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Turkey - Day 5 - Istanbul to Cappadocia

Flight to Kayseri, Goreme Open Air Museum, Lunch in Goreme, Pashabagi Valley

It is raining slightly as we leave our hotel to head to the airport. We have been remarkably lucky thus far, with threatening skies a few times but no rain. If it has to rain, let it be on a day like today when we're traveling rather than sight-seeing. Much of our drive to the airport is on a motorway that runs parallel to the Bophorus, and I am amazed at how many boats are moored waiting, we are told, for the tide to change.

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We have an early morning flight to Kayseri, the gateway city for Cappadocia. At the conclusion of our 1-1/2 hr. flight we are met at the airport by Ramazan, who is our guide while we are in Cappadocia, along with Tunjay, our driver. We have a huge 17 passenger van for just the four of us; Ramazan explains it gets the same mileage as a smaller vehicle, so why not enjoy the extra room? Sounds good to me. Off we head to see the sights. Ramazan suggests that if we don't mind eating lunch on the late side, that it might be good to tour the Goreme Open Air Museum around noon, while everyone else is at lunch. Always willing to do anything we can to avoid crowds, we quickly agree to the plan. He gives us a mini-lesson in the geology of Cappadocia:

Around 30 million years ago volcanoes erupted in present day Cappadocia and covered the ground with ash. the ash then solidified into a fairly soft rock called "tuff" which is easily eroded. In some places, a layer of harder volcanic was laid on top. Over time, the softer tuff has eroded, occasionally leaving "caps" of the harder volcanic material on top. Thus are born the famous fairy chimneys (also called the "bad boys") of Cappadocia.

At our first stop we pose beside the fairy chimneys that are prominently featured in much of Cappadocia's promtional material.

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Then Ramazan points out a fairy chimneys nearby that has been hollowed out and made into a cave home by an early Christian hermit. I eagerly snap photos, wondering how in the h__ the hermit ever climbed up into his cave. And how often he came down.

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A few days later after viewing literally thousands of caves, I remember how giddy I was at the sight of "our first cave in Cappadocia." It's sort of like when we were in Patagonia and spied our first guanaco. We all eagerly snapped photos, each of us trying to get the perfect shot of this wild creature who was so foreign to us. Little did we know that by the third day of our trip if anyone spotted a guanaco, we merely yawned. They were as common as squirrels back home. So it is with caves in Cappadocia....

Goreme Open Air Museum

Ramazan's strategy has worked and we arrive at a relatively vacant Goreme Open Air Museum, while all of the other tourists are at lunch. I'm anxious to explore this World Heritage Site that I've read so much about but have seen very few pictures of.

The Goreme Valley is home to the greatest concentration of rock-hewn
cave churches and monasteries in all of Cappadocia.
Its more than 30 chapels contain carvings and frescoes dating back to the 9th century
along with living quarters for the monks who inhabited the monasteries nearby.

As we start to tour the area, I am immediately disappointed as I learn that NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed in the chapels. NONE. NADA. Not even without flash. That explains why I could never find many photos on line of the churches there. If you want to see, you are just going to have to visit there. The churches vary a great deal in the complexity of their decoration, with some of the early ones having very simple motifs, and later ones with elaborate frescoes that would rival most Italian chapels. I purchase a book so I will have some record of what we have seen.

The astute among you will spy balloons in some of these photos. More about that in tomorrow's posting.

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This is one of the few caves in which photography is allowed. It's a refectory where the monks sat on rock hewn benches to eat on the rock table.

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And here are the entrances to some churches.

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When I look at the tough living conditions of these early Christians, it's no wonder that their numbers increased slowly, but their devotion certainly can't be questionned.

Sedef Restaurant lunch - Goreme

We rely on Ramazan to order our food for us at lunch, but Frank and I are each sure to order an Efes - Turkey's wonderful beer. Of course, Turkey's favorite vegetable, eggplant, is part of the menu as well as a regional specialty cooked in an earthenware clay pot in an oven similar to a tandoori.

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Pashabagi Valley

After our late lunch we head to Pashabagi Valley, which is also known as Monk's Valley. As soon as we arrive, Ramazan points out the various stages of erosion of the soft rock, eventually resulting in the fairy chimneys.

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I'm betting this is the only police station that I'll ever see housed in a fairy chimney:

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This particular valley is notable because it has numerous muti-headed fairy chimnneys, which are fairly uncommon elsewhere in Cappadocia. As at Goreme Open Air Museum, the caves were inhabited by early Christian monks. One of them in particular, St. Simeon, achieved some notoriety for the miracles that locals believed he performed. In order to escape their attention he became a hermit and moved into a 50 ft. tall fairy chimney, only descending occasionally to get food and drink brought by his disciples. This is his cave home.

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Here are some of the more striking fairy chimneys in the valley

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As Tunjay drives us towards our hotel we notice how the towns fade imperceptibly into the surrounding hills, as people have incorporated their homes into the hillside caves.

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And from our very own hillside cave hotel at the Museum Hotel in Uchisar, we enjoy a glass of wine and our first magnificent sunset in Cappadocia.

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Posted by BeachGlass 13:28 Archived in Turkey Tagged cappadocia goreme

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