Tuesday, March 26, 2013
travel guide: cappadocia, turkey
Cappadocia was by far one of the most unique places we have traveled. Many people are not familiar with it (and have maybe never even heard of it) and I used to be one of them. To see where it is located exactly look here. It is in the central region of Turkey on the continent of Asia.
We only spent a weekend there, but a weekend was literally the perfect amount of time. Personally, I wouldn't suggest going for much longer. It was a fun-filled couple of days, and we saw everything that they had to see & do. Most people we talked to that had visited Cappadocia used tour guide with shuttles and itineraries. We're not really 'tour guide' kinda people--so we did it our own way--renting our own car at the airport and using trip advisor reviews to plan out our days. I would 100% recommend doing it this way. It's a very easy place to get around, and it gave us the ability to see a lot more than we would have on a guided tour.
Okay, so here we go. Time for some details and pictures to help you get an idea of what Cappadocia is all about.
1. Exploring Uchisar Castle
Our review on Uchisar Castle kind of falls in line with most other reviews that you'll see online--the castle itself is not really all that special. It's basically a really large mound of rock with cave dwellings, but they don't let you explore much of the inside because it is literally eroding away & falling apart. However, the view from the top is great. It's a small hike and you can see all over the valley & get an idea of the overall landscape. This was our first stop of the day, and I'm glad we did it first because there were definitely more exciting things to see and do--but I recommend scheduling it in as a quick stop.
(Above) This is a picture of Robert at the top of the castle & the gorgeous view behind him.
Picture of the castle from the bottom. Pretty unreal, right? It's a really easy trek up, but we did get pretty warm--so I'd recommend going in the early hours of the day (if you're there in the summer)
Here's me in the village below the castle. They have some gorgeous textiles, local dried fruit, and fun souvenirs for the tourists.
And of course, they have camels about for the tourists. You can't resist getting a picture with such a decorated camel can you? We're often suckers for the tourist traps, but hey--we live it up while we can!
2. Derinkuyu Underground City
This sign really says it all--"This is risky for those who have heart diseases high blood pressure and for asthma patients". And I'll talk more about that in a second--but really quickly I want to give you some detail behind these underground cities in Cappadocia.
Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city that was large enough to hold & house over 20,000-30,000 people--along with their livestock and food. These cities included schools, chapels, wineries and pretty much any other space needed to live. Literally, these people would reside underground for large chunks of time.
Derinkuyu is just one of many underground cities found in the area. Scholars believe that it served as a refuge for the early Christians who were being persecuted for their beliefs. Below is a diagram of what they think the city looked like in its fullest.
Okay, so I'd now like to jump back to the original sign/warning for those with heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma. I am going to use this diagram below to describe my experience to you at points one, two & three.
[ONE] Where we began our adventure into the underground city. Before I even considered the fact that my mild claustrophobia may become a problem...before everything went dark....before I could no longer see the light....
[TWO] This was the point when I realized that the tunnels were legitimately the same 7th century tunnels that have been standing for all of those years (no additional support--no staircases built in--this was the real deal--the kind of historic adventure that would never be allowed to tourists in the United States for safety & liability reasons) and we were slowly making our way deeper and deeper into the earth, no tour guide, no "fire escape" out, and no way of really knowing how deep we were. This was officially the point when my claustrophobia started to kick in and felt as if there was no way out (okay, maybe a little dramatic but it's how I felt in the craze of the moment)
[THREE] The lowest that the Turkish Government will current let the public go (only a small portion of the city is actually open for tourists) and it was officially the point when I had a full on panic attack. No joke. Short of breath, almost in tears, hovering in a corner--my husband tried to comfort me and calm my nerves, but I was pretty much a lost cause. I just tried to look straight ahead and work my way back up to the top as quickly as I could...and about twenty-five minutes (and a solid glute work-out) later--I could see the light of day and the hope of a beautiful future once again.
Thank heavens I am a modern day christian and wasn't an early one running from the persecution of the Roman empire. I don't think I would have made it hiding out in those underground villages.
The freak of nature herself...before the claustrophobia kicked in...
A rolling stone where they used to be able to block off certain parts of the city for protection/or opposite--block in the enemy.
One of the many very small stairwells (and I wish you could get the whole effect of how long some of these stairwells went on for...)
I'm thinking that these people were probably much smaller than my husband. A 6'5" man would not have done well in this little city, though he surprisingly did much better than my 5'3" self!
All claustrophobic talk aside, this is a MUST while visiting Cappadocia. It was one of the most eye-opening and incredible experiences of my life, and if my large mammal of a husband can fit through those small stairwells, anyone can!
3. Love Valley & Rose Valley
Sadly, I don't have an exact location on where this small church was, but it was a random find that we came across in between Love Valley and Rose Valley.
It was quite amazing, and actually one of my favorite stops.
A personal favorite. I feel like it captures the craze of emotions, mystery and intrigue I was feeling during this whole experience.
4. Sunrise in Cappadocia
This is obviously a must. Cappadocia is world famous for their sunrise hot air balloon rides. We--of course--decided not to do it the usual "touristy' way and instead decided to stalk the drivers for the different hot air balloon companies, and followed them up this small dirt road to the top of this amazing plateau and watched it from there (mostly because we wanted to have the best possible pictures of all the balloons and sunrise)
It was quite the experience--a beautiful one. I will remember for the rest of my life.
They have different rates for different balloon rides. I think the going rate is about 150 euros for a shorter ride--and you're in a basket packed with ten to fifteen other people (depending on the the size and which vendor you go with). You can pay 200-300 euro for longer more private rides.
And I need to give out a shout-out to my husband on this one--because I was really not wanting a picture of myself this particular morning, and protested for a long time. Eventually he convinced me that I would regret not having one later on...and he was right. Thanks babe for always looking out for me, even in my most insecure moments ;)
5. Goreme Open Air Museum
A few quick things about this museum--it is definitely worth the time and money, but it does get very busy with large shuttles and buses full of tourists. We went mid-afternoon, and realized that it probably would have been a lot smarter to go earlier in the day. This is where some of the most famous sites are, and you'll have to wait in a lot of lines to get into some of the chapels and dwellings.
Mind blowing, right?
I mean, he's got a good face. A real real good face.
6. Zelve Valley & Zelve Open Air Museum
This was gorgeous and definitely a great stop. It's not as busy as the Goreme Open Air Museum, because it's not quite as exciting--but still equally as intriguing and educational! And I actually enjoyed being away from the tourist buses and big crowds.
An old winery. These monks were serious about this business. I swear the majority of the rooms we saw had something to do with wine.
Amazed by this old chapel.
Side of the mountain. If you look closely towards the bottom where the stone gets darker, you can see where an old stairwell used to be. It's amazing to think how much of these cities have eroded away already. Eventually there will be nothing left.
I loved Zelve Valley, but love this man more.
7. Cave Dwelling Hotel
Last but not least on my list today...stay in a cave dwelling hotel. If you don't, you are just missing out on a major part of the whole experience. Granted, you're not going to get the most stellar cell or internet signal in a 'cave room' but it's most definitely worth the experience. As you plan out your Cappadocia adventure, you'll notice that this is a common review across the board. Staying in a cave hotel is the only way to go! Prices vary depending on how nice you go--personally we just decided to do something pretty average that had a complimentary breakfast, wifi, and a great location--and it worked out perfect for us!
This picture above is actually from a restaurant that we ate at close to our hotel. One of the local women was making fresh bread right there outside in a stone oven, and it was so incredibly delicious. It's called Koy Evi, and it has pretty great reviews that concur with ours.
Also, in case you're kind of nerds like us, and really into the history and culture of places you travel, there is a biblical reference for Cappadocia found in Acts 2:9 "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia"
Kind of cool, huh?
The whole time I was there, I couldn't help but think of all the deep and meaningful history that occurred in the very trails, stairwells, and hillsides that I was walking, and felt a special connection to the early Christianity that was so desperately fought for and preserved in those lands.
As always, if you have any questions/comments/ or anything to add please comment below! And again, I have to give a shout out to TripAdvisor, Google Maps, & my husbands international phone plan with AT&T for really making this trip much easier on us! ;) I can't imagine travelling without them!