Day 29: Fairy chimneys and cave churches
Urgup Travel Blog› entry 40 of 260 › view all entries
May 4th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
Today I went on the red tour. The red tour focuses on the northern part of Cappadocia and mostly circled around the towns of Ürgüp, Çavusin and Göreme itself.
After a few short photo stops, we made a longer stop at the Devrent Valley, the valley with the largest concentration of the so-called fairy chimneys. The pinnacles come in many shapes and sizes,
looking like oddly shaped mushrooms, or giant phalluses, depending on your frame of mind.
There was also a small cave church here, with some nice frescoes.
Like yesterday, lunch was quite impressive for such a massive group tour. The restaurant was based in a large cave (where else) and although fully catered for tour groups, the food was really good and its setting very elegant.
During lunch I shared my table with an elderly Australian couple and an English fellow in his fifties. We had some interesting discussions about Turkey and the Middle Eastern region, and especially the role and fate of the common Christian people since the creation of the Turkish state. The Armenian issue at the beginning of the 20th century is a hot topic these days, but lesser known is what happened to a large community of Orthodox Greeks who had been 'sent' back to Greece in return for Muslim Turks living in Greece.
He misunderstood me when I mentioned that the multicultural nature of the Ottoman empire had been the downfall of the empire, and that was one of the reasons why so many old churches had been converted to either mosques or museums.
The Göreme Open Air museum is another one of Turkey's World Heritage sites. This is a cluster of cave churches and chapels built during the Byzantine era, with some particularly fine frescoes. What makes this place so more special than all the other churches we had visited so far is that its frescoes are far more intact.
The place was quite interesting, although its highlight, the Karanlık Kilise, actually required another payment of entrance fees. Now this is the third time I have come across this in Turkey and I don't really like that.
But since I was with a tour group, it would mean that if I'd wanted to visit this church I would have to come back either tonight and tomorrow and pay *again* for the entrance of the Open Air museum, only to get to this one church which requires a separate entrance fee.
It went a bit too far, really. Besides, I have seen so many churches already, I'm a bit churched out for the moment.
Like yesterday we had some obligatory shop stops. One stop was at a pottery where we had a little demonstration on how clay pots were made in the old days. Quite interesting.
Another stop was at a "wine demonstration". Well, I don't know what they were demonstrating, as glasses were poured, we had to drink and then we could buy.
I had really enjoyed yesterday's tour, which had been informative and varied and quite good value for money. Therefore it came as quite a disappointment that this tour, run by the same agency, which headed into even more spectacular scenery, wasn't as satisfying.
Closer distances meant that we would only drive for 10-15 minutes at the time, making it seem as if all we did was getting in and out of the bus. This gave the tour a rather rushed feel (“everybody out of the bus, 5 minutes looking and photos, everybody in the bus”). The order in which the sights were visited was far from ideal; the sights we visited in the morning had the sun directly behind it, making it impossible to photograph.
This tour had been advertised (like yesterday's) with some hiking in the valleys. However, these hikes weren't so much hikes, but rather stops at a valley where we got 20 minutes off to wander around for ourselves.
While yesterday's guide had been very knowledgeable and his stories informative. Today's guide didn't speak all that much English, and his explanations didn't go much further than “on left, church, look fresco of Jesus. We stay 5 minutes”.
But most of all, I couldn't help but thinking that it would have been so much more fun to do this trip on my own. With distances this short it would have been easily possible to hire a bike or moped and do this itinerary on my own.
It would not have been possible to do this tour cheaper though, as the price had been very reasonable and good value for money. But at least on my own I could have timed some of the sights better and avoided some of the larger tour groups.
Ah well, live and learn. The good thing about doing tours in groups is that you can meet other travellers. There was a nice Canadian guy, Mike, on this tour and afterwards we went for a couple of beers in one of Göreme's many outdoor cafés. It was good fun talking with him, as he seems obsessed with The Netherlands (he was wearing a Dutch football outfit!).
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