Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Monday, Nov. 12

Just as Istanbul, we have our local alarm clock here--morning call to prayer woke us at 5:31.  It's not quite as loud as Istanbul--but still there's no sleeping through it.  But that was fine with us--we had a very good nights sleep, and we had a fun day planned for today!

We started with a nice breakfast at our hotel--included in the bargain price of $70. a night.  What a find this place is!  Breakfast was quite a spread with a nice variety to choose from, including some interesting breakfast options such as pickles and olives!  I enjoyed a hard boiled egg and a yummy fruit bowl with some nuts added.  The best part of breakfast was the view from the terrace.  We are really enjoying this quaint village:

At 9:20 sharp we were picked up for our Cappadocia Tour by our guide, Mustah.  He told us that his name means "happy" in Turkish.  He spoke excellent English, and was very knowledgable.  Here he is at our first stop on the tour, an overlook of the valley:

The view over the small town of Goreme:

We got back on our nice small tour bus--population 15 eager travelers!  Just the right size for a tour group.  Our next stop was about a 45 minute drive through the rolling hills, still quite barren and looking a lot like eastern Oregon.

Destination:  Derinkuyu Underground City.

We drove through a small town, and pulled up to a tiny square--it didn't look like much from the outside, but wow--it was amazing once we got inside! 

According to the Turkish Department of Culture, Derinkuyu was first carved out of soft volcanic rock and inhabited in 7th - 8th century B.C.  Some later artifacts found in the city belong to the Middle Byzantine Era, 5th-10th century A.D.  During this time it is thought these cities were used as hiding places by early Christians fleeing religious persecution by the Romans.

This underground city is the largest of the many underground cities in the Cappadocia region.  It has 11 levels, eight of which we were able to visit today.  They estimate the city could accommodate up to 20,000 people!  The design and structure of the city is quite ingenious, with several ventilation shafts, wells, many food storage and preparation areas, stables for small animals, and chapels.  Miles of long tunnels connect  Derinkuyu  to other nearby underground cities.

Here's a cross-section illustration of the design:

The entrance was sealed off by a large stone wheel that could be rolled into place and "locked".   Here's an image I found on the web--we didn't get a picture, darn it!

We walked down many narrow passageways, some quite steep:

One of the areas we saw was a burial chamber, excavations have revealed that the corpses were "stacked", with layers of earth between them:

One of the MANY long, narrow and winding tunnels:

This is a pretty bad photo--but it shows just how narrow the tunnels are.  We did a lot of hunched over walking!

Here we are in one of those tiny tunnels:

This was interesting--they had a very clever "wine delivery system"!  The grapes were pressed in another area, then flowed through the trough (middle of picture--protruding from the side wall), then flowed into urns which were placed in the hole (now covered by the grate).  Clever!

We spent about an hour exploring--it was fascinating!  We came out in a slightly different area, and of course there were the ever present tourist shopping opportunities:

There was man selling simet, calling "simet, simet" in deep, loud voice:

An intersting church near the exit.  I'm pretty sure it's not a mosque--no minarets.  But notice the domes.  I meant to ask Mustah about it, but forgot:

We all piled back into the van, there was lots of excited chatter about what we'd just seen.  Everyone seemed to just as amazed as we were!

We continued our drive through the Cappadocia countryside, driving though a few small towns and even smaller villages.  About an hour later, we pulled up to the entrance to the Ihlara Valley:

It was quite a view from the entrance!  Just look down (waaaay down!) into that pretty valley:

Were we really going to hike down through that valley? Oh YES!  Here's a view of the 380 steps down to the floor of the valley:

And here we are, about half way down.  The stairs were easy, it was a piece of cake!

The valley is 16 km long, but we only hiked about 3.5 km of the valley.  It was a lovely walk with pretty scenery along the way.

One of our first stops was the Agacalti Church, which dates to 9th-11th c. AD.  It is a small cave church, carved out into a cross shape.  The frescoes are still vivid and beautiful.  

This one is in the corner of the main dome, and features the "evil eye" motif.  Mustah said this is one of the earliest depictions of the "evil eye", which is still very prominent in Turkish culture:

The main dome:

Looking past the main dome, into the top of the "cross":

Some scenes along the way:

We walked along the river:

Here we are at a small wide spot in the trail, there was actually a small family settlement here, complete with an outdoor restaurant, and a small snack shack!

David along the pretty hike:

EVERYWHERE we looked we saw cave houses!  Pigeon houses:

At the end of the hike we had a lunch stop at this small restaurant on the river:

We both had pretty low expectations for our set menu lunch (included in the tour price of $55 each).  But we were very pleasantly surprised--it was really good!  We were served this delicious bread with the usual tomato and yogurt accompaniments:

We had a couple of choices of main dishes, here's Davids beef with rice.  It was cooked in a heavy stone "casserole" dish--and was very tasty!  I wanted to take those heavy dishes with me, but David talked me out of it.......................

Our bus was waiting for us right at the restaurant, and after our lunch we had a longer drive, about 1 hr 10 minutes to our next stop-- THE SELIME CATHEDRAL, 9-11c AD.  In later centuries it was used as a carravan stop along The Silk Road, which is very near here.  There were carravan stops scattered along the route a certain distance apart.  To be precise--the distance was how far a camel can travel in one day!

This was, by far, our very favorite place of the day!  It was a very steep, difficult and scary climb to the top--but I did it!  I just channeled my Inner Jake Tuttle, and kept repeating to myself:  "I am my father's daughter, I can do this!"  My dad could (and still can) climb anything--he's like a mountain goat!  I may have just one teeny-tiny part of that gene.  Thanks, Dad!

Here we are, about half way up--the first part was pretty easy:

Then it got a little steeper:

Narrower yet!

At least I couldn't fall over here!

Almost to the top-nice view:

I made it!!!

View from one of the top caves:

Here I am in one of the many tunnels:

David climbed up a very steep tunnel to a second story in one of the caves:

Here he is coming out:

Just one of the many cave rooms:

This was the most interesting "room", with lots of arches and columns:

The columns, still very intact.  The seemed to be of much harder material:

At the entrance to this room:

I really wanted to climb over to this peak--but it was always too crowded:

View down to the valley from one of the cave openings:

 Here I am in one of the caves--I couldn't quite wipe the grin off my face--we REALLY enjoyed this place!

View out of a cave--on the way down:

One of the caves--lots of carved niches:

Here I am,  feeling very triumphant!  This was taken right before we hiked back down that steep hill.  What you can't see in the photo was that I was standing on a ledge overlooking the valley--no railing and it's a loooong way down!  I was a bit shaky........

We made it safely back down that mountain, it was a little hard on my old knees.  David held onto my hand almost every step of the way down--I'd not have made it without him!  When we got to the bottom, I looked back up and thought "We are absolutely crazy for climbing up THAT!"

Back on the bus again, this time for a long drive back to Goreme.  After about 1 1/2 hours we pulled up to our last stop, an overlook of the Pigeon Valley.   Just before we pulled in, it started to rain, the first raindrops of the day--we really lucked out with the weather today!

 Pigeon Valley is named for the thousands of pigeon houses carved into the cliff faces.  Centuries ago pigeons were used to carry messages, and for hundreds of years Turkish farmers in this region have used pigeon droppings as fertilizer, and insist it's why their fruit is the sweetest!  I'm not so sure about that, but it was interesting to see.  By now it was getting dark, but we managed a couple of pictures:

From Pigeon Valley it was a quick 10 minutes to Goreme, and our bus dropped us off right at our hotel.  It was way too early for dinner, but I certainly wanted to rest my weary legs and sore knees.  David walked down the street and bought a couple of beers and a small snack.  We relaxed in our room for a couple of hours--then I was ready to go again!

Mustafah had made another recommendation for dinner tonight, and it was another winner.   We had wanted to try a Turkish  clay pot meal, so tonight was the night!  They actually cook the main dish, usually meat and vegetables, it a small earthen pot, and then break the pot with a hammer to serve it.  We had to place our main dish orders ahead so they could be cooked for a few hours in a wood fired oven, 

Once agin, a nice youg man from the hotel walked us, along with another couple, to the restaurant.  Great service!

Our meal started with bread, a trio of small mezes, and a deeeelicious salad.  The salad had a few kinds of greens along with a good amount of fresh mint leaves--very refreshing.  The dressing was pomegranate and olive oil-really good.  I think it was my favorite dish of the night.

The waiter soon brought out our main course, chicken for David and lamb for me:

He carefully wrapped a large napkin around the bottom of the very hot pot, and quickly hit it with a hammer--the top came off perfectly!

He asked me if I'd like to try--so I did.  I didn't manage to get mine cracked open in one tap, but I got it done--with only a few pottery shards in my food!

Here's my delicious lamb pot--it was so good I finished every bite:

Our hot pots were served with a plate of scrumptious rice--we asked the nice waiter what was in it, and just about all we could understand was butter.  No wonder it was so good!

Here we are, enjoying our wonderful dinner:

We shared a small plate of walnut baklava for dessert.  It was a bit disappointing, and I've made much better baklava at home!  All in all, it was a lovely meal, though.

After our relaxing dinner, it was a short walk back to our hotel, and the view along the way just doesn't get much better than fairy chimneys at night:

It was another wonderful, adventurous travel day for the Travelin' Lundburys.  We'd seen some amazing sites--and to think there's more to come!

Good night from magical Cappadocia...........until tomorrow.


  1. How is the knees? You are amazing to walk up and down that very narrow steep mountainside - but I agree it was worth every step! Very interesting day!

    1. I'm not amazing, Debber--just very stubborn, and I was actually terrified! My knees are a little sore, but nothing that a few IBP's haven't helped!

  2. Wow, I am impressed with all the stairs and the steep trails you took on your adventures today. I am not sure I could have done it but know I would have had to take rest stops along the way especially coming back up those stairs. You were pretty brave to have your picture taken at the top with your back to the edge. What amazing sights you had on your tour. The underground city was truly amazing. You both look so good and like you are having a fantastic time in Turkey. Hope your knees are ok after the workout you gave them. Love you guys.

  3. Another great day - thanks for sharing it. Way too many steps for me but I enjoy seeing the sights through your eyes. What a very amazing place!