After Pamukkale, our next chosen destination was Cappadocia, which we expected to be the highlight of our trip – indeed it was the main reason for our coming to Turkey. A few years ago, some New Zealand friends visited the region, and when we saw the photos on their blog, we knew we had to go there. This year it finally reached the top of our bucket list. But then we thought – there are other places of interest in Turkey, so why not see them too?
Cappadocia is a long way east from Pamukkale, so we decided to break the journey by staying overnight in Konya. It was just a convenient stop, but proved to be well worth a visit. The city is a place of pilgrimage for the Muslim world, because it was the adopted home of the Sufi mystic who founded the whirling dervish sect. His mausoleum is the key feature of the Mevlana Museum. We stayed in a hotel nearby, and after arriving in the evening we had a great view of the building spectacularly lit up. Next morning we were able to visit the museum compound, which includes several buildings and some beautiful gardens. We also had time for a stroll up the main road and around the park at the top. We paid brief visits to two mosques which are now museums: the buildings as well as the contents are of interest, and the blue-tile decoration in one was reminiscent of places we saw in Uzbekistan.
Finally we arrived! We’d booked a week’s walking holiday, which included accommodation, food, and any necessary transfers (for us and/or our luggage).
Tuesday 17 May
We stayed first in the village of Mustafapasha, and on our first day we were driven to the Keșlik cave monastery. The frescoes were interesting (though blackened with age) but the location was stunning, and totally different to anything else we had seen.
From Keșlik we headed back towards Mustafapasha. To begin with we were walking on a ridge which gave us great views of weird conical rock formations. This was what we’d come for! Blue skies, sunshine and flowers completed the picture.
The walk was meant to be about eight miles, but we walked further because the directions in our walking guide were unclear in several places. However, it was certainly worth it. We had our lunch sitting by cave dwellings which resembled petrified Ku Klux Klan hats, some of which were four storeys high! Approaching Mustafapasha, we saw more amazing scenery, and visited another monastery, recently restored.
Next day the walk was shorter, and the directions clearer, BUT the weather went pear-shaped on us. We visited a church/museum in the village centre, then started walking towards Ortahisar, our next destination. We visited another church before descending into the Godema Valley. By then the skies had turned grey, and we could hear rumbles of thunder. Finally the heavens opened. We took shelter under an overhanging rock, hoping it would be a short sharp thunderstorm. But it went on, with the thunder crashing right above our heads. And it was so cold! We always carry rain capes with us, but as it had been hot and sunny the previous day – and when we’d set off that morning – we’d not taken any warm jackets.
Eventually we decided it would be better to continue walking. We did for a while – but then we needed to consult our directions, so took refuge under another rock. While there the rain came down even harder, and the thunder got worse. We were joined by a group of young men on a cycling tour! Like them we decided that pressing on was the best way to avoid the cold. Finally the thunder stopped – and then the rain – and at last the sun came out, helping to dry us off and warm us up. When we left the valley we were able to get some photos of the many rock dwellings in that area.
Ortahisar is spectacularly located, but by the time we reached it the sun had gone again, and there was more rain later that day. When we arrived at our hotel, our luggage was waiting for us. Like many in Cappadocia, the hotel consisted of a series of caves, and we had a cave room: an interesting experience, but with some drawbacks. Many do not have windows, and are therefore not suitable for claustrophobes! Caves are cold too. And the walls tend to crumble, resulting in bits everywhere.
Today was a long day, as we were exploring places at some distance from our accommodation. Our driver collected us at 8.30, and drove us to Derinkuyu (about 40 minutes) where we visited the underground city built originally by the Hittites and extended later by Romans and Byzantine Christians. We went down eight levels: interesting and somewhat spooky!
We were driven next to the Selime Monastery, an amazing place with a cathedral, church and other rooms cut into the rocks. From there we started a walk which was supposed to be 10 km, but in reality was more like 14. This took us through a valley, where there are remains of several rock-cut Christian churches. We visited five, most involving a climb up from the valley path. Some frescoes were impressive, others suffered badly from age and graffiti!
We finally reached the village of Ilhara, where our driver was patiently waiting. By the time we arrived at our hotel, it was 7pm, and there was just time for a shower before dinner. No pre-dinner drinks, which was a shame as it was Ian’s birthday. However, the owner had organised a cake with candles. And to our surprise, the place was crowded – unknown to us, May 19 is a festival day in Cappadocia. So when the lights were switched off, and the cake was brought in, a lot of Turkish voices joined in an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy birthday to you!’.