Day 12: Kapadokya

I really enjoyed our breakfast, this time they had eggs and sausage, and I found a scone that went well with the over-brewed bitter tea. We had slept in a bit, and our breakfast was relaxed. Not much needed.

When we were set for the day we once again left to go find the Nevşhir bus, this time with plenty of time. The bus ride was pretty uneventful and it was interesting to see Nevşhir, a middle sized city without any tourist attractions. We were dropped across from the bus stop which wasn’t nearly as organized as the one in Denizli, but they didn’t seem to have nearly the traffic of Denizli. While we waited a man came up and asked me if I spoke German, in German. Luckily I happen to know that phrase and the response that I do not speak German. He looked disappointed, I think he wanted to practice his German, and I do look German thanks to my Mother’s side of the family. Germans are also the most frequent foreign tourists to Turkey.

We found our bus onto Derinkuyu pretty easily and were on our way. It’s not a short trip, a good 30-40 minutes from Nevşhir, but pretty pleasant in views. Unlike on our way to Selçuk where the farming was more like what we see in parts of the central valley of California, this was more like the Midwest with rolling giving way to large flat farms growing staple crops like wheat.

Derinkuyu itself is pretty unassuming, and feels almost like a suburb with well finished houses clustered together. The bus stop is close to the attraction, the underground city where Byzantine Christians and then later town’s people hid from encroaching Seljuk and Ottoman armies.

Inside is claustrophobic, and not well marked, so we hire a guide for a 45 minute tour. Our guide has a great sense of humor and good English, but he talks so fast sometimes it can be hard to follow. We’re lead first to stables, on the first level for large animals like cows and equines, then down to the second level that housed smaller animals like sheep and goats. Further down still was where they made wine and stored grapes. Finally even further down we started to find the church and living quarters. The narrow and short walkways getting more and more constricted. Our guide shows us air vents disguised as wells, wells down which invaders would toss poison only to have it land not in the water source, but a living room. We were told cooking is only done at night so the smoke cannot be seen, and special oils are used for fuel so as to not create as much smoke or burn as much air.

We go down yet further, now 5 levels down, and the path is now so tight I have to take my camera bag off and carry it in front of me, walking on my heals crouched as low as I can. Any further and I’d be crawling on hands and knees. They’re narrow too and only allow one direction of traffic, and with how busy it can be, our guide has to holler up and down them coordinating with other guides. Each level, and sometimes more often we’re shown giant wheel like stones that could be rolled down into place cutting off route from invading soldiers. Rooms were cut behind the door stones to allow for room to create mechanical purchase needed to pull them back open. It’s ingenious, and reminds me a lot of Indiana Jones.

Eventually we wind our way back to the second floor where our guide takes his leave and we wander for a bit before heading for the surface.

We aren’t in any particular hurry so we wander around town looking for a pleasant place to have lunch, eventually settling on a kebap place called Akdeniz Salonu. The owner was so happy to have us he took our picture for their website! We had their mixed kebap which was 1 chicken, 1 beef, and 1 adana (ground beef/lamb mix). The mezes that went with it were pretty good, and the salsa sort of mix with the adana was by far my favorite. Full and happy we wandered back towards the bus stop.

Back in Göreme we got ourselves kitted out for our hike though with not quite enough water apparently, and set out walking from our hotel back towards Dalton Brothers. From here we followed a similar path to last night, wanting to visit the same sights on foot that Jenn had seen on horseback the day before. She told me stories of great sights, of spectacular churches cut into caves, of wonderful views, and delicious orange juice like we’d had the evening before. We got to the junction on the road in Rose Valley but instead of heading left like we had yesterday, we headed right up the canyon. Jenn remembered from here we took a pretty hidden cut left up towards a ridge. We couldn’t seem to find it though. We walked up each seaming cut only to find a wall. We ended up just following the Rose Valley all the way towards it’s end, but there wasn’t any trail going where we intended so we decided we were done, that this was as far as we went and to give up.

Back at the junction on Rose Valley however we spotted practically a tour bus full of tourists from Korea making a turn we had missed lead by their tour guide. We decided maybe this was the trail and we could probably at least get to the first church before needing to turn back for water. We could get some at the shop at our junction and call that a night at least. It didn’t take half as long as I expected to find the first church arriving just before the tour group.

The lighting was spectacular, almost dark inside with just some light bouncing through the entrance. Inside were columns and supports cut out of the rock, not added later, and a cavernous ceiling. It reminded me so much of one of the giant basilicas spread through Europe, but miniaturized and cut into white rock. Not long after the tour group arrives, noisy and taking up all of the space. It’s hard to move in such a small space with so many people, the church probably wasn’t meant to accommodate even this many. They eventually leave and we get to take the photos we wanted and then headed out after a last bit of exploring.

We headed back down the trail but at the last minute I caught a glimpse of the top of the café at the second church, our planned goal, and it wasn’t that far away. We assumed it must still be open and headed up quickly trying to outpace the tour group beating them by feet. The trail up had been steep and at times a little slippery with decomposed tuft, but the tourists were in flip flops and designer clothes and completely out of their element. The café has one of the best views around looking out from cushioned seats down at Rose Valley and Göreme in the distance. What a view as the sun set. We had our orange juice and large water and headed up to the church to see the second of the hike, the one with frescoes hundreds of years old, still preserved today, though many are missing their faces for an unknown reason.

We saw a trail continuing further up the ridge, and hoping for a nice overlook of the valleys below, we went a bit further, and a bit further until we were well above everything around us for a perfect sunset panorama view. We saw other trails heading down into Red Valley, and the signs indicated this was the quicker way back kilometer wise. However the way down was a steep slippery slope with a rope to help. Not wanting to get stuck with the tour group we figured this would be the fun way to go. It turned out to be not too bad, though Jenn was a bit less confident with the scree than I was we made it safe and sound down. I sat on my heels and slid down like on a toboggan, and Jenn used the rope to kind of repel down. From here the trail made some nice twists and turns and even made loop down into a slot where rain water runs. Luckily there the skies are purest blue and we’re able to made great time.

Jenn running along the trail trying to beat sundown ran right past a church and I called her back. All I could see was a cross carved into a ceiling in a cave above us. Then I hear voices and noticed some tourist with a guide and we called up to ask how to get up and he pointed the way. Inside were more frescoes though not as vivid or detailed as the ones at the second church, but here looked more lived in with a room for animal slaughter and one for cooking as well. We overheard the guide say “We have plenty of time before sunset, and followed them out of the church. A few paces behind them we turn a corner to find them getting into a car and driving off. I guess it is easy to get back before sunset if you have a car. We have a flashlight so it’s not an actual worry, just generally a good idea to be done by then.

The trail winds for another kilometer or two and eventually joins the dirt road we rode back to the stables on last night. By now we know exactly where we are and how long it will take us to get back, and we even catch the tail of the sunset ride going back to the stables. It’s an easy walk back and to our left we see a gaggle of people on the crest again waiting for sunset from their viewpoint with a view nowhere near as good as ours had been.

The sun set, and we watched as a large tour group drove by on ATVs dusting the horses in front of us. We count our blessings too soon and another equally large one dusts us just as we cross their turn off. How unlucky. The walk back to town is uneventful.

Dinner this time is Sedef, a restaurant recommended by our hotel. The food was fine, but cost as much as Top Deck and again wasn’t anywhere near as good. It’s a tough bar to meet. The more frustrating part though was that the menu showed pictures of the food, and portions were half what were shown. We’d ordered one main and one appetizer, so we’re left a bit hungry too.

I’m now falling quite behind in my journals, but I’m far too tired after all the activity and excitement to work on them.


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