Saturday, May 11, 2013



Not only does Cappadocia have wild looking geologic formations, but it also has man made ones. We went to visit one of them on a day-long “green” tour. The Derinkuyu Underground City is one of the largest underground cities in Cappadocia. It has eight floor levels that can be visited, with very narrow (and sometimes steep) passages.

Underground passages in the city

They could close off a passage by rolling this rounded stone

In this passage they would string up foes

The passage ways were very narrow and sometimes long and steep. The guide told us that if you suffered from claustrophobia, heart or breathing problems, this was not the place to go. He was right.

Inhabitants started out using the dug out areas for storage. But they expanded them into living areas for protection from sieges by enemies, sometimes living below ground for six months. They had stone-wheeled doors that could be rolled to block passage ways, passages that went nowhere to confuse enemies and much more. There were kitchens, meeting halls, living quarters, eating areas and churches.

The tour then took us to Ilhara Valley, a lush green valley with a river running through it and caves built into the cliffs on either side. Although several churches were visible, we only hiked up to one of them. The Jacinth Church, is a two-story structure with a row of columns carved into the wall on the second floor. The first floor has some colorful frescoes in the nave.

Starting our descent into Ilhara Valley

By the way, one of the things we learned about that I found very interesting was that these fresco wall paintings we've  been seeing actually employee one of two techniques - fresco and tempera. Fresco (fresh in Italian) is painted on a wet plaster surface while tempera is painted on a dry plaster with paint that is mixed with egg yolk (in this case, they used pigeon eggs).

Jacinth Church

Upper story of Jacinth Church
At the end of the hike, we had a tasty lunch at a riverside restaurant (I had trout, while Diane had a vegetarian dish). We then headed onward to a huge cave complex that was called the Selime Monastery.

Trout lunch

Lunch by the river
The Selime Monastery is cut within a huge block of rock, with several churches within it, kitchens, eating areas, passages, halls and more. It was built in the 12th and 13th century by Christian monks. An interesting  tidbit that our tour guide told us of is that George Lucas tried to get permission to film parts of Star Wars there, but never got the go-ahead. So his crew took measurements, photos, etc and built a similar fake structure elsewhere.

Selime Monastery

Church in the Open Air Museum

View of the Open Air Museum
Our last day in Cappadocia, Diane and I took it easy but still managed to see some local things around Goreme. We visited the Open Air Museum (with a thousand or more other tourists) and Zemi Valley. In this area we found a small church and later walked through an area that had more unusual rock formations that were very phallic in shape. It was an interesting area and we were one of the few there.

El Nazar churh in Zemi Valley

We got a personal tour from the care-taker at the church

View of the rock structures in Zemi Valley

Stopping for some fresh OJ

Tuesday, May 7, 2013



Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey known for its unique chimney rock geological  formations. We decided on the town of Goreme after Meredith and her friend Leyla had stayed there for a few days last year (we also chose the same cave hotel).

The trip from Konya consisted of a three hour bus ride to the city of Nevshier, then taking a local bus to Goreme. Our hotel host came and retrieved us by a car to take us to the Koza Hotel. Soon after we were quickly settled into our cave room.

The area sort of reminds us of Bryce Canyon. The rock formations, the erosion, the natural color tones all seem familiar. But what’s happened here is that sometimes, basalt rocks protected the base of the rock structure while erosion took away its surrounding, leaving stand-alone pillars with a boulder as a hat. Much of the area looks like a Flinstone or Smurf movie set.

The Koza Hotel is a family run business. After we got unpacked, we met them all and were offered a cup of tea. The family spent many years in the Netherlands and only moved back to Turkey a few years ago. The father built much of the hotel and its furnishings. He's a very talented individual with quite an artistic eye. We told them that we were interested in seeing the local sights, look at carpets and check into the local pottery. Naturally they had family and friends in all of these areas of interest.

Pretty soon we found ourselves in a pottery studio/store, one like I have never quite seen before. Without going into too much detail, it was one of those learning lessons that are a pleasure to experience. We learned about how pottery is made, how artists sketch and apply the artwork and colors, glazing techniques and baking the pottery in the oven.

Here the potter sees if the lid he made fits the rest of the bowl. It did.
Needless to say, we came away knowing a lot more about pottery and with a little less cash. We ended up purchasing one of the old styled wine decanters with a circular shape, the larger ones fitting an arm through it.

In the morning I was awakened early around 6:10 a.m. by a loud whooshing blow. I knew instantly what it was - a hot air balloon coming by. I jumped out of bed, put on some clothes, got my camera and walked up to one of the several terraces. I could see a giant, colorful balloon floating along just feet from the chimney rock at our hotel. Looking at the horizon, I could see dozens more all over the sky. It was an amazing sight.

View of the balloons from our hotel in the early morning

For the rest of the day, we decided on renting a 125cc scooter and riding through areas that we’d never get to otherwise. We visited an ancient Caravansarai that dates back to 1249. These were rest stops or inns along the Silk Route for travelers and merchants. The one we stopped at was beautifully restored. You could just imagine how the merchants would sit there sipping their tea, doing business, staying for a couple of days to make their business deals.

The entrance to the Caravansarai 

The rest of the day we proceeded along a circular, clockwise route to Cavusin, Avanos, Zelve, Urgup, Uchisar and back home to Goreme.


View from above the ruins

One of the churches inside the ruin

Zelve and the Fairy Chimney rocks

Uchisar and view of the castle

Our transportation for the day