Open air Museum .... all around you

Goreme Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
The Göreme Valley holds the region's best collection of painted cave-churches. Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic stone and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes.
The valley, and other troglodyte ("cave-dweller") habitations in Cappadocia, may have been inhabited since Hittite times, but Göreme is known for its thousand-year-old churches. It's best to visit as early in the morning as possible because the summer heat is intense at midday. Also, tour groups fill the small churches by mid-morning and it's more difficult to enjoy them.
For one thing, groups may block the entrance, which cuts off the natural light, which is the only sort of light in the churches (unless you bring a flashlight/electric torch).

Most of the frescoes in the churches have been damaged�"many of them badly damaged�"by wind, water, weather, earthquake, and shepherd boys who sought refuge in the caves and used the faces of the figures as targets for pebble attacks, having been taught that images were sinful. But the beauty of the churches and their decoration is still apparent.
The best-preserved frescoes are in the Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church), which is subject to an additional admission fee (TL8). These paintings were restored at great expense, and I am all in favor of the additional fee: it helps pay for the restoration, and it keeps out most other visitors. Only those who are truly interested in the art will pay the additional fee, so the church is usually not crowded.
The Tokali Kilise (Buckle Church) is outside of the main valley enclosure, down the hill toward the town of Göreme a few steps, on the right-hand side.
Don't miss it! The paintings are fine, and it's already included in your admission ticket to the Göreme Open-Air Museum.

One of the characteristics of Cappadocia is having plenty of underground cities. It's known that there are more than a hundred of underground settlements in the region and many of them are not open for visits. The underground cities, which are guessed to be used since the Bronze Age, used to be a settlement mostly in Byzantine period, doubtless. In this period, increasing invasions forced local residents to build underground cities for protection and religious purposes. Certainly the most interesting features of the Cappadocia area are the underground cities founded within. Until now even that have been determined about 40 underground cities just six of these have been opened for visit.
Nobody can know how many underground cities there are in the Cappadocia area. Some say that there is one for every village and settlement in the region but certainly not all of the sites can be described as cities.
The first inhabitants of Cappadocia area have opened deep cavities within the volcanic rocks due to escape from the attacks of the wild animals and hard winter conditions and then they have enlarged these cavities according to their daily needs, they opened new cavities and created the underground cities connecting these cavities with tunnel and labyrinths. Later the underground cities were the place of the hiding of the first Christians who escaped from the persecution of the Roman soldiers and were enlarged to able when were necessary an entire city to live and every kind of fixture necessary for the living of the people has been attached.
When there wasn't any danger the people living on the ground in case of the danger have hidden in the underground cities. For this reason all the homes at that time were connected to the underground cities with a tunnel.
In all of the underground cities there are ventilation chimneys reaching place by place to a depth of 80 and until the underground waters. These chimneys were opened due to meet the need of both the ventilation and water. Within the cities that are tepid in winters and cool in summers there are kitchens, cribs, wine houses, depots for cereals, meeting saloons, toilets shortly every kind of living space necessary for living. Within all the cities there are locking stones which can be opened and closed only from inside against to the threats which may come from outside.

The oldest written source about underground cities is the Anabasis named book of Xenophon (Written around B.C. 4). In the book is mentioned that the people living in Anatolia have caved their houses underground and that the houses are connected to each other with holes: "The houses were built underground; the entrances were like wells but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals wkile the men went down by ladder. Inside the houses there were goats, sheep, cows and poultry with their young..."

By the way, If you drive around, go for coffee or dinner to the Museum Hotel. Not cheap but it has the mos breath taking views of the whole valley.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
253 km (157 miles) traveled
Sponsored Links
photo by: spocklogic