The nunnery and monastery at the Göreme Open Air Museum
I actually woke up at 8am for the first time in a very long time. I had a typical but filling Turkish guesthouse breakfast and set out immediately for the Göreme Open-Air Museum, just one kilometer from where I was staying. The walk was nice, passing through the valley where on either side were different types of fairy chimneys, some with windows and doors, clearly having formerly been dwellings. The museum was a cluster of special fairy chimneys that had served as chapels for Coptic Christian clergy. Inside many of them were frescos illustrating various scenes of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints, angels and other biblical scenes. For being thousands of years old, some of the frescos were amazingly intact.
In particular, the best preserved frescos were inside the Elma Kilise, or Apple Church.
Frescoes at the Apple Church
Some sections looked like they had just been painted last week, but I was assured they were original. There was also a place called Yılanlı Kilise, or Snake Church, that served as a cemetery. Other rock formations were used as communal eating places, storage facilities for grain or wine, and in one case a cloister. I didn't go inside the Dark Church due to the added fee, but inside there were supposedly highly intact frescos since there was minimal light entering into the chamber. It was still amazing to witness these wizard hat-shaped rocks all over the place, let alone considering the frescos inside.
I walked back into town and then decided to hike through the Pigeon Valley up to the village of Uçhisar, where I had planned on meeting Tuncay at 1pm. The trail through Pigeon Valley was muddy and at some points difficult.
I got lost once, arriving at a dead end, but managed to find my way up. The valley offered breaktaking views of the power of erosion and vulcanism. I was awed at every turn. Besides the fairy chimneys, there were wavy rocks, phallic rocks, jagged edges and smooth surfaces, ridges and chasms. It was definitely a worthwhile hike, even though I was soaked from sweating my way up the slippery path to the top.
In Uçhisar, I didn't have time to climb the highest point in Cappadocia but I walked around the hills of the town before meeting Tuncay and Atilla. Because of the distances we had planned on covering, we realized it was going to cost a lot in gas money to do.
Rock formations in Pigeon Valley
In Turkey the gas prices are very high, much like they were at the peak prices in the US. Therefore a trip of 200 kilometers would cost about 100 lira, which was just too much for any of us to afford. So Atilla drove us to Ürgüp, stopping along the way for some spectacular views of even more rock formations. I thanked them for their time and hospitality, and Tuncay gave me a memento carved stone featuring a scene from Cappadocia. We had had a very good conversation and I wished we could have hung out more.
After they dropped me off, I immediately went to have lunch at a nearby cafe. I tried Turkish mantı, smothered in a delicious sauce. I also sprinkled mint, thyme and sumac on for added flavor. I walked around the town, which was larger than Göreme by several thousand.
Just outside Ürgüp
I went to the Six Sided Tomb and walked up to Temenni Hill, better known as Wish Hill. At the top was a little building featuring photographs of Ürgüp through the years. I warmed up with some Nescafe and walked downhill to the center of town again. From there I took another hill up past an underground city and an old district called Dereler. From there I found the main road with new hotels and a backdrop of another old city carved into the mountainside. I stopped at a winery and sampled some glasses of pretty decent red wines. It was very much like being in a Virginia winery, without the cheese or crackers. While my visit to Ürgüp was short, I packed in as much as possible. Then I hitched a ride back to town with some young Turks.
For dinner I ate a long pide at a local hangout and spent time chatting with my cavemate before stopping again at the Flintstone Bar. There were about eight Turkish people there dancing and having a good time, but I was pretty tired and just had one glass of wine before returning to my cave. I think this day I packed more into a single day than I had at any other time in Turkey. It was like a second wind, even though I am leaving soon. One more day to explore Cappadocia and the chance for more fairy chimneys.