Written by Jenn
Our week in Cappadocia was overall a cold and rainy one, with the temperature ranging between 0°C to 10°C. Coming from the Aegean where we experienced the weather during this time of year between 13°C to 20°C spoiled us to presume it to be more or less the same climate in inner Anatolia. Cold however is a relative term. Cappadocian winters are comparable to our Canadian autumns. So from our perspective, this has been our warmest winter so far.
We arrived in Göreme, Cappadocia on the overnight bus from Pamukkale at 8 in the morning. We stood outside the dusty bus station for probably 15 minutes to take in our new surroundings and re-orient ourselves with our map. On our way to our hotel we stopped for breakfast at a restaurant called Farmville. We ate our lovely Turkish breakfast outdoors (a plate consisting of scrambled eggs, bread, slices of cucumber and tomato, and black olives) and drank apple tea. I remember sitting back in my chair to take in the beautiful image of our four tiny travelers casually drinking their apple tea in petal shaped tea cups, with the enchanting Cappadocian landscape as their backdrop.
Cappadocia means beautiful horses. It is where the mighty Persian Empire got their gallant stallions. Cappadocia is located in the centre of inner Anatolia; Anatolia being the Asian part of Turkey. Geographically, Turkey is a land bridge between the two continents of Europe and Asia. Three percent of Turkey is located in Europe (which is part of Istanbul) and ninety-seven percent is located in Asia Minor (Anatolia).
The landscape of Cappadocia possesses incredibly unique rock formations. Even more intriguing is how people have burrowed themselves into this unusual land, making it their home. They’ve not only created a life for themselves, but have thrived for thousands of years.
These unusual rock formations look like a combination of colourful cone-shaped moonscapes and tall slender rock towers called fairy chimneys. Our tour guide told us that many years ago, travellers started calling these rock formations fairy chimneys because at night they would see glimmering lights coming from the rocks which they imagined to be made by fairies. In reality, these lights were made by the local people living in them. People still live in them today, and many cave homes have been turned into cave hotels.
These strangely beautiful rock formations were created by 3 surrounding volcanoes thousands of years ago, and carved by water and weather. Dust, ash, and lava flowed to create a plateau made of tuff (our Turk tour guide called it tuffa, pronounced t0o-fa) rock. Tuff is basically a sedimentary layer that can be carved and hardens over time with exposure to air. Hence, it was very easy for people to carve their homes into these rocks thousands of years ago.
Our Cappadocian Adventures
Sleeping in a Cave
We wanted to make our visit in Cappadocia a memorable one so we stayed in a real cave hotel. Shoe String Cave Hotel was highly recommended by the two lovely Australian sisters we met in Kayaköy. They told us to make sure we go to the Shoe String Cave, as the price was just right and the experience unforgettable.
What was it like to sleep in a cave? Exactly what we imagined: Dark and cold. The cave walls were cold. The tile floor of our shower room was cold. For a couple of nights we even had to ask for an extra portable heater. Winter would not be an ideal time to stay in a cave. Although, I can imagine it to be quite nice during the very hot summers. Brian had to duck his head at some parts of our room.
Despite the discomfort, I believe that overall it was a good experience for us because it enriched our education about the underground cities. Would I stay in one again? Probably one day when I am a grandma travelling with my grandkids on their educational adventures.
Hot Air Ballooning over the Cappadocian Landscape
This was an experience of a lifetime! Again, highly recommended by the Canadian family we met in Pamukkale and I am so glad we did this in Cappadocia. It was incredibly pricey for us. It cost us 330 Euros for our family of 6, and that was after we negotiated the low season price down. For that reason, we were glad we came during low season. However, the drawback of flying during the winter is that it was cold in the air during early morning. We came prepared though with all our layers, mittens, and tuques. The heat from the fire in the centre of the hot air balloon was welcomed by all the passengers on the flight.
The view of the Göreme landscape was breathtaking. We wove down low in the valley and also went high enough to experience flying in a cloud. Truly a magical experience!
Hiking in the Ihlara Valley
We hiked for an hour in the Ihlara Valley along a peaceful stream surrounded by rocks hollowed out into cave homes. If you look closely at the above picture you can see the caves. At the end of our hike, we stopped for lunch at a relaxing outdoor restaurant.
Among the many cave homes, there were also several churches carved in the rock. We visited one church called the Agacalti church (also known as the church of St. Daniel) with our tour group and studied the old frescoes inside. According to our tour guide Faruk, there are about 3000 church caves in Cappadocia, with the earliest painted churches dating back to the 4th century.
Exploring an Underground City
Exploring Derinkuyu was an incredibly educational experience. The kids enjoyed walking through doorways and passageways their size. Brian however didn’t enjoy the walk through this because of his height and mild claustrophobia. We heard that during the high season, hundreds of people walk through Derinkuyu and it can get pretty packed inside. Yet another reason why we were glad to be there during low season!
Exploring the Open Air Museum
We visited the Open Air Museum during an unpleasantly cold and windy day. This rock-cut monastic complex has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. The Christian monastic community life was started by St. Basil in Göreme who brought it with him from Egypt where he received his education living with Coptic monks. We visited a Nunnery (seen in the above picture) and several churches: St. Barbara’s Church, Elmali (Apple) Church, Yilanli (Snake) Church, Carikli (Sandals) Church, and Tokali (Buckle) Church.
Turkish Night Performance
We enjoyed an evening of Whirling Dervish, Folk Dancing and Belly Dancing performances during a sumptuous Turkish supper. In the end, we were all invited to dance, and Peter was chosen as a volunteer to dance the courting dance. He was adorable! Definitely an enjoyable night!
Learning about Turkish Pottery
Turkish pottery is exquisite and the detail is stunning. During one of our day tours, we toured a pottery cave to learn about the creation and design of Turkish ceramics. It was neat to be able to compare our Moroccan pottery and Turkish pottery experiences. The Turkish designs are much more intricate and elaborately detailed.
Our week in Göreme was an incredibly educational one!