Touring Cappadocia, Turkey: Honeymoon Day 15
Arriving in Cappadocia early this morning, we took a transfer straight to our tour’s tourist office so that we wouldn’t miss a day of exploring. Once they picked us up, I was already feeling like hitting the sack again since we had gotten up at 5:00 AM for our flight from Istanbul. In my drowsy state, I began to wonder if this was even worth the trouble. Despite our tour guide being very friendly and informative, my exhaustion was getting the best of me until I opened my eyes to what was around me.
Everywhere I looked there were natural rock formations like the Fairy Chimneys that made me feel like I was in a Star Wars movie or something out of a Dr. Seuss book. I couldn’t help but stare out of our van window in wonder and awe thinking how different this was to anything else I had seen before.
This was our first and only tour we took part in during our honeymoon, and it was a great choice since we only planned to be in Cappadocia for 2 whole days and this allowed us to take maximize of our time here.
We began with the Selime Monostary, a perfect introduction to the underground city with soaring chimneys, dwellings, wineries, a basilica and chapel, and well as stables – all built into the mountains and boulders! Early Christians made these mountains their homes, made tunnels, and climbed high to get to their homes and churches when they were under Roman Empirical persecution making it was a safe and smart way to hide from the outside dangers.
During the last 4,000 years the outward boulders have collapsed exposing rooms and shelves, all of which were carved by hand using obsidian as tools – hard volcanic rock from two nearby volcanoes.
We moved on for a very pleasant hour and a half long trek through the Ihlara Valley beginning with another early Christian church that contained frescos from two different periods. The earlier art uses symmetrical shapes and decorations while the most recent Christians painted over it with images depicting scenes from the Bible.
|Early Christian artwork.|
As we walked through the valley along the Melendiz River, the narrow canyon was lined with caves similar to the monastery.
We had lunch at the end of our journey in Belisirma eating traditional Turkish food before visiting our next site.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu Underground City is the site that I wanted to see the most, and it did not disappoint. It is the largest of many underground cities in Cappadocia about 85 mt. deep ( 279 ft. ) with 7 explorable floors containing a monastery, stables, wells, ventilation shafts, storage rooms, wineries, a huge kitchen, staircases, tunnels leading to other cities, and everything else in between! If you weren’t impressed with the monastery, this place will definitely take you aback considering it was first used over 4,000 years ago by Hitties then by early Christians as a refuge from religious prosecution.
|Monastery and baptism room.|
As we went deeper into the underground city, ducking in tunnels and staircases, I felt like a dwarf in Snow White but surprised at how well ventilated it was as there was a lack of moisture and unpleasant smells as other caves tend to have. What is even more amazing about the site is that only 10% has been excavated, and it is estimated to have been able to hold and sustain 20,000 people for at least a month. You leave the site in wonder as to how this place was constructed so long ago, still standing, and how so many people lived underground.
Pigeon Valley and Gereme Esentepe
From Derinkuyu Underground City, my excitement and will to move forward had decreased considerably as symptoms of lack of sleep started to kick in again. We stopped at Pigeon Valley for some panoramic views, and, despite my mood, it turned out to be my second favorite site. A magical place as the sun was setting over the lunar-like valley, thousands of hand carved caves and old pigeon houses carved into the cliffs with the Uchisar Rock Castle in the distance is a sight not to be missed.
From what our guide told us, the farmers used pigeon manure as a fertilizer, and to this day pigeons were flying and dotted all over the valley.
This tour is known as the Green Tour through Southern Cappadocia, and there is a Red Tour visiting the other well known sites in the North which are supposed to complement each other very well.
Website: HTR Turkey Travel Agency
Cost: $135 TUR per person (about $65 USD p/p)
Includes: Informed guide, lunch (drinks are not included), and transportation to and from your hotel/hostel.