Explore Turkey: Goreme Valley

Explore Turkey: Goreme Valley

Explore Turkey: Goreme Valley

Explore Turkey: Goreme Valley 

By Vikki Gibson

So, after forty-three years, I have  crossed “see underground cave city” off of my proverbial “bucket list”. I finally made it back to Turkey!

It was 1969 and I was hitch-hiking around Europe carrying a back-breaking, hip-hugging, German army surplus backpack and eating from the right side of the menu. My budget was $2.00 a day and that did not allow for extras.

This time, I want to do the things, see the places that I couldn’t afford to back then. Things that I saw and passed from the foul smelling bed of a farm truck as we travelled for free, through the Turkish countryside. I missed so much! I read my Arthur Frommer’s “Europe on $5.00 a Day”, but what I came away with was that I needed to come back one day, and do it right… official Turkish guide and all.

Frescos in Turkey

Frescos in Turkey

I wanted to know what I missed, what the history was behind the ruins I saw, who carved the marble structures? Why were they at war? When were the frescos painted? Who? Why? When?

So, in May of 2012, after some careful research into tours in Turkey,  I asked Suleyman, of Euphrates Tours in Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey to help us.  And we were  not disappointed!

Just for the record, I am an out of shape, run of the mill, tired, but still working RN. A single parent, a cancer survivor and a “glad to be finally going on holiday”, over 65, Canadian gal. My travelling partner is my widowed sister-in-law, Patty, about my age, about my budget, and same physical dysfunction (so we do well together).

Day1:
We were awakened from our sleep, in our hotel room in Sultanhamet, Istanbul, by the muezzin calling the followers to start their day with prayer. It was still dark outside and the clock read 05:20 a.m. but we quickly got up and got ready.

Rock Formations in Goreme Valley, Turkey

Rock Formations in Goreme Valley, Turkey

Suleyman flew us via Turkish Airlines to Kayseri, jumping off place for our two day tour of the amazing Goreme Valley. Ramzan, our guide, met us at the airport with Mr. Emit, the van driver. And we were off on the adventure of a lifetime.

While Mr. Emit negotiated the roadways of Central Anatolia, Ramzan kept up a continuous flow of facts and information about the countryside and what we were viewing at the time. We would be spending our day in the famous Goreme Valley of Kapodokya and experiencing its amazing landscape of capped cone fairy chimneys, and rock caves turned monasteries/homes/pigeon coops/storage areas – depending on when along the compendium of the last few thousand years or so you choose to identify them.

Landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey

Landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey

The geology of the area dates back 30 million years – that is MILLION – with volcanic eruptions, lava flow and subsequent laying of different strata of  rock: then erosion, over some of those millions of years, created these amazing and incredible geological formations.

Hittite monastic hermits and nuns carved out what are known as cave dwellings and “churches” in this soft rock in this isolated valley. When I questioned Ramzan, “Why did the monks come here to live like this?”, his answer was simply, “They had a choice to become monks or join the reigning military of the time”. (So, draft dodgers, aye!)

Novice monks, at a very tender age (that is children) were known to decorate the walls and domes of the churches with primitive and childlike paintings. Hundreds of years later Holy pictures reflective of Christian beliefs were painted over the primitive colorings and created, still visible depictions of Christ, Mary, the Apostles, Saints, and biblical scenes. It was absolutely incredible to stand in a windowless, dirt cave and look skyward to the domed ceiling to see these hand painted images, hundreds of years old, and try to imagine the life of a nun or a novice monk or a monk, worshiping their Lord and Savior. And then try to understand the engineering principles and horrendous human effort that went into creating these scenes on pillars and high domes that towered over me. I was moved!

The largest and most elaborate of these “church caves” moved me… as I had been moved by Aya Sophia in Istanbul. In the sunlight, the view of the surrounding landscape and into the horizon was serene and eerie and strangely beautiful, all at the same time. It was peaceful and I was struck by the strangeness of God’s landscape. This valley was well chosen for prayer and meditation.

Mr. Emit kept us moving throughout the valley, and Ramzan kept us informed with more facts and figures than we could digest. His knowledge of the area was extensive and it was a pleasure to spend our day in his company. Euphrates Tours is remarkable and we enjoyed every minute.

Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Our experience for the day was not yet complete.  We were taken to a small village and to a very unique dwelling known as the Gamirasu Boutique Cave Hotel.  Here we would rest for our two nights  during our Cappadocian tour.  The facility was a series of thousand year old monastic caves, retrofitted with all modern amenities: electricity; satellite TV; WIFI; ivory marble bathroom;  furnished in Turkish style with hand carved furniture, kilim carpets and a staff that  sets a new benchmark  for  “friendly and helpful”.

The village and the hotel disappeared into the landscape upon which they sat, hardly a difference to be noted, where the land ended and the structures started.  A wonderful, wonderful day, but tomorrow morning will come early.  No muezzin or roosters, but a 5am wake-up call and we will start our day with a  hot air balloon ride at dawn over the same valley we walked today. There may be some throwing-up by a couple of Canucks before it is all over, I think I already feel nauseous.

If You Go:

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Bio:
Vikki Gibson is an RN from Cranbrook, British Columia, Canada who loves cultural travel. She got the idea of blogging about her trip from her son, Matt, who runs the popular adventure travel blog: Matt Gibson’s Adventure Travel Site.

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