One thing was clear from the onset of my trip: I would definitively visit Cappadoccia. I was so impressed by the images of the rock formations, that I absolutely wanted to visit the place. From all angles!
The epicenter of the touristics activities in Cappadoccia is the little village of Göreme with around 2000 inhabitants. The number of tourist bed is most likely comparable. Due to the small size of the village, there are no direct buses from other parts of Turkey, but one has to connect in either Nevsehir or Kayseri. Fortunately, the two major bus companies in the area organize a servis from those places to Göreme.
Early in the morning, I had left the Hotel Mithat in Ankara to the bus station. This time I knew how the metro works and thus easily managed the distance to the bus station.
The bus ride was comfortable as usual including drinks and a small snack. The connection in Nevsehir worked without any problems, even though I had to get rid of a few touts trying to sell whatever inside the bus terminal.
In the evening, I made my plans for the following days in Cappadoccia and how I would like to continue my trip towards Iran. I decided to make my own walking tour on Wednesday, go on an organized tour on Thursday and a balloon ride on Friday.
Wednesday started with a walk to the Göreme Open Air Museam, which shows a larger complex of buildings built from the 10th century AD onwards. Part of the museum are two very beautiful churches with amazing frescoes.
Whenever there is something impressive to be seen, one is not alone, but busloads of tourists show up as well. That was the reason, why I left the museam rather sooner than later on foot in direction of Cavusin. The direct path is about 4km and thus takes about an hour to complete. The way I am walking such paths, it took me about 3 hours to reach Cavusin. Instead of heading directoy to Cavusin, I chose to walk along the Kilclar Valley only to turn right at the first possibilitiy to reach the Zinandönü Valley. Once I reached the tunnel, I turned back to take the first right again to reach the Meskendir Valley. I traversed that valley and climbed out of it at the far end. Once I reached the top, I continued high above the Red Valley to the Rose Valley.
Walking is easy, since there are very well established paths everywhere. The problem rather is navigation, because there are so many paths, which suddenly end, because there is no more way to go. My city map of Göreme also served as hiking map and occasionally there were directions sprayed on the rocks. These were not always helpful and sometimes even confusing, pointing to one valley in opposite directions. I also developed the suspicion that the directions were manipulated by the fellow, who runs a restaurant at the end of Red Valley, because no matter where one wants to go, all arrows point to his restaurant…To chose the right path was easy most of the times, because one could follow the footsteps of the tours.
Finally I made my way to Cavusin. I just missed the bus to Uchisar by 3 minutes. Luckily, there is a bus once every hour and at the official bus stop (if there is such a thing in Turkey) there is a small restaurant. Ali, who runs the restaurant, lived in Germany for 10 years, before returning to Turkey some 25 years ago. His German abilities are still quite good, such that I had the rare possibility to communicate with a local. Should you ever end up in Cavusin, eat a Pide Chez Ali and tell him I said hi.
With the help of Ali’s son, I caught the bus at 3:15pm to the next touristic attraction, the castle of Uchisar. Fortunately, the French tour, which arrived at the same time, did not include entrance to the castle, such that I was by myself on the larger rock. Definitely one of the sights not to miss in Cappadoccia, since the rock is the highest point in the region and the view reaches from Nevsehir in the West to Üergüp in the East and to Avanos in the North. Way below lies Göreme and its famous rocks.
The way back to Göreme was going to be an adventure again. I decided to walk the distance of around 3km through the Pigeon Valley. A salesman in front of the castle was so kind as to point out, where I had to go.
Finding a way down to the valley was no problem, but 1km into the valley the path suddenly ended, the terrain dropping about 20m down a cliff. A man has got to do, what a man has got to do: so I turned around. Somehow I found a path leading up, such that I could traverse into another sidearm of the valley, to eventually reach the bottom of the valley below the cliffs. The path involved a few steps of climbing, so it probably was not the signposted way. The rest was uneventful such that I reached the center of Göreme at nightfall. In case you should ever try to do the same thing, consider walking up the Pigeon Valley from Göreme to Uchisar.
For dinner, I felt like eating spaghetti. I asked my host, in which restaurant I could find spaghetti and he just asked me to sit down, stating he had some prepared. Within a few minutes I was served a larger plate of hot and spicy spaghetti and a beer.
Since Cappadocia is a very touristy region, I decided to be a common tourist as well. I did this by participating in a sight-seeing tour around the region, visiting 4 tourist sites on the way.
To be able to compare the offers better, the tour agencies decided to use common designation of the different tours. Besides the very interesting possibility to ride a hot air baloon, there are red and green tours. I decided to go on a green tour, which included a visit of the underground city of Derinkuyu, the Ihlara Valley, the Selime monastery and finally an onyx workshop and store.
The participants of the tour were collected at their respective accommodation and per group there was one minibus. The different tours ran the same routes, such that one had the chance to compare the tours. The result was, that we had much better explanations than the competition, but much less own time to visit the sites.
Our tour group consisted of participants from many different countries: 2 girls from Spain, 2 from Italy, a Turkish couple, 4 Koreans, 1 Japanes fellow, 3 Australians, 1 American and I. The Japanese fellow who sat in our bus for a few minutes and was on a cycling trip from China to Istanbul unfortunately was on another bus. Too bad, since I would have loved to exchange some information with him.
During the day, I had many interesting discussion with Derek, an Australian school teacher from around Canberra, the Australian capital. Main goal of his visit to Turkey was a long distance walk on the Lyccian Way along the Mediteranean coast. Having successfully completed his walk, he has 2 weeks left to find his way back to Istanbul. The one thing we have in common is the fact, the we both joined the tour only because the sights visited on the way are too difficult to reach by public transport.
The first stop of the tour was the underground city of Derinkuyu. The city is a huge system of man-made caves, which has been created over several centuries. The undeground city of Derinkuyu consists of 20 levels, of which 8 are accessible. Unfortunately no further research is being conducted for the remaining levels.
The cave system offers all a modern farm house has to offer, plus a few extras. There are livinig rooms, kitchens, meeting rooms, storage rooms and even a stable and a very intelligent ventilation system. The passage ways between the rooms are very narrow and often also quite low. It is definitively not recommended to visit an underground city if you are claustrophobic. as soon as all the tours arrive at the underground city, there is a lot of commotion and tourists almost step on each others feet.
We left Derinkuyu for the Ihlara Valley. The valley, like all of Cappadokia, consists of volcanic rock formations. Here, the basalt remained standing, leaving an impressive canyon, created by the Melendiz river. The character of the valley is complete different from what one encounters in the Göreme area. The tour consists of a visit of one of the many churches before traversing a short stretch of the valley on foot. Once we arrived at Belisirma, Derek and I decided to go on our own discovery tour for a few minutes, by walking through the village. The lunch is included in the tour and surprisingly extensive. Salad and soup for startes are included as well as bread and a nice portion of beef casserole. As usually, drinks are not included and quite expensive.
The first stop after lunch is the Selime Monastery. The cave system, which had been carved out of the rock is very impressive and reaching over many levels. The monastery consists of a chapel, a church and a cathedral plus the rooms for teaching, eating as well as a kitchen. At the end of the explanations, we are left with 10 minutes for our own explorations of the monastery, just enough, to step into each room for a minute.
On the way to the onyx workshop, most of the participants fall asleep. A short demonstration of onyx manufacturing is followed by the most extensive stretch of free time to explore the shop. The thought of carrying rocks to China keeps me from buying any souvenirs here.
Back at the hostel, I end up in an extensive discussion with Karl, a 69 year old German, who is writing a book about Turkey and thus travelling through the country. He tells me a few interesting facts about the Turkish people and culture. For example, his explanations that the Turkish are a people of oral communications instead of the written communication we typically use in Western Europe. This fact explains, why there are no schedules for buses and trains and why Ankara does not have much information about their metro system published. The Turkish way is to ask, if you need any kind of information. I could use this fact to get from Göreme to Malatya, despite the fact that all of Turkey is travelling this weekend due to Bajram, the muslim celebration of Abraham sacrificing his son.
The discussion left me a little bit hungry, why I opted for a portion of Baklava in town. Once I got back, a whole bunch of new guests had arrived at the hostel. I start talking to the travelers from Canada, the USA and Poland. Most interesting news I get: Ian, the American and Frank from Poland last worked for the American Peace Corps in Senegal. They are now traveling overland to China to visit a friend there. They chose to circumnavigate Iran by taking a freight ship from Baku in Azerbaidjan to Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. Since the chance is very high that we meet again along the way, I leave my blog address, so they can follow my progress to possibly get in touch.
This was a very intensive day, on the one hand there was a very good, but a little bit hectic tour, on the other hand, there were many interesting discussions with many different travelers. Each and every one of them has their own interesting story…