Wherever you are in Cappadocia you will see Uchisar Castle standing out on the landscape. It is 1350 meters above sea level and is at the highest point of the region. It’s not known when the castle was built. It was created by hollowing out the natural caves in the rock into rooms.
From here we took a walk through Pigeon Valley where we ended up in the town of Goreme, which is the main tourist town in the area. The valleys were deep and looked like curtain plinths on top of the mountainside.
We next opted to go the Zelve open air museum. We took the bus back to the hotel, we’d walked far enough, and collected the car as Zelve was a bit of drive. There are three valleys here. The first has a mill, church and a winery. The second valley is where the Church of the Holy Cross is situated. The third valley has a village square, mosque and a monastery complex.
After a long walk around Zelve we were all fading it had been a long day so it was a fairly early night.
The following day we headed to the Ilhara Valley which was just over an hour away from Uchisar where our hotel was. On our way we visited the underground city of Derinkuyu. There are over 200 underground cities in the region. The city was a place for the local Christians to hide from persecution from the Romans. When there was no fear of attack they lived in homes above ground and tunnels connected the homes to the underground city. Some parts were a bit claustrophobic so I took a deep breath and off we went.
The city dates back to the 8th century and was only discovered by chance in 1963. A local was was renovating his house and apparently his chickens kept disappearing into a gap created during the renovations, never to be seen again. After investigation a passageway was discovered. It was the first of hundreds of entrances found in private homes leading to the underground city.
The city was large enough to house more than 20,000 people and extended to a depth of 85 metres over 18 levels. You had to crouch quite low to get through some of the tunnels. At various sections of the tunnels there were large round stones which would roll across the entrance to keep the enemy out as they could only be opened from the inside. There were chimneys for ventilation and water. Everything was catered for underground, food storage facilities, stables for cattle, wineries and also a chapel.
There were communication tunnels in the walls which they would use to tell those living at the lower levels the enemy was approaching so they could then shut the tunnels off. The city also had a a school where the teacher sat at the top and the children sat in front on stone seats. There was a tunnel that only the teacher could use if he needed to escape quickly. Not sure why only for the teacher.
The Ilhara Valley had come highly recommended. Having walking nearly 20,000 steps the day before Ian decided we’d take the shorter walk. We dropped David and Sarah at the beginning of the Valley and we headed to Besilrmi village where we would meet them later. We took a stroll along the valley which has the Melendiz River running through it. It was very peaceful and serene. The valley is 15km long and up to 150 metres deep.
There are a number of churches along the valley. One was St George’s cave church which was built inside a burial grotto up some steep stairs. It was completed in 1290 and was the last cave church to be built in Cappadocia. There are approximately 100 graves lining the church floor.
There was a tea shop along the route so we obviously stopped there as Ian needed his fix of tea. There were so many different ducks which were amusing. Suddenly half a dozen of them appeared rushing along in a line and then back again they went, like sheep but they were ducks! The stream was running so fast that the ducks just zoomed along. As well as ducks there were chickens, peacocks, peahens and a turkey.
Next we went to the Selime monastery which is cut into the rock and situated at the end of the Ilhara valley. It was surprising how big it was, it was stunning. It was built in the 8th century. The Kitchen was large and so indicated that there were a lot of people who lived on the site.
There were two halls, the first had an upper level, which Ian insisted on climbing up, even with his dodgy knees. The second hall was huge. It was 17 metres deep, 6m wide and 8m in height. This was the main hall for receiving guests and conducting ceremonial meals. There was also an upper gallery.
The Basilica Church was impressive.
Goreme is the main town of Cappadocia and as a result is full of restaurants including three Indian restaurants which you don’t see very often in Turkey so when in Rome, well Turkey actually.
Our final day in Cappadocia. Ian and I were going to walk around Rose Valley. David and Sarah were going to do one half of Rose Valley and then venture into the Red Valley which was a longer walk. Well best laid plans and all that, so no didn’t quite happen like that. We started completely in the wrong direction and ended up walking three hours through Sword Valley. “Let’s go and look at the chimney houses over there”, said Ian and David. We ended up walking in between the cave houses, clambering over rocks and then going through tunnels, some very narrow.
In one tunnel Sarah, AKA The Mole, went through I followed, crikey I just made it through it was so low. The boys had no chance and managed to get outside and go round. Sarah enjoyed the crawl so much she went through twice.
We made it all the way to the top, stunning views and we could see the Rose and Red Valleys over the other side. We followed the trail back down on the outside. Ian and I had gone much further than we anticipated.
Our final day but there were two games of rugby to be watched. So, a late lunch and then off to our hotel. Luckily, we had a big hotel room so a few beers and watched the games. Sarah having not done enough walking or exercise that day so went for a run into Goreme which was 4 km away.
We now had the long drive back to Finike, about nine hours. It was a grey cold day. How lucky had we been. We had the right winds for the balloon ride, lots of warm sunshine and no rain.
On our way back to Finike was the Sultanhani, the largest caravanserai in Turkey built in the 1229 on the Silk Road.
It has sections for summer and winter periods. The courtyard is surrounded by storage rooms, stalls, kitchen and bedrooms where animals and people were accommodated. In the centre of the courtyard is a small mosque. The covered courtyard was for the winter and during cold weather people and animals stayed indoors to keep warm. In fact in one of the rooms we saw a dog sleeping.
One final stop at Side where we had a quick look around some of the ruins. We didn’t have much time so it was a real flying visit.
Cappadocia is an incredible place to visit. Turkey is often thought of a place to go for a beach holiday but I would recommend taking some time to fly up and stay a few nights to see this spectacular place. You won’t be disappointed. Definitely a highlight of Turkey for us and we’ve seen a lot of Turkey.