Monday, May 6, 2013

Visiting Cappadocia, Day One

We had some friends visiting from Canada at the end of April, so we took them on a mini-tour around Turkey, starting with Cappadocia. I went there when I came backpacking in Turkey in 2010, and to be honest, I wasn't all that excited about a return trip -- Cappadocia is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, but it's a one-hit wonder. But no one else had been, so off we went. :)

BASIC INFO: Cappadocia is a region located in the middle of Turkey and to get there, you can either take the bus or fly into the Kayseri or Nevsehir airports. The Nevsehir airport is significantly closer, but it doesn't see a lot of flights; Kayseri is about an hour 15 minutes from Goreme, Cappadocia's main hub, but it seems to offer more options. (However, from both airports, the only option is to fly to and from Istanbul.) We rented a car at the airport since the daily rental price (TL 90) was the same amount the four of us would have paid for the shuttle to take us into Goreme -- everything in Cappadocia is really spread out, so renting a car was actually one of the best choices we made.

In terms of sightseeing, we used the group tour itineraries as our guide. There are three main on-the-ground tours around Cappadocia, organized by location -- one takes in the area around Goreme (a hike in Rose Valley, Pasabag, maybe the open-air museum), one goes to the area directly south of Goreme (a hike in Soganli Valley, Sobessos), and one goes to the area to the southwest (a hike in Ilhara Valley, Selime rock monastery). Most include a visit to one of the underground cities, where villagers used to hide when invaders were passing through. Because of the distances and few roads, it's easiest to plan a day around a small section of the map, rather than drive around in all directions trying to see the highlights.

On our first day in Cappadocia, we stuck to the sights around Goreme. We started in the small town of Cavusin, which was only about a 10-minute drive away. At street level was the modern town, but perched above it in the rocks was the old, abandoned part of town. It was fun to poke around, but there weren't any signs, so you didn't know what you were looking at.

After that, we visited the Zelve Open-Air Museum, which one of the guys at the hotel had recommended to us as a good alternative to the very crowded Goreme Open-Air Museum. But I don't think it's really comparable -- the Goreme Open-Air Museum has a lot of beautiful frescoes while the Zelve Open-Air Museum gives the region's best glimpse, I think, of what it would have been like to actually live in a rock-cut community. There's nothing left but the rocks, but with the few churches, a mosque and the mill stone, it felt the most authentic to me. That might also be because it was fairly recently inhabited -- the last residents moved out in the 1950s.

After, we went to one of my favorite spots of the trip, Pasabaglari. It was just a relatively small area of __________-shaped fairy chimneys (fill in your own word based on the photo below), but I enjoyed walking along the paths.

To be honest, I wasn't all that enthused by what we saw on the first day. It was a lot of rocks. (Clearly I was not meant to be a geologist.) It also rained most of the day -- it even hailed at one point. We did have a lovely dinner at the grill restaurant Dayinin Yeri in Avanos, though.

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