Although I am still in the early stages of my world cycle trip, I have managed to visit 18 countries thus far. I knew Turkey would figure highly in my list, because I’ve been here before and sampled the friendliness and hospitality of the people. I was not however prepared for Cappadocia as words can’t adequately describe this place, so I hope my images will go some way to doing so.
First a little (very brief) history: Millions of years ago, lava from the volcanoes of Erciyes and Hasan covered the region to form the area now known as Cappadocia (Cappadokya). The volcanic flows were shaped by tremendous winds and water erosion for thousands of years, with the softer rock and soil being eroded away leaving the hard cap rock on tall pillars to form the fairy chimneys.
Man arrived some 10,000 years ago after the lava had cooled and formed the landscape, but it wasn’t until 1958 on the plateaus of the Taurus mountains that J. Mellaart began excavation and discovered remains of an ancient civilisation, a nine to ten thousand year old Neolithic settlement. Great importance was placed on the building of churches and monasteries and their are more than 400 churches in the area of Göreme carved out of the soft rock along with cave dwellings and hidden underground cities, where early Christians would hide from persecution. It is a fascinating story and one I would recommend doing a Google to learn more.
Gülşehir is a small town I passed through on my way into the Göreme National Park. There isn’t much to see, although I enjoyed the welcome and don’t miss visiting the Open Palace.
The Open Palace is well signposted on the main road from Gülşehir to Göreme, just a short walk down a dirt track.
I used the Kaya Camping campsite in Göreme as my base to explore the area and must make a special mention, it is right up there with the best European campsites, very clean, tidy and most importantly, friendly. I’m writing this update using the free wifi.
Göreme is just a short ride down a (very steep!) cobbled hill, which proves a major challenge to ride back up without putting a foot down (3 out of 3 so far!) and you pass some pretty amazing cave houses and churches along the way.
If you rise early enough, you’ll catch the hot air balloons as they cross the valleys.
The campsite sits next to the Rose & Red Valley trails, which were the first I ventured into. I decided to try and see how I would cope on the trails with the (unloaded) bike and was surprised at how little I had to carry it – with a proper mountain bike you’d be able to ride 95% (the high top tube on my tourer stopped me riding more).
With some of the valleys you can ride along the rim and look down (I did this with Love Valley) but I felt it was more adventurous to descend into them, certainly if you want to see the dwellings up close.
Many of the dwellings have suffered from vandalism over many centuries as well as the erosion.
When you consider the primitive tools they had to work with, it is amazing how they carved out the rock.
It took me just over two hours to ride the trail. If you were walking I’d allow 3 to 4 hours to do it justice and venture off onto the many side paths. It is never overly steep and could be managed by even the most inexperienced walker.
Love Valley gets it’s name from the phallic shaped rocks which line the valley. I first rode along the rim in the evening but didn’t get the shots I wanted, so returned early the next morning. It’s the most popular of all the valleys in Cappadocia, but I had it to myself!
If you’re on a tour (heaven forbid) and surrounded by teenagers, expect lot’s of giggles. However you have to marvel at how nature has shaped these rocks, of which their are two main types, those pictured above and the Dovecotes pictured below:
You can also see evidence of the erosion process not yet completed, as you get a mixture of the two…
It was too warm during the middle part of the day, so all my treks were done early morning or late evening.
Riding the rim trails, I was able to capture images in the valley and also include the skyline. In the distance you can see the impressive citadel of Uçhisar, which I’d hoped to get a view from the top but never got there.
Fairy Chimneys & Dovecotes
If you want to see fairy chimneys in all their magnificent splendor, then the best place to do so is the area around Çavuşin, Paşabağ and Zelve. I rode out here (very) early morning to avoid the possibility of bus loads of tourists and it really was a bit special.
This area is easily accessed from public transport and you don’t have to walk far to see the chimneys and dovecotes.
You’ll pass by a tiny village called Paşabağ, which has a wonderful rock church and other formations.
Because of the early hour, I had no problems with people in my photographs!
There’s even a local police station…
The Dovecotes are still used by the local people, mostly for storing fruit until it is exported.
It has been a wonderful experience exploring the area and I’ve only really scratched the surface. My biggest regret is not being able to take a hot air balloon flight as my budget won’t allow it, but I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished in such a short time here. This is a dream location.
Next up… still awaiting my visa code, but must now make haste to Trabzon.