Pat Yale is a travel writer for Lonely Planet who lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia. She has written A Handbook for Living in Turkey. "It unravels the mysteries of being a foreign
resident…navigate the Turkish education system…and examines daily
life…with practical ideas, word lists… (and many other resources)." Here's her column in Today's Zaman.
Alex and I, along with our friend Courtney Smith, an English-language instructor at Meliksah University in Kayseri, hiked about eight miles around Goreme in Cappadocia on Sunday. It was like walking on a moonscape, except as Courtney said, "more gravity."
Goreme is about an hour bus ride from our home in Kayseri. It's a big attraction for tourists from all over the world. I talked at length with a family from California, and observed groups from Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and the U.K.
Volcanoes active until about 8,000 years ago helped form soft rock upon which the famous fairy chimneys survived when the consolidated volcanic ash gave way. In the first century, Christians facing persecution in the Roman empire started hiding in Cappadocia. They built underground cities and camouflaged rock churches. We visited homes, chapels and churches in the rock dating back to at least the 10th century.
Goreme, Cappadocia is only an hour bus ride from our home in Kayseri. We think we've found our weekend getaway and retreat! More photos, of our visit to the Goreme Restaurant (great atmosphere), street views, rug store, and of a cute dog snuggled in a pile of knitted socks in front of the rug store. We stayed at the Pasha Han Hotel, which was quite reasonably priced. On Saturday, we explored the remnants of an underground city, and climbed five stories below the earth.
While hiking in Cappadocia in early March, we stumbled upon a family of potato farmers and packers. They had grown thousands and thousands of potatoes, picked and stored them in a cave on the side of a mountain, and now it was time to pack them and take them to market.
(Photo By Dalyan60.) Just a few miles from the town of Urgup (pop. 15,000) is the picturesque village of Mustafapasa (pop. 1500). "Until WWI, (it) was a predominantly Ottoman Greek settlement. These days, it greatly benefits from this Greek legacy, as its exquisitely decorated stone-carved houses and minor rock-cut churches attract the attention of a small but respectable number of foreign and domestic tourists," reports LonelyPlanet.com. We stayed two nights in early March at the family-run Pacha Hotel, and were treated to Turkish breakfast and dinner in the charming dining room. The hotel is run by two brothers, Ozgur and Ismael, and their wives. Ozgur, who speaks fluent French, led us on a day-long tour of the region on Saturday. (Fortunately, Lucia was able to converse with him pretty well.) Breakfast at the Hotel Pacha.
The town of Urgup (Click for Lonely Planet guide to) has a number of boutiques where the owners charm you with invitations to sip tea (free) and listen to their original music. Then they bargain with you on the prices of their hand-made wares. We think we got a good deal on a wine carafe, goblets and tray for about $125 (175 T.L). These are of ancient Hittite design, which is popular in the creation of contemporary pottery and jewelry in Turkey today. The parts were pre-made from the red clay in the local river, and the design was painted on by the shop owner and his wife with pins. He's quite a renaissance man, regaling us with traditional Turkish music and stories.
Archenclos rock church and Keslik monastery in the Soganli Valley dates back to at least the 10th century. It housed hundreds of monks. Inside the dwellings, you can see, carved from the stone, chimneys, fireplaces, bookshelves, a kitchen, and frescoes.
"The twin valleys of Soganli...look so magical that mischievous guides have falsely claimed that they featured in Star Wars. Yoda is not snoozing in any of the rock-cut churches, but...Soganli is a magnificent place to explore...and you may well have the valleys to yourself." Lonely Planet Guide to Turkey. Indeed, we did. Our French-speaking guide Ozgur, a resident of the area, had a car, knew the history in detail and knew where to go.
The twin valleys "were first used by the Romans as necropolises and later by the Byzantines for monastic purposes, with ancient rock-cut churches," Lonely Planet reports.
In the village square of Soganli (pronounced "Swanlu"), local women sell dolls, mittens, slippers and socks that they've knitted themselves from their own sheep wool. This lady sold us quite a few items while we waited for lunch at the Kapadokya Restaurant, which served us omelettes and casseroles.
Spending time in Cappadocia (Wikipedia entry) and seeing so many representations of saints on frescoes within cave churches has sparked my interest in who they all were. I come from a tradition (American Protestant Christianity, not Catholic or Orthodox Christianity) that puts almost no emphasis on saints and is even skeptical of the concept of saints beyond the rather generic notion of a communion of saints which is the spiritual union of all believers living and dead.
The early Christians, especially in the Roman and Byzantine Empires, made a practice of venerating people of extraordinary spirituality or holiness. See the Wikipedia entry on the definition of saint.
Cappadocians are mentioned in the Bible's Book of Acts as having heard the Gospel account from Galileans who knew Jesus. The Cappadocians were introduced to the resurrection of Jesus not long afterwards on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2/9).
In a dozen weekend trips to Cappadocia, I've seen no evidence of active Christian observance. But apparently, formal worship services still happen at least occasionally. On June 27, 2010, Patriarch Bartholemew of the Eastern Orthodox Church, based in Constantinople, joined with a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, based in Moscow, to hold services in Derenkuya, at the Church of the Great Martyrs. Click. Russian Orthodox Church coverage.
Alex Buie explores underground city in Guzelyurt, Turkey. Below, he squeezes into an underground tunnel.
We had a wonderful time hiking the Ilhara Valley -- probably the best hiking in Cappadocia, Turkey (kind of like the Grand Canyon in the U.S. , though the latter is on a much grander scale). The village life of Guzelyurt is like traveling back in time a thousand years. The terrain of the Ilhara Valley varies so much -- from canyons to peaks to valleys and fields, not too dry or dusty, always close to the river (Melendiz Seyu). It is said to be the deepest gorge in Asia Minor.
We stayed at the other worldly Karballa Hotel, a 19th century monastery "in the historic heart of Turkey."
To get to Guzelyurt, take a commercial bus to Aksaray (two hours from Kayseri), and then a dolmus (smaller bus) for a 45-minute ride.
You'll probably have to take a cab from Guzelyurt to the Ilhara Valley entrance, about 60 lira ($45) round trip for three people, meaning the driver will pick you up and, if you call him, return you to your hotel in the evening.
Lucia, Alex, Matthew and I had quite an adventure in the Taurus Mountains south of Kayseri and officially part of Cappadocia, though it's far afield of the famous moonscapes and fairy chimneys. Though it looks close on the map, we had to take an hour-long bus from Kayseri to Nigde, then another hour to the Pansiyon. The owner picked us up at the bus station on Friday night, and drove us all the way back to Kayseri on Sunday, stopping at the Kupuzbasi waterfalls along the way.
Below are the majestic mountains as we enter Ali Daglar National Park.
At 3 AM, Lucia, Alex and Matthew went on an elusive search for the Caspian Snowcock. Alex encountered the teeth of a monster while scaling the mountain. Our "chariot" swayed on and off the narrow mountain roads, flirting with a fall down a cliff and later, the front brakes locking, before the vehicle broke down. We did encounter nomadic Yoruk tribesmen and their hundreds of sheep, who led us to a second chariot (a tractor), which six people climbed on and we all made it down the mountain without falling off. Next day, Jim, Matthew and Alex went mountain climbing, or as far as they could go without climbing gear. Late in the day, for tired boys, the rocks of the mountains made nice pillows. On Sunday, we made our way from our pension to the stunning Kapuzbasi Waterfalls along twisting back roads, a "quick" three hour drive.
Driving around Cappadocia one Saturday, we stumbled on a treasure trove of ceramics (Guray Seramik) in the village of Avanos, where we made pottery from the nearby clay of the Red River and saw how the experts made it. The prices were much cheaper in person than they are on the website.