Tatooine

Trip Start Oct 01, 2005
1
146
158
Trip End Jul 21, 2007


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Flag of Turkey  ,
Thursday, June 21, 2007

The area of Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey is a real marvel. The crazy looking landscape consists of a deep layer of soft volcanic tuff that was spewed out of the nearby volcanic mountains over millennia, and has been eroded by the wind and rain into the most incredible shapes. The generations of inhabitants (who should have been hobbits), stretching as far back as the Hittites in 1800 BC, took advantage of the malleable rock to build thousands of cool cave dwellings and churches into the hillsides and random rock formations. It makes for ultra-surreal and beautiful vistas that extend over the 300 square miles of territory. 

We stayed in the heart of Cappadocia, in a small town called Goreme, which, as throughout all the area, is made up of buildings that have been carved into the rock, along with other newer and more conventional structures. Our pension was also hewn out of the rock face and all the cave rooms surrounded a small courtyard strewn all about with varied backpackers. The view from the terrace was to die for, looking down the valley onto the sea of yellow pinnacles and fairy chimneys (which are pointy pyramid shaped formations that have a harder rock balanced precariously on the top and look totally manmade but aren't), and as the sun goes down the whole scene turns a stunning golden yellow.
Our reservation had gone astray so the first night we lived in a kind of hobbit hole: a two person cave scraped into the side of a wall within the larger cave of the dormitory, that required the ascension of five steel rungs to enter. Kerry was not best pleased, but it was easily the most interesting room we have stayed in! 
We moved into a much more sizeable and less feral cave the next day and went off to walk around the place. We visited the open air museum which is on a hill above Goreme where there are loads of rock cut churches from the Byzantine days whose walls still hold some pretty impressive frescos. To be honest just walking around the town and its environs alone had us captivated. The caves are everywhere you look and we were baffled as to how people could get into the doors as they were like fifty feet in the air! The next day on our coach trip further afield we got the answer. Quite simply, when the caves were dug the entrance was at ground level. But this was maybe a thousand years ago and the floor has eroded to it's current level in that time! Obvious. 
We are possessed of a strong aversion to tour groups of any kind so we didn't take the decision lightly but as we were strapped for time we signed up on a day tour, and even though we were herded around like cattle and told how long we could stay in one place like school kids, it was still a worthy trip. 
There are underground cities running under the whole of Cappadocia as they were a handy retreat for the people in times of invasion, and we visited the biggest and deepest of them all at Derinkuyu. The tunnels, churches, cemeteries, kitchens, schools and punishment areas run a full fifty metres below the surface and it's freezing down there!
We then walked through a gorge that has been formed by volcanic eruptions and went on to an awesome monastery built high up on a hillside which was brilliant to explore. The pitch black rock passageways leading to massive caves and chapels.
The highlight of the day had to be the visit to one of the forests of rock pinnacles that was actually used for Star Wars. Remember when R2D2 and C3P0 get lost on Tatooine and the Jawas are spying on them? Of course you do. Well we went there! Badass.
We had slipped quite naturally into the local habit of playing excessive amounts of backgammon and drinking lots of Efes beer so that was the evenings tied up nicely.
The last day we went on a three hour walk with a friendly guy from the hostel who took us on a tour of the many interesting valleys surrounding Goreme.
The formations resulting from the rock erosion are just endlessly interesting and he also took us on detours through some wicked tunnels at the base of the valleys infested with bats and moths. Kerry was especially enamoured by the aptly named "Love Valley" which contains some suggestively shaped rocks she took an instant liking to (see photos).
What a place! we could have spent ages here looking around the valleys but we had to get moving.
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