During our break between CELTA courses we decided to complete one of Lou’s bucket list entries and jump on the bus to Cappadocia to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.
It takes around 4 and a half hours from Ankara to get to Goreme, the local tourist hub which is the centre of Cappadocia. We checked into our hotel and immediately booked up for a balloon ride the next day, which was an early start, but at least we could get the early start out of the way and then relax for the rest of the holiday.
So, at 3.30am on anniversary day, we were picked up and headed to the registration office to await our flight. 30-mins passed, one-hour passed and then eventually out flight was cancelled – bugger. Dan headed straight back to bed and Louise went up the hill to take some photo’s of the sunrise. We were both still back in bed by 6.30am and up again at 09:00 for our second breakfast of the day! So, once we woke up we decided to head for the UNESCO-listed Goreme Open Air Museum to see what all the fuss is about. The complex consists of a mass of cave churches dating from the 10th – 12th century each containing frescoes in various conditions. The best of which is called the Dark Church, which due to the limitation of light entering the cave, is the best preserved of all the paintings – but as a result means we coudn’t take photos.
The following day we did a day trip which took us around the major tourist sites in Cappadocia region: Pigeon Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Selime Monastery and the Ihlara Valley. Pigeon Valley is a photo stop where you can look across the gorge and see the holes cut into the rock where locals used to care for their pigeons as they were vital for communication in the days before i-phones.
The biggest city uncovered for public admission as yet, Derinkuyu, allows visitors to get a taste of troglodytic life during the Hittite period. Only abut 25 per cent of the city is open to visitors and that consists largely of the upper two ‘floors’, which it is presumed, were used to store animals and humans. You get to see some of the old stables, bedrooms, church and graveyards and it is a really interesting spectacle. The best guess is that people only lived here for short periods (a couple of months) to escape invaders. Having seen the small ventilation shafts in the bathroom area (which doubles as as the stables) I expect the smell after two months may have been somewhat pungent.
The Selime Monastery was a missionary school complete with church and living areas. It was used between the 8th and 10th century. The site we visited is accessible via a collapsed tunnel and reveals a series of stunning complexes with high ceilings and intertwining footpaths which link all the rooms. Unfortunately, the building was protected by the government too late and a few rooms have been smoke damaged by local people who used the site to shelter before they understood the historical importance.
Ihara Valley is a beautiful 14km long canyon, although as part of our tour we only walked three. This included a visit to the Ağaçaltı cave church, which was used between the 4th and 10th century and has some cave paintings which are still visible. The walk is very flat and you get to stop for a cup of tea halfway through and rest your feet in the cool river.
The next day we were up again at 3.30am with our eyelids closed but our fingers crossed. Luckily the weather gods were smiling on us and we did get to spend a beautful 60-mins floating above canyons, gorges and the unique rock formations which the area is so famed for. The flight is beautiful and made the early morning totally worthwhile.
Our top-tip for the region, get a room with air-con. Our room didn’t despite an upgrade (although Lou swears she booked a room with air-con) and it was really, really, warm. As for Cappadocia itself, it’s a beautful place (similar to Petra in Jordan in lots of ways) and was a terrific place to spend an anniversary.
Here’s a link to photos from our few days away: Cappadocia Pictures