Landscapes for the İmagination
The hills and dusty plains had long since faded into dusk and fallen into darkness by the time - I think about nine - my bus began rounding bends, enabling it to descend towards the town of Göreme. By this point I’m so jacked up on ‘3-in-1’ sachet drinks of Nescafe and so engrossed in the Turkish dubbed opening scenes of Zor Ölüm 4 ( Die Hard 4, ‘Sock it to ‘em Brucie!!!’
) that I’m in danger of missing my grand entrance to central Cappadocia
. My neighbour taps my shoulder and points out the window and I’m just in time to take in the sight of my first two of the regions legendary ’Fairy Chimney’ structures.
'Clay pots and tissues'
Strange conical spires of rock with man-made windows carved about, ground lit now and pointing from the shadows to the skies. And the very moment I look at them, no word of a lie, a shooting star flashes through the night, cutting a line directly between them. And I’m thinking ’Huh, nice trick Cappadocia. Very cute. Not bad for starts. Let’s see what else you’ve got up your sleeves.’
And what treats it has in store! Landscapes for the imagination. Landscapes one would have thought only conceivable as acts of the imagination. But no, they’re here and they’re real. If Pamukkale was - to quote the noted travel driveller Stevie Wes - ‘one of Mother Nature’s curious little poems that she so often chooses to scrawl upon this earth’
then the central Anatolian region of Cappadocia is truly one of Her epic masterpieces!
Covering a region of I presume (but don’t know) a good many, many hundred kilometres square the surrealistic pattern of interconnected valleys, hills and rock formations that create this, one of the most spectacular landscapes I’ve yet set m’peepers on, is the product of a rapturous geological dance between Nature and Time.
(Homelands) Muju 2 : www.mujuworld.co.uk
A mighty eruption of Mount Erciyes err?… sometime… err, before I was born… covered the land with a heavy top-coating of igneous rock that over the Millennia wind and water have most beautifully whittled away to leave strange; let us say deranged compositions throughout the land.
This process is known as ’Differential Erosion’. Whereby a difference in the degree of disintegration/ discolouration of rocks of varying kinds occurs when exposed over time to the same external conditions. I.e. some rock strata weather and wither away quicker than others. The harder rock layers on top, more resilient than those below creating the panoramas of curious rock-topped pinnacles, moon or meringue like undulations, curious spires, ’mushrooms’ and ‘fairy chimneys’ visible all about.
Call them what you like, they often end up just looking like little more than gigantic tumescent stone willies. But more of such Freudian geology in a bit.
No, forget your staid geology and put your science back in its dusty cupboard-top box. Cappadocia is Mother Nature tripping off her tits on acid (and all her good herbs). Or a Rorschach blot printed in stone; the land folded, creased, crumpled and presented to the Gods as they lie on their great leather couches in the sky trying to interpret what the heck She’s gone and done. It’s what the whole world might have looked like had Salvador Dali had his hands to the pottery wheel on the Day Of Creation. One of his wildest of dreams made solid… but shifting in its own amorphous sort of way.
Stevie attends church Cappadocia style :)
The aliens were here and left this, their playful prototype for an as yet undiscovered home planet. It’s planet Earth Jim… but not as we knew it. I’ve glimpsed the moon garbed in roseate evening dress; found evidence of a giants’ bun fight in a Neolithic cake shop; the cooled aftermath of an explosion in a Lava Lamp factory or actually Ladies and Gents can you conceive - my darling sis and Dave I truly believe - I have arrived in Mujuworld! *
‘Inspiration burps’ and jokes set aside the net effect of whatever your imagination screams it must be, is that Cappadocia is just so, so beautiful. So much to see and do. The fascinating Cappadocian rock churches of the early Christian settlements in the region cut into the cliffs with their fabulous frescoes.
Part of Goreme Open Air Museum
A good morning to be spent clambering around these at the Göreme Open Air Museum (15TL/ £6). As you walk anywhere in the Cappadocian landscape, keep your eyes peeled and you will spot any number of carvings, abandoned cave homes, churches and faint traces of the chipped remains of centuries old frescoes in the middle of nowhere. At one with the land they have sprouted from. A real amateur archaeologist’s playground. The underground ‘cities’ of the same Christians built up to eight stories deep into the land to avoid persecution in the fledgling religion’s early days can be visited too.
But for me, as usual, I’m never happier than when just trekking out into and around these landscapes all day. It’s surprising.
İ swear İ saw a giant bunny rabbit around here somewhere ;) Strap on your Dali goggles for interpretive visions in the stones!
Cappadocia is arguably the most popular tourism hot spot in Turkey and it’s high season right now. But I find time and again and to my great joy that with the tourists all chillin’ in Göreme or zipping about in road-bound day tour buses I am blessed almost every day with a sense of having these valleys and vistas all to my own. It’s wonderful! Slipping off on day one into the Zelve valley. Soon intrigue bringing my feet to higher ground. My eyes, I think don’t deceive me. A sea of giant stone phalli stood before me. The Valley of Love? Yep, that old tease Mr Differential Erosion at many sites around the region has seen fit to leave lying about a fair profusion of what appear to be oversize penises. So I stand and laugh and stare and think ’Yes, Cappadocia, a place that gives so much to the imagination, only to occasionally leave so little to it too.
(Homelands) Muju 1 : www.mujuwolrd.co.uk
Today the weather is perfect. Blue skies playing host to a well-mannered parade of fluffy white clouds that help through their music of shadow and light to bring this phantasmagorical landscape to life. I’m stood higher again now. The landscape; this mind-bending landscape just seems to breathe light today. As great sweeping waves of brilliant sun roll over the scene, chasing cloud shadows across it, the land breathes in light far over there and falls momentarily into shadow, only to exhale the light back out into the universe elsewhere. Breathing new forms to the world.
Up out of the Zelve Valley now. Strolling around the dusty cliff tops that fringe the Southern edge of Göreme. The castle hill of Uçhisar, Cappadocia’s highest point, visible South West.
One of the many random half-ruined churches you will happen upon as you scramble around the landscapes.
In the heat and dirt and down in the valleys too centuries old agricultural life still - just about - continues. Surprisingly healthy white and red grape vineyards prosper improbably on these wind-kicked arid valley crowns. Pigeons cut stiff-winged streaks through the air sounding like feathery little jetfighters. It’s just them and I, the wind, grass hoppers, gecko-like lizards and bees up here… oh, and sat in the distance, the breeze playing with her headscarf a lady sits, leaning on one knee surveying her tiny patch of this marvellous land.
The next day I head for a trek through Pigeon Valley. I manage to get lost in Pigeon Valley. But it’s okay. I’m not alone. Spotting a Littlest Hobo kindred spirit maybe, a little white canine fuzz ball took an interest in me as I walked through Göreme and refuses to leave me alone.
I’m not super pleased by his presence to begin with and act with according aggression. My initial antipathy founded upon my frustrations at getting lost (and he seeming without a care in the world) and possibly his p*ss annoying habit of running up and down stagnant pools of muddy water before returning to shake his biological souvenirs all over me! I am not a huge lover of dogs. Generally to be found on the Cat side of this particular of human society’s great divides. But he would normally be okay. After all he clearly qualifies under the permissible MDH (Maximum Dog Height) requirements that state ’Dogs are acceptable as long as they are no higher than me knees.’ He’s not. And my knees are not very high.
But after a couple of hours somehow or other I am quite spectacularly lost.
Don't be nervous girls ;) Cappadocıa, a landscape that doesn't ALWAYS leave loads for the imagination to do! LOL
Trying to find my way up and out of the valley basin. Struggling through abandoned vineyards, dense flesh cutting undergrowth and heather fields where faint trails of trodden down grasses trick the tracker in me to believing ‘humans came this way… recently.’
But now I’m not so sure. Scampi ( now dubbed) doesn’t care either way. As long as he can simultaneously stick his lollygagging tongue out at me whilst tripping me from under my feet he’s happy. And as my mood waxes from frustration at being lost and wanes towards fear of how high and where we’re heading I realise I’m now glad of his company. Accordingly he is allowed to graduate through a series of pet names that started with ’F**KOFFYOUF**KINGLITTLEFURBALL!’ moves to ’P*SSOFFMUTT!’ onwards to Scamp, Scampi (aka ’Small Fry’) through finally to Scampino and even latterly, when clambering slightly in fear of my bodily well-being, Lassie.
As it has become clear that should I fall and do myself damage, Scampino/ Lassie will be my only connection back to the world of Göreme. He just lolls his tongue either way.
Eventually, some hour and more, backtracking and re-tracking we’re higher still and further lost. Scampi lolls his tongue indifferently. We’re almost out of the valley now. Way off the beaten track… and defeated. Scampi and I reach a final 10 metre wall. I can hear cars on a road nearby up above. Seven or eight tiny shallow foot/ hand grips up a vertical wall separate us from victory. But only one slip separates me from a precipitous fall, broken leg and possibly worse. Only half a litre of water, no food and no mobile phone make this a bad idea.
Stevie and Scampı
Scampi lolls his tongue nervously. I look up. Then down. And back up. Nervously too. Brave guinea-pig-dog that he is, Scampi scampers up the final slope but the ground slips beneath him, causing him to come surfing back down towards me on a carpet of chalky scree. He stops just before impact. His tongue lolls warningly. And I agree.
We carefully retrace our steps… our many steps all the way back to Göreme. Scampi still on my tail. All the way back to the Kose Pansion where I am staying and where I now try to relax from the days quite stressful exertions by swimming in the pool, but instead just end up being the victim of genuine attempts at drowning at the hands of Ali, the clinically hyperactive son of Dawn the manageress.
I joke around that his mom better have a good insurance policy in place to cover for the deaths of guests in her pool whilst Scampi makes a nuisance of himself to Spotty (does not qualify under MDH) and Tux (short for ‘Tuxedo’ and short so does qualify under MDH) the two resident dogs at the guesthouse.
The following day another great hiking session through the mesmerising Cappadocian valleys. Rose valley. Red Valley. Sword Valley. Head on up for the incredible panoramas. Head on down again to be immerse yourself in this truly Dalinian landscape. I can’t get the crazy old Catalonian out of my head whilst here. I don’t know if Dali ever visited Cappadocia. I doubt it. But if he did, it explains a lot about his anarchic, anthropomorphic, hallucinogenic and often highly eroticised landscapes.
My very kind Portugese pals (L-R) Rogerio, Ana & Juan
Like looking for shapes in cloud formations, to stare long and hard at the Cappadocian geological frieze is to see giant bunny rabbits and camels and faces and …well … yes, there’s not getting away from ’em, cock rocks wherever you glance. Mysteries and visions everywhere. The little pigeon houses carved into the cliffs. The ancient cave dwellings and troglodyte homes.
A good 5 hours into a Stevie Super-trek, some way out past the village of Çavusin, two bikes that zip past me on the road double back moments later, their owners enquiring where I am heading. From this point on I am the kind hitchhiking guest of Juan, Rogerio and Ana from Portugal. I get to spend the entire rest of the day zipping around to all the most far flung and inaccessible parts of this incredible destination.
Evil Eye Tree
And again just feel overflowing with luck and happiness. The Devrent Valley; a stop in Ürgüp for late lunch; onwards, wind rushing into our faces; speed chases to the rock castle of Ortahisar
and Sunset Point and then finally the surreal majesty of a close encounter and clamber around Uchisar castle. Looking out as the sun, a giant Rumplestiltskin in the sky begins to draw out gold from the dusty straw yellows and browns of the peculiarly Flintstones-style sprawl of Göreme.
Incredible days. True landscapes for the imagination!* For those of you not familiar with or not yet introduced, Muju is my palm-sized long term travel companion.
Created by the wild genious of Mr Muju and crafted for me by Mrs Muju (aka my sister Katie) to keep me company. He crops up from time to time in souvenir photos, evidence of his own great adventure around the globe.