If you do a google image search for Cappadocia you will find mostly photos of hot air balloons over the landscape. As amazing as that experience is, there’s so much more to Cappadocia, and even though we were there for 4 fun-filled days, we barely scratched the surface. Although we enjoyed our “Green Tour” a lot, we decided we would explore on our own on our remaining days. We had a car and set off to explore.
Göreme Open Air Museum
Göreme Open Air Museum redefines the word museum. It is a large valley containing a monastic cave settlement dating back to the 9th-11th centuries, with numerous cave dwellings, and several churches, many with impressive frescoes. The Göreme Open Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey. It was so interesting to pop in and out of the caves and imagine life here so long ago. Today many of the caves are accessed by somewhat rickety staircases, but originally they would have been very well hidden. Photography is not allowed inside the cave churches, but I couldn’t go all that way and not have any photos to remember it by, so I did manage to sneak a few wonky shots on my phone.
In reality, the whole of Cappadocia is like an open air museum. After a brief lunch stop in a cafe with a stunning view, we visited some poetically named valleys – Pigeon Valley (named for the pigeon holes dotting the hills), Rose Valley (for the red coloured rocks) and Love Valley, so-called because of the … ahem … phallic shape of the fairy chimneys in that location.
As if ballooning and climbing rocks is not challenging enough for an acrophobic like me, we decided to ascend to the highest point in Cappadocia, Uçhisar Castle. It’s not so much a castle as a large rocky hill, with rooms and tunnels carved into the hillside. During Ottoman and Byzantine times, this castle provided excellent defense. The main attraction nowadays is the panoramic, 360° view from the top of the castle. It was cold and windy, and actually raining by the time we left, but it was worth the effort and the anxiety of the steep ascent.
We ended the day at what they call “Turkish Night” – in a large cave/restaurant, dinner and traditional Turkish dancing. It was recommended, and rated very highly on TripAdvisor, but we were not impressed. The food was ordinary, and served in the dark, and there was no program, host or compere, so although the dancers were excellent, we had no idea what we were watching. Most of the audience were large tour groups, and we were appalled to see them all being called by their guide to leave well before the show ended (walking right across the stage to leave). For the last half hour, we four were the entire audience! We did enjoy that time, and the dancers all thanked us for staying.