Boy Has This Place Changed..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Friday, August 4, 2006

Greetings from Cappadocia or to be more specific, Goreme, the land of the cave dwelling.

I was here 10 years ago with Karlos and I have to say it has really really changed. More so than anywhere else we've visited this time around. When Karl and I were here last the place was simply a small town with a couple of cave pensiones and dirt roads. Donkeys were the order of the day for the locals but now it seems to be 4 wheel motorbikes. Then, it really felt like you were in another world, now, it sort of feels like you're in a Turkish version of Disneyland. You're surrounded by this amazing landscape but the town is sort of like a seaside resort with no sea. There's discos, wine bars, a plethora of restaurants and internet joints, travel agents all vying for the same business. Quite a remarkable and somewhat sad change in such a short space of time.

Anyways, let me say how glad we were to arrive after a nightmarish 11 hour overnight bus journey from Antalya. My god, could a bus stop anymore times throughout the night. A ciggie break here, tea break there, Jesus, just drive the bus or I'll drive it for you sunshine.

We finally checked into our 'cave room' which was quite nice, got a bit of musty pong going on but all in all for a room that was probably originally excavated a couple of hundred years ago it was pretty comfortable and cool given the temperature extremes that Goreme experiences throughout the day.

OK then, day 1 was spent in the cave making like Fred and Wilma Flintstone and readying ourselves for our hike to the Open Air Museum on Day 2. Sorry, boring I know but we were tired.

For day 2 we had planned to get out nice and early to beat the heat but as is our want we slept in and didn't get going till about 11am. Just in time to catch the midday heat. We truly are lazy buggers in the morning. What are we going to do when we have to start working again sometime next year. Whatever, that's neither here nor there.

So we get under way to the Museum and I decide that I wanted to take one of my infamous shortcuts cross country. As you can no doubt guess we ended up somewhere behind the museum and 100 metres up a ridge with no way down. What should have taken us 30 minutes ended up taking 3 hours through untamed fields, up and down steep ridges, through vineyards, you name it we walked through it in 40 degree heat with little to no water. I have no idea why my shortcuts end up taking so long but I just can't help trying them.

The upside however was that we ended up behind the museum in a small valley that was green and remarkably cool. Thankfully I was able to cool Kat's temper before we moved on again as well. A lovely little spot but I'm not so sure it was worth the pain.

The Open Air Museum is one of Turkey's many world heritage sites. Essentially what the open air museum entails is a cluster of rock cut Byzantine houses, churches, chapels and monasteries all within what would've been a 10th century cave town or perhaps city. Sorry, that's as best we can describe it as it's just one of those places you have to see to believe for yourself. Certainly the landscape photos do not do it justice in any shape whatsoever. The highlight of the museum has to be the Dark Church. It took it's name from the fact that it originally had very few windows, hmmmm. Luckily this lack of light preserved the vivid colour of the frescoes and they truly are something to behold. The tourist authorities charge an extra $5 each for the priviledge of going in as it's supposed to keep the numbers down and it does. Kat and I were the only ones in there for our 30 minutes inside. Naughtily and I must apologise to the authorities that I took a few illegal shots of the frescoes. Bad tourist, bad bad tourist.

On day 3 we got out on the highway, literally. We decided to hire a scooter and see Goreme National Park and the surrounding valleys. We had a 120cc Yamaha beast to burn up the miles in and boy did that little puppy fly, well sort of.

Stop one was Love Valley which we think was so named for the penis looking rock formations but we're not sure. Regardless of why it was named it is quite spectacular. Bit of a mission getting the scooter down there as it's offroad territory but as everyone knows, rental vehicles can do anything. After a bit of a look around and some photo taking we jumped back on the go anywhere Yamaha and motored off into the horizon.

Next stop was to the best preserved cave houses in White Valley. The drive is simply stunning. The colour differences of the landscape varies remarkably from one valley to the next. White Valley was quite nice and the cave houses interesting but the tourist buses were everywhere . After Love Valley where we didn't see another soul it was a bit of letdown as you know how much I hate tourists not being one myself. The scooter had already payed dividends in allowing us to forge our own trail so we were pretty pleased with ourselves.

Stop 3 was to be Camel Rock. The name of this valley escapes us but that rock certainly does look like a camel. However, I think my beard is far more spectacular. What do you think ? Please post comments and I'll reply as I see fit. Kat loves it by the way or so I keep telling myself.

Stop 4 was probably the most impressive stop of the day. Rose Valley and the beautiful hues of colour that it entails. Truly a magnificent sight to behold. We rode up, down, in and around it all afternoon. It entails hundreds of trails within it and could take days to explore completely. We found a small church with fairly impressive frescoes that was in a hidden part of the valley. That's the great thing about Goreme is that when you do hire a scooter or the like you can really go off exploring yourself. If it wasn't 50 degrees in the sun (no exaggeration, even the locals were sweating it) we could've spent a few more hours but our bike time was almost up so we sadly had to call it a day.

If you're reading this and considering going to Cappadocia or Goreme in particular make sure you hire a scooter (ask for a new one) and make a day of touring the valleys by yourself. Worth every cent we paid.

All in all Goreme was a very pleasant experience, the town may have changed since I was here last but the locals are still remarkably friendly, even going so far as to invite you into their house for tea before they start selling you some piece of crap. We even had the manure man invite us into his house everyday, now he probably WAS going to try and sell us an actual piece of crap!

Goreme, certainly one for the books, get there before it changes too much more.

Next pod, Ankara - Turkey.


Nath and Kat.
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