Since I didn’t go to bed that late, I was able to get up early and watch sunrise from my room.
Pretty amazing! By the way, I didn’t mention that the place you want to stay in this town is in a hostel or hotel that’s also a scooped out cave. A lot of the homes have been used for centuries. It’s totally cool to stay in these ancient structures. My place, Kelebek hotel was a bit of a splurge for me, but thanks to http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com, I found out that you can get a 20% discount for being a single person, and another 20% for travelling off season. 40% off was okay with me! (the room ended up costing about 32 Euros. I only actually paid for one night because I had to leave for my flight at 2am, and they were cool with me just leaving my stuff in the room until I had to leave. And, they had let me check in early. Awesome!)
I went up to get some tea and breakfast, and in order to watch one of the other things people come to Kapadokya for, hot-air ballooning. Kapadokya is one of the main areas in the world for this because of the views and generally favorable winds and weather. However, I get motion sickness sometimes and am afraid of heights. I was perfectly happy to watch from the ground, but it was pretty cool.
There are many tours offered in the town. While it’s possible to get to all the tours with public transport, it IS a little different getting to some of them on your own. If you are like me, who didn’t have a ton of time, unfortunately, a tour is a great way to hit all the spots. Online the tours are more expensive, but once you get into town, almost every tour (excepting my hotel) you see advertised is 70 lira, which is around 30 Euros/$38-40 USD. This includes transport to a bunch of sites, admission fees (usually 8-15 lira), a guide (who is usually a graduate of a history or archeology program at university), and lunch. Just head into the center of Göreme town and you will see a bunch of places with signs outside advertising the tour. If you are going to do a tour, the Green tour is the one you want- it covers places that you need vehicle transport of some sort to get to. Places like Rose Valley can be reached by walking, same with the Open Air museum as I mentioned in the previous post.
I had finally managed to get a hold of the tour company after the mixup the day before. They were great and said they would let me go on the tour during my second day at Göreme. The tours pick you up at your hotel or hostel. It’s sort of funny in the morning with everyone waiting around for their tours and all the confusion of these vans coming up and down these tiny cobblestone maze streets. I was one of the last picked up for my tour, but we quickly got on our way to stop outside of town for some touristy pictures conveniently near a ton of gift shops. The view of Göreme was really worth it though, I think you’ll agree.
Turkish tchotchkes. They’re beautiful, though!
We headed to Derenkuyu Underground City next. There are underground cities all over the Kapadokya region, carved into the soft karst rock of that area. People generally did not live there full time, but for a couple of months when armies were raiding the area. This underground city consisted of 8 floors and was connected via an underground passageway to another city several kilometers away! It’s a possibility that many of the cities are all connected together via longer passageways. It’s pretty amazing that there is a lot of archeology and research still to be done. One thing I found interesting is that they have now found that ceilings were rather low in many places NOT because the people were smaller than us, but because it made it harder for raiders to come through the compound quickly. This was the prevailing thought for some time. Just another case of historians jumping to conclusions without doing research first.
I didn’t have flash on my camera, these are not the clearest but you get an idea.
One thing I dug were the chickens just chillin’ by the entrance. Can you imagine that here in the US, at the entrance of a major monument? Those chickens aren’t hurting anyone. Some tourists in front of me freaked out about them. Chill, people.
After exploring the city for an hour or two we went back on the shuttle and headed to the Ihlara valley for lunch and a hike. Note: pay attention to your surroundings when ordering. I was pretty cold and needed to use the restroom, so headed right to the restaurant. Another girl on the tour walked around for a minute, noticed that there was a ravine nearby and that there was water in it, and opted for fish (to my credit I ordered a chicken dish, I did see some chickens out and about). Her fish was amazing!
Speaking of that lady, I was really impressed. She was a Taiwanese woman probably around my age who had been living in Rome for a while teaching biology at an American school. She wanted to get out of Taiwan and she sure did! She decided to teach because she could travel (alone) during holidays all across the world, taking public transport, staying in hostels and couch surfing, etc. I have to admit I was a little nervous about taking the bus in Turkey (though it was more because of wanting to adhere to time schedule, and a little because of language, not because of safety) so I didn’t take any long route buses (also those Turkish Airlines flights were honestly only a few Euros more expensive!) Anyway, if this little Taiwanese chick could travel, so could I. I think about her and hope I can be that fearless.
The hike was really nice. Our tour guide sort of wasn’t the most friendly guy (maybe he was having a bad day. I can totally understand it must be boring to go to the same place all the time) and he basically took off on this portion of the tour, not talking to anyone. The scenery more than made up for this, however.
This river is the river Menderes River in Turkey. Its winding path is the origin for the word meander. I read a really fascinating book last summer called Meander: East to West along a Turkish river, by Jeremy Seal. The author had the crazy idea to kayak down the entire river. I guess he hadn’t checked beforehand of the obstacles in the way (without giving too much away). It’s a fun read! You can read it for free by signing up for an e-account at LAPL, and borrowing it from their great e-library (you don’t have to be a resident of Los Angeles to join!) Or, support the author and buy the book.
These ducks were hanging out at this kitchy rest/tea stop halfway through the short, maybe 4km hike. By the way, did I mention Turks like tea? Yeah.
There were some more ancient churches along the way. I think if I were to come back to Kapadokya I’d spend a lot more time hiking in this region. There were a ton of edible plants growing near the river beds, I could definitely see why a culture would settle here.
We headed to our last site for the day after this, Selime Monastery. This was a HUGE complex of carved out cave rooms. It was rather steep going up to the site and I’m glad I had a pair of pretty sturdy boots on. I know there’s been much erosion and it was less steep when it was being actively used, but it was still awe-inspiring to imagine the monks bringing everything they needed up into the monastery. It was packed with tourists and I’m glad I was there in the off-season, it must be insane during the summer time. I was able to get a few nice photos without too many people to share with you though.
After this we were pretty pooped, and headed back to Göreme for the end of the day. There was a little bit of an issue when the tour guide told me that the airport shuttle I had booked was at 8am, for a 4am flight. Problem yok? Evet. (YES.) I was insistent and also showed them my reservation, and eventually they agreed to have a private driver bring me, for the 45 minute trip to the airport. I hate to be annoying but why did they wait until I was there and had booked flights to tell me? Maybe they were hoping I would just pay the extra money. This is why it’s probably not best to be on a strict schedule, but again, what could I do? I wanted to make the most of my time. That’s why it pays to do your research and print out a copy of your stuff if you AREN’T able to be flexible. I had dinner in town at Göreme Restaurant. Again, they didn’t have live music as was advertised on a lot of sites online because of the off-season but they DID have great tunes playing on the speakers. There were mostly Turks and a couple of lone backpackers (male and female), no problem at all for the solo traveller. The food was good and reasonably priced though not the cheapest in town (16 TL?). I ordered a chicken dish that was cooked in a clay pot which is supposed to be unique to the region.
I took a little nap at the hotel before the driver came to take me to the airport. I guess he wasn’t too happy so I again played the “I love Turkish music” card and we had a much happier ride listening to some good music. I was off to Denizli via Istanbul for my next little adventure…