinkuyu Underground City
It was surprisingly crowded too! In the summer, I would have thought most tourists would stay along the coastal areas and not venture into the dry, waterless Anatolian plains. We had to wait in line to get into some of the more popular churches.

Like Saklikent, one of the most fun things about Goreme is the complete lack of safety. While some of the caves have steel steps leading you to the upper levels, there are still many caves just outside the main complex that haven't yet been "tourist-ized." You can climb around these caves as much as you like, safety be damned. This was another time when I found a nice, shady spot to sit as Jon played Indiana Jones and climbed on the rocks.

We had planned on spending the whole day at Goreme so we were kind of surprised to be finished at 1PM or so.
Goreme
So we decided to do some exploring. We wandered along some of the hiking trails, taking in some amusingly-shaped rocks and some breath-taking views of the area. As we kept walking, we made our way through what the Turks called "Love Valley," in honor to the phallic-shaped rocks. (They do have a great sense of humor!)

It was a hot day so we stopped for some ice cream on the way back to the hostel and enjoyed a delicious barbeque dinner there. Once again, we were preparing to leave. This time, it was for the final leg of our journey. We were on our way to the slightly dangerous region of Southeastern Turkey and the legendary Mt. Nemrut.

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Fairy Chimneys
Fairy Chimneys
Male bellydancer
Male bellydancer
Rustic Turkey
Rustic Turkey
More sheep crossings
More sheep crossings
Ihlara Valley
Ihlara Valley
Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu Underground City
Goreme
Goreme
Church paintings
Church paintings
Church paintings
Church paintings
Goreme
Goreme
Rabbit rock
Rabbit rock
Love Valley
Love Valley
Classic Cappadocia
Classic Cappadocia
Cappadocia
photo by: EmyG