Snow Tour

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
Trip End Sep 18, 2008

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Emre's Pension

Flag of Turkey  ,
Friday, March 14, 2008

After a night spent busing through falling snow and over mountain passes we were shaken awake by the bus attendent. It was 5am, much earlier than we had expected and it was cold. Obviously nothing was open and so we were happy to hear the familiar "Hello, where are you from?" Our welcome party ran a pension and invited us to have a look at the rooms, drink some tea and get out of the cold. The rooms were good enough and so was the price. The night on the bus had not done us any favours and we went to sleep. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and walking around the town. Later in the day the weather started to cloud over. We were told it would rain the next day, which we thought would be a good day for a bus based tour.

The next morning we were picked up for our tour. Last again, which has become a pattern for us. We jumped into the bus and siad "G´day" to everyone as we headed to the first stop. The snow obscured the view of the Pigeon Valley and we tried to work out why we had not worn our beanies and gloves out into the snow.The low temperature made this a very quick stop. Centuries ago Goreme and the surrounding area was the pigeon poo export capital of the world (or at least Europe). The people in the area had carved home into the stone walls of the valley for pigeons, feed them and collected their droppings for fertiliser. The valley floor has since eroded to leave the pigeon homes high up on the valley walls. The colour of the cliffs and the holes carved into them make a great view.

Underground cities are hidden under much of Cappadoccia. they were used over hundreds of years by whichever race or ideolological group occupied the land above. The "cities" werw used in times of invasion to hide the women, children and livestock while armies fought on the surface. The cities were occupied for only short periods, perhaps up to two months. Many of the cities are linked by tunnels kilometers long, but only a fraction of the cities have been explored or mapped since they have been rediscovered. The volcanic rock was soft and easy to carve into before ot oxidised and hardened when it came into contact with air. Each group to use the underground cities added something to the cities. They extended tunnels, build new rooms and adapted how the rooms were used. massive wheel-like stones were made to be rolled across some tunnels sealing them from the outside world. we visited a city that was at least eight storeys deep and included a school, church and wine making rooms.

In another pigeon house area we visited a church named after John the Bapist. It had been carved into or out of the rock. Again because of erosion it was now half way up the cliff. The snow and wind meant the walk up and along the cliffside required concentration. It was only on the way down that our friendly and knowledge guide told us that on a recent tour one of her group had fallen off the path to their death below. The church contained deteriorating frescos on the ceiling and walls. The windows gave an excellent view of the nearby town and the falling snow.

There were three non-historical stops too. One was for a buffet lunch in a warm restaurant. Warm was a big plus and the food was good too. The other two stops were for "workshop" tours of an onyx factory and a pottery factory. After brief explanations of how their products were made we were ushered into the showrooms. The time in the workshops was too short and of course the time in the showrooms too long. The onyx salesman didn't even deliver on his promise of apple tea. Very unTurkish!
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