First Two days in a Strange Landscape
18.09.2016 15 °C
We were torn for a while as to where we would spend a lengthier trip outside of the city...we finally decided on the Cappadocia Region. We were extremely happy with our choice but it started off with doubts......
We had to get into the airport for another red eye flight and when we arrived in the early morning it had snowed!!! We had checked the weather and we had not expected this kind of weather...so we were a little worried. Our shuttle bus took us the 30min or so out into the hilly country and into the main city Goreme. This place was tourist central where these crazy rock formations or hoodoos and fairy towers have been over years and years turned into homes and eventually hotels, restaurants and shops! We were dropped off in a quant hostel, partially made in a cave and found we had multiple breakfast options and dug in before getting a needed nap. Once we woke up we spend the afternoon wandering down the roads taking in the weird rocks and slipping around in the snow. We met up with some of the other guests for some dinner down the road..it was evident how few tourists were venturing out with every restaurant open yet barely a seat filled (unfortunately the terrorist attacks were taking a large toll on tourism).
We knew we wanted to travel a similar route of the tourist buses, stopping at the famous spots in the region. However, we also knew we could do it cheaper if we could rent a car and find a friend! Luckily we had met a really cool new friend the first day. Brian, or Bubba was from the USA and was keen to join our money saving plan (he could also drive stick shift which was a nice bonus). So we found the car rental place, bartered a cheaper price and were on our way! A few smaller volcano's dotted the landscape and we arrived at our first destination in an hour: The underground city of Derinkuyu. Formed by Christian refugees of the warring regions to escape more violence, about 20 thousand people could live long-term in this underground city (more than 1 in the region and interconnected as well!) of 7 levels! The soft volcanic rock was made habitable around the 8th century but only tourist friendly in 1969. We followed some tourist groups for extra info and to decipher the different rooms...such as a classroom, the body pit for the storing the dead, animal shelter, wine making room, and church. There was also a few boulders to cut off the passageways as well as air-shafts and false-passage ways. There were so many passage ways and holes but most rooms were cut off to the public for safety.
We finally emerged back to the surface and drove to the Ihlara Valley. This valley is usually another popular tourist stop, but we had most of it to ourselves. The valley is carved by a small river and is dotted with dozens of Christian chapels carved into the soft rock. We rambled our way up to a handful and discovered that many of the painted walls of saints were gratified or eyes scratched out...will religions ever get along?
We eventually looped back and drove to the very end of the valley to the last town where we stopped briefly for a “star wars” pit stop (claimed to have had star wars filmed in the region...TBD)
and then to a huge abandoned community carved into the mountains where 2,000 people used to live. At its base, remains of the old village and less than a dozen inhabitants. We were the last visitors to scramble through the weaving rooms and explored numerous churches as the sun went down and got a short tour from a custodian who climbed around in his fancy business-buckled shoes.
We thanked him for our extended visit after-hours and drove back in the dark to enjoy an evening with our hostel-mates.
Our second full day we got up early so we could feast our eyes on the vast horizon of hot-air balloons filling the valleys. It was certainly worth it.
Afterwards we ventured out to Pigeon Valley. Ariel befriended a loving black and white cat who decided to follow us through the mud and puddles until we found a patch of grass in the valley. We sunned ourselves and enjoyed the weird waves of the rocks and the silence until Kevin cut into the cheese...literally, which ended the peaceful atmosphere as the cat jumped him! Apparently our cat was also a cheese fiend and gobbled up the cheese Kev had cut off. He was so pleased with himself and once we were back on the trail he had had enough of adventure and probably used the rest of his day to sleep off his snack... Meanwhile we continued up and out of the valley and wandered into an adorable restaurant with a view looking back into the valley and discovered a huge volcano, Ercyes which was in direct view!
We kept going and entered the next town which surrounded another castle/cave community of Uchisor *seen earlier in morning. We explored the parts that weren't ticketed and Ariel tried to befriend more cats. As we got into the town we were drawn to a building filled with beautifully painted pottery. The young man running the store was quick to show uff the vast rooms inside and downstairs. He was the 5th generation of a family of potters and was keen to show Ariel how to use a clay wheel and fed us apple tea. We wished dearly we could find a suitable travel piece of pottery but had to decline...we tried offering him a tip for thanks of his generosity but he happily declined as he was very pleased to host us!
We were ready for dinner and decided upon a restaurant with a view and were entertained by an extremely happy and musical host who fed us delicious plates of meat, bean salads and dips while singing his way up and down the stairs.
Full and ready for our hostel we tried to suss out where a local bus might come but found non so decided we might try to hitch a ride the short drive back. We had nearly given up when a small car with 3 large men inside pulled over. Friendly, but with minimal english they welcomed us as we crammed ourselves inside the car and luckily did not hit a single bump.