Cappadocia is probably one of the most visited places in Turkey so it is weird how we hadn’t been there in the 6 months that we have been living in Kayseri, considering it’s a little more than one-hour drive away. Until recently, that is, when we went there for a weekend away.
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, of which Kayseri was the capital. You won’t find the name Cappadocia on a map, as most of it is located in modern day Nevşehir Province. According to Wikitravel.org, the region “with its valley, canyon, hills and unusual rock formation created as a result of the eroding rains and winds of thousands of years of the level, lava-covered plain located between the volcanic mountains Erciyes, Melendiz and Hasan as well as its troglodyte dwellings carved out of the rock and cities dug out into underground, presents an otherworldly appearance. The eruptions of these mountains which were active volcanoes in geological times lasted until 2 million years ago. A soft tuff layer was formed, 150 m in thickness, by the issuing lavas in the valley surrounded by mountains. The rivers, flood water running down the hillsides of valleys and strong winds eroded the geological formations consisting of tuff on the plateau formed with tuff layers, thus creating bizarre shapes called fairy chimneys”. Indeed, when you look at the photos, which as always fail to do the justice to the breath-taking landscapes, you will see how hard to believe it is that those rock formations are natural.
Mike and I, together with my 3 work friends, rented a little Hyundai and set off of Friday after work. Purely to annoy Michael, I called it ‘the trip of friendship’, and the name stuck. I took the joke one step further and had t-shirts printed, except they came out with ‘friendship trip’, possibly because the other name was too long. I haven’t been on many road trips, so I find the idea immensely exciting. As we left Kayseri behind, munching on lemon bars that my friend, who is a very skillful baker, made for the trip (as I`m typing this, in my head I’m commenting on my use of relative clause. I clearly need a break from teaching!), we felt cheerful in anticipation of the weekend ahead.
Our hotel wouldn’t show up on Google maps, so we decided we would just ask around once we got to our destination, the city of Goreme. When we got there, we understood just why Google Maps would not be helpful. Most hotels are built into rocks and caves, and narrow winding streets are a maze of hotels, hostels and guest houses. Asking around didn’t help, neither did calling the hotel because we dialed the wrong number and both I and the man I was calling got very annoyed with each other. Finally, after about 20 minutes of walking in a circle up and down dark alleys, we stumbled into a hotel from the same chain and they arranged for us to be taken to our hotel.
Our friendly receptionist recommended a Korean restaurant, and as always excited by the prospect of foreign food, we headed there.
The food wasn’t fantastic, and pretty pricey, but it wasn’t a kebab and we allowed to have beer with our meal, so we were happy (just to clarify, there’s nothing wrong with a kebab, but when you live in a city where the only non-Turkish food choice is Burger King or McDonald’s, you jump at every opportunity to eat something that is not a kebab).
As we were walking home, we saw a cute dog, and stopped to pet it. Suddenly, we were surrounded by all these cats and as we started walking back to our hotel, the dog followed us all the way there.
Our hotel, Traveller’s Cave Pension, a stone build pension with cave rooms, was lovely. Our room looked like something out of Game of Thrones:
The room was pitch dark even in the daylight, so when I came out for breakfast and walked up to the breakfast terrace, I was stunned into speechlessness, a rare occurrence, but understandable given the view around me.
After breakfast, we headed to the Pigeon Valley for a spot of hiking. I`m not a fan of pigeons, to put it lightly, so I wasn’t mad about the pigeon figurines at the entrance. he valley is named for the many pigeon houses or dovecotes carved into the rocks and cliffs. In the past, the pigeons were used as message carriers, and their droppings were used as fertilizer.
At the entrance to the valley, we stopped for a while, enjoying the view. I was surprised that Erciyes, partially responsible for the creation of the rock formations, could be seen so clearly. Erciyes is our constant companion in Kayseri. In fact, I can see it right now as I’m typing this in our dining room.
The weather was just perfect for a hike, although as usual my feet were boiling. I don’t know where I got these hot feet from, but I hate wearing shoes when it’s warm. I know it’s safer to hike in trainers/hiking shoes than in Birkenstocks, but that’s what I kept thinking about the whole time. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, and the company (minus the thumbs up).
These kids were very generous to us – they were playing with some puppies and seeing the longing on our faces, handed the puppies to us to hug and pet. Mike had to forcibly remove a puppy from my arms and make me move on. Happy and rose-cheeked after the hike
Next on the agenda was a visit to the winery for some wine tasting and shopping. Unfortunately, the winery was too crowded so we decided to have a glass of wine in the nearby restaurant which served the very same wine we wanted to taste.
When we finally made it to the winery, we decided to just buy some wine, and were also invited on a tour of the winery. Unfortunately, it was all in Turkish, so all we could do was take pictures of the barrels and vats.
As we were walking home after our late dinner in an Indian place, which also involved a lot of wandering around and fruitlessly asking for directions, we saw some dogs again and of course we stopped to pet them, because we haven’t learned our lesson. Both dogs followed us back to the hotel and one went as far as following us up to the breakfast terrace.
On Sunday our destination was the Open Air Museum. As far as museums go, this was the coolest museum I have ever visited, second only to Te Papa Museum in Wellington, which is a home to the giant squid.
According to goreme.com, The Goreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes (wall paintings) whose colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock-hewn architecture and fresco technique. The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches. Each is associated with a church. Most of the churches in Goreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.