Dave and Deb from ThePlanetD shared this blog post from Paula at ContentedTraveller. She and her husband Gordon went to this unusual part of the world – which is defo on my list but not been there yet. Love the idea of seeing it from a balloon… – Ned
My husband decided that he wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun, as you do. So he rang me at 7 in the morning and told me to ‘make it happen’. I went to work, took a quick look at the info on the computer and when he rang me between classes, I said Turkey, March 2006. He only gets away with telling me what to do if I see some benefit!
And that is how we ended up in Turkey. The eclipse is another story completely, and a good one, but as you don’t fly all the way from Australia for just a ‘moment’ – though an ethereally, mind blowing one at that – we decided to have a month over there.
I have this desire to stay in unique areas and to choose unique accommodation that befits the area. Hence we arrived in Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey. The town we actually stayed in is called Goreme and is the epicentre of what are known as the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations. These were formed purely from erosion. It is here that caves naturally developed and where the people originally chose to live, and many of the 2,500 people currently in Goreme still do. As the temperature here is very hot in the summer and very (read very) cold in the winter, the caves provided a natural insulation.
Our initial impression of Goreme was like arriving on a film set or in a futuristic Escher masterpiece. Absolutely out of my realm of experience, a total OMG moment, again and again.
Living as troglodytes
The accommodation I had organised was naturally a cave house. Well you know the saying, when in Rome. So when in Goreme, a cave house was the only option. We had to live as troglodytes. Now I thought that was a disparaging term, but it actually means ‘cave dwellers’. Our cave was warm and cosy, with traditional Goreme rugs adorning the walls, and remarkably comfortable with amazing views. Our initial impressions of Goreme were like arriving on a film set or a futuristic Escher masterpiece. Absolutely out of my realm of experience, a total OMG moment, again and again.
More significantly, though, it was the people of this region who, in sync with nature, utilised these amazing caves, and created the temples and massive underground cities. Goreme has been described as a honeycomb of caves, as it is. The history of Goreme starts with the Hittites and then was ‘maintained’ by the Greeks, then the Persians and then Byzantine Greeks. This necessitated the need for the people to be able to protect themselves and thus the caves and cave cities were a natural fortress. Each within its own escape routes, as well as means for keeping large communities, fed, clothed and warm with air shaft tunnels as well as fresh water accounted for. Makes you marvel at their ingenuity. Eventually, Christians arrived at Goreme escaping the purges and thus arose the monasteries that you see here today, which are still in excellent condition, considering.
Goreme is unique, and that is an understatement. Not only is the township made up of fairy chimneys and caves but also the subterranean cave cities going down 8 levels, carved from the soft volcanic sponge are well worth the visit. Eerie but intriguing, when you realise that so many people and all of their day to day needs needed to be addressed – underground. The ones we visited were at Neveshir and Derinkuyu and have been the backdrop of many movies. Such is the aesthetic of the location, yet in an Escher way, the entrances to the cities are difficult to spot by any marauders, or indeed by us.
The open air museum at Goreme is a massive monastic complex born from the arrival of the Christians fleeing Rome. Each with their own rock cut churches with highly adorned frescoes and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1984.
The village of Goreme retains an authenticity not ruined by tourists. The local people are nothing if not gentle and welcoming, if not somewhat amused by travellers walking around with their mouths open in amazement. The food is authentic and very good, and a speciality is a local stew cooked in a claypot and then bought to the table and ceremoniously smashed in front of you. This is seriously good food, and the drinks he gave us certainly warded off the cold. The donkeys roam the streets, the carpet sellers freely give out the apple tea, the hookahs are set up and ready. This is so surreal that it defies description.
Hot air balloning in Goreme
The hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia region was a highlight for Gordon as the balloon pilot took them within a couple of metres of the cliffs and the cave openings so that they could watch the people having their breakfast. The panoramic vista of the entire region was intense. Meanwhile I chased the balloon through the fields, much to the amusement of the farmers. I am scared of heights, but not of running through unknown territory in the middle of the Anatolia region, with strange animals following me. Go figure!
Goreme in Cappadocia, is a place that needs to be on your ‘to do’ list. Escher would welcome you, as will the locals.