Back to the Caves

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

We had camped during our last visit to Göreme. This time I wanted to stay in a cave, so we did. It was lovely and cool inside so we had a snooze as the overnight bus journey had stuffed us. Consquently we didn't do much that day but we did look around the town up and down the lanes looking at all the different cave houses and hotels, which we didn't get to do last time.

According to the Lonely Planet the beautiful landscape of Cappadocia was formed around 30 million years ago with the explosion of three volcanoes. The resulting landscape has been eroded over centuries to form surreal 'fairytale chimneys', columns, cones and other weird shapes that have been used as residences, monasteries and all sorts of things. It's a fantastic place, but of course, touristy.

We met an Irish girl called Sarah who was really interesting and had lots of cool, funny stories about her travels, of which she had done loads!! She had been to places we were going so I wanted to pick her brains too!

We wanted to see a few thing around the surrounding area and the only way to get them all in was to do a tour. I'm not a huge fan of tours as you end up being herded around like sheep and have little freedom to explore but with not so much time on our hands this was going to be the only way.

The first place we visited was the Kaymakli underground city. I absolutely loved the one we went to 7 years ago and was really looking forward to going. We tried our best to dawdle and stay longer but it was almost impossible as the guide kept waiting for us and watching our every move! It was ok though. We got some photos in. They're amazing places. To think people lived underground about 8 floors down from 4000 years ago!! There were huge round wheel rocks that they rolled into place when invaders threatened and grinding wheels. I wonder how they found their hole that they lived in. They all looked the same to me!!!! Then we went to Ihlara Gorge which has cave churches from the 14th century with frescos in them. Unfortunately the frescos aren't in the best condition but it's fun climbing in and out of caves! The walk through the gorge was fantastic. It's a beautiful place. We spotted loads and loads more caves high up and I wanted to explore but I was already loosing the others so I had to keep walking. Bummer. We had lunch by the river which runs through the gorge which was nice. Then on to Selime Monastery which is another cave place. We climbed, not all the way up but quite high - it was fantastic!!! There was a tunnel and lots of rock-cut rooms to explore and sunken alleyways. I love the shapes of the caves. There were some really old frescos inside the main church that were in quite bad condition but were still very visible. They had also been vandalised a bit over time. They then drove us to a restored Cavaranserai which was quite good. They were kind of hotels built along the Silk Road during trading times to protect the traders and their camels and goods. They were built by the government of the time. They idea being to provid free food and accommodation as traders were often robbed camping at night. They were built every 35 to 40 kilometres. Great idea. We also stopped at the famed 'fairy chmneys'. It's a certain place in the area where the cones are quite phallic looking and really cool to photograph. We stopped briefly at Pigeon Valley where there are loads of cave houses and pigeon houses. We didn't walk through but just looked over from the ridges above. Next was the organised pottery tour to a place where you watch someone making something on a wheel and then they shove you into a shop and try to sell stuff to you. We'd has the mispleasure last time so sat outside talking to our guide. He was this old dude who had been the first guide in Göreme and said that there was only 1 car there in 1969. Would have been great back then. No tourists. He had moved to Denmark for 20 years then come back to live and guide. He looked about 80. We caught up with Irish Sarah again later and talked more travel.

Next day we wanted to do some more walking so decided to walk through Çesme Gorge on our way to Zelve Open Air Museum. I had visited Zelve last time and it had been loads of fun wıth lots of climbing so I wanted to go again. We walked to a place called Çavusin first and went into the Church of St John. It's one of the oldest in Cappadocia. About 1000 years old I think. The frescos were in brilliant condition so we took lots of photos. There were other caves to explore too so I did some climbing. Our guide the previous day had said there was a small track that would eventually lead to Zelve so we looked for that. It was amazing. So much fun. We walked through lots of vineyards and went into dis-used caves and saw loads of pigeon houses high, high above us cut into the cliffs. God knows how the people got up there to cut them into the rock. They use the pigeon shit for fertilizer. They say pigeons are very important. The landscape was unbelieveable. We took loads of pictures, as you do. It was an awesome walk. Took a while and I had to slide down in places on my bum but it was so much fun.

We made it to Zelve. It had been a whole village of caves with churches and monasteries and houses at one time. Unfortunately they had to move the residents out in 1952 because of the danger of falling rock etc. It did look bad in some places. I had loved it last time so I couldn't wait. We did loads of climbing. David had been too hung over to come last time and some of the places had been shut off because of erosion since 1998 so were particuarly dangerous but we still climbed a fair few that didn't have fences around. I love exploring them! We both had a few brown stain moments though because some of them are really high and the stairs are so worn out that they are easy to get up but then it's the getting down that's the hard part. Thought I was going to go at one point. Almost landed head first into David from about 7 foot up!!!! Thankfully my 7 year old sandles held out! There were these really cool rock tubes to climb up too. They have foot and hand holds cut out of the rock. We ended up looking for them all over the place! Sadly one day it will all be gone from weather erosion but we took loads of photos to remind us of the spectacular time we had.

It was such an brilliant day. I wish we could have explored more but we had to move on.

We bought our onward bus tickets and decided to take some of Irish Sarah's advice and take a day bus instead of the night bus. We waste too much time feeling rooted from the uncomfotable night buses.
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