Full set of Cappadocia photos

Capadoccia’s ‘fairy chimneys’ do have a magical look to them, even drifting by them at night from the bus. You can see why people used to think that fairies lived in them. Now they mainly have tourists but the cute little windows fixed into these stone structures still make them look like something out of a fairy tale.

We stayed in a cave hostel. It is unusual to find a hotel in Capadoccia without ‘cave’ in the title. They burrow into a hill or, in our case, were made from the same crumbly rock quarried from the hills. There was an initial ‘wow’ factor on entering our room. It was cavernous compared to most of our accommodation on this trip, had lovely lighting and was warm. We could overlook the fact that it was built with stone bricks so wasn’t strictly speaking a cave, that pale stone dust settled on everything over the course of a day (the cleaning folk around here really earn their money), but we couldn’t overlook the mild electric shocks that we got from the shower. Still, we took a day to report the issue and they moved us into a room with a nicer bathroom that was indeed carved cave-like into the hill.

The view from the terrace for breakfast is fantastic and otherworldly. Photos will do more justice to the unusual landscape than I can (photos are not strictly from our hotel, but you get the idea).

We walked to the open-air museum along the road and were passed by grumpy looking tour bus operators, we thought because they wanted us as passengers on their tours, but maybe just driving a tour bus is enough to piss you off. The open-air museum is an incredible collection of cave churches dating from Byzantine times when there was a stronger Christian presence in this area, although the fact that they were worshipping in caves that the locals thought were cursed tells you how accepted they were. This museum at its peak gets 6,000 visitors a day, which would be horrendous as the caves only fit 30 people at most at a time so you would spend the entire day queuing. The churches are basic, as you would expect from a cave, with the odd colourful fresco still intact, but the atmosphere, once you filter out all the other tourists, is magical. The most extravagantly decorated church is known as the ‘dark church’ because it is up a flight of stairs and has no external light source. They have kindly put LED lighting in to show the amazing frescoes that line every inch of the walls and ceiling, telling the story of Jesus in brilliant colour and good style. Just across the road from the open-air museum you can climb up into and clamber all over old cave houses that are basically abandoned to all comers. They stretch as far as the eye can see and some of them are quite roomy. If they were located in the cliffs of Eastern Sydney they would probably fetch $100k minimum.

This landscape stretches into Rose Valley where we wandered around with a hotel tour at sunset. The clouds lifted a little at just the right time to give us a nice evening night. For the rest of the walk through the valley Sarah made yet another friend, this time with a Korean woman called Li and Tom her husband. They were avid fans of Australia, having lived and studied in Sydney and Adelaide in the past. We were the beneficiaries of their Aussie-enthusiasm, as they were extremely complimentary about both the country and, by extension, us. They were slightly obsessive but in a nice way. When Li met me she said, “you are so beautiful”. It’s hard to come up with a response to that.

The hot-air balloon ride the next morning was magical. Just us and 22 strangers jammed into a basket filling the sky along with the 100 other balloons launching that morning. The other balloons made a great backdrop and once we were in the air it was nice and peaceful. It really was a perfect day for it, still with clear blue skies. In Capadoccia they lower the balloons into valleys until you’re no more than 10 metres above the ground, then quickly pump in the heat to get you over the looming hill. It’s a great way to see the landscape.

After a quick nap (given our dawn start) we hopped on a bus for the tour around Capadoccia’s other interesting sights. The underground city of Derinkuyu is incredible, 18 levels all underground of which 8 are currently accessible to the public. It was too claustrophobic for a couple of members of our tour who headed back to ground level and you can’t blame them. The corridors are single file and to get to the lowest level you crouch down and descend a twisting tunnel, praying that there isn’t a power failure. The city was used to hide from aggressors and could support thousands of people for months at a time. It was only discovered in the 20th century by a shepherd stumbling into a hole, so well hidden is it (and so numerous are the other ruins in Turkey). The city has a church, school, air and communication shaft, dry store, kitchen and bedrooms.. It would have been a miserable existence while it lasted but preferable to being skewered by an invading army.

As you might guess the other stops on the tour were also carved out of rock. There was the church in a lovely valley, frescoes still clearly emblazoned on the walls. We walked along the river to the restaurant for lunch where they treated us like the tour group we were but served up pretty decent food at a fast clip.

The next stop was possibly the most impressive, the Selime Monastery. Almost an entire mountain has been carved out to create what was a monastery with huge and numerous rooms. Star Wars fans take note: this was intended to be the site of filming for the opening scenes in the original Star Wars movie but the military leaders in charge of Turkey at that time refused permission to film so they went off to Morocco. I think it would have been better in Turkey.

The final stop was at a jewellery store masquerading as a tourist attraction by showing how onyx stone is cut and polished into a shiny egg, but this is starting to get into Sarah’s Birthday, which warrants a post of its own.

Full set of Cappadocia photos

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