Cappadocia is an old settlement area whose surface is characterised by numerous valleys, gorges and rocky cones, so-called fairy chimneys, which rise into the sky as a result of erosion. The structure was determined 60 million years ago over centuries by numerous massive volcanic eruptions. Wind and weather have created characteristic shapes over thousands of years and have created a huge fairytale landscape. Already in the 4th century before Christ the area was settled and the people created caves, churches and complete underground cities in the soft tuff rock.
First we visit the Ihlara Valley, a 15 km long and up to 150 m deep gorge in the southwest of Cappadocia. Already at the approach we pass the first rock church. In the valley itself there are about 50 rock churches and numerous cave buildings that were created in the 7th to 11th century by Byzantine monks. We go down a staircase with 400 steps and from there we follow a signposted walk along the river. Some of the rock churches and their walls and ceiling frescoes are still very well preserved and at the end of the tour you can cool your feet in a café, whose tables are built into the river, before going up the 400 steps again at 35 degrees.
Our next stop is the underground city Derinkuyu, next to Kaymakli the most famous of the underground cities in Cappadocia. Apart from these two, 50 other cities are thought to be in the area, but only 36 have been discovered so far and only a few of them have been opened to the public. The date of origin of these cities is somewhat controversial among archaeologists. Some see the Hittites as the builders over 4000 years ago. What is certain is that from the 6th century onwards the Christians used these facilities to protect themselves from their persecutors. The tunnel system of Derinkuyu was discovered by chance in 1963 and in 1965 about a quarter of the original construction was opened to the public. The deepest accessible point is nine storeys and up to 55 metres below the surface and one should not suffer from claustrophobia when visiting, because sometimes it goes through very narrow and low tunnels to the different floors. In case of danger, the tunnels could be closed by rolling stone gates that look like millstones. The ventilation is ensured by thousands of shafts leading to the surface and still functions today down to the lowest level. An incredible installation that has protected thousands of people.
Just before Göreme lies Uchisar. The village is dominated by a 60 metre high castle rock which is crossed by underground corridors and rooms which formerly served as living quarters and accommodated about 1000 people. From above you have a beautiful panoramic view of the fairytale landscape of Cappadocia.
Then we come to the centre of the action in Göreme. The place is the starting point for the famous balloon rides which are booked out for months during the high season. Dozens of big coaches torture themselves through the streets and in the restaurants and surrounding sightseeings as the Open Air Museum it is hardly possible to get through. For the first night we stand on a high plateau with a view to the rocky landscape and are all alone there. In the morning at 5 o'clock the spectacle begins. More than 100 hot air balloons start more or less directly below us. We are completely thrilled. Breakfast television has never been so beautiful. Here is a little video clip: Cappadocia
We spend two more nights on a campground above Göreme because we need a washing machine again. The view to the balloons from there is not quite so spectacular, but at least we can experience the spectacle again after two days because of wind and rain no start was possible. We make a small hike through the rock formations to a nearby rock church where one can crawl only with a flashlight and on all fours through the corridors. We left out the Open Air Museum because the number of coaches and the queue at the cash desk just scared us off.
After three beautiful days we turn our backs on mass tourism and drive on to Central Anatolia. On the way we visit another caravanserai in Saruhan which is very stylishly restored. In Pinarbasi we stroll through the village, eat kebab for 1 Euro and Karin is so brave and tries out the barber hairdresser. He is very excited and is obviously happy to have a woman under his scissors. With the help of Google Translate and a mix of German, English and Turkish it works out with the communication, so that in the end everyone is satisfied, and that for two Euros!
Now it goes further and further east into the Anatolian hinterland. We pass the village of Kangal which once became famous for the breeding of Anatolian shepherd dogs, but without seeing a dog. In Divrigi we want to visit the mosque, but unfortunately it is still in the renovation phase and can only be visited from the outside. But at least we can admire the impressive entrance portals. Nearby we find a picturesque place at the river with a bathing place and have a few days holiday there.
In East Anatolia, from Divrigi to Erzurum and further north to the Black Sea, we drive through a fantastic landscape at altitudes between 1000 and 2300m. Finally we can take a deep breath at night, because the thermometer drops to 10 degrees. In this area some big dam projects have been realized in the last years or are still under construction. Roads had to be completely repositioned on the slope and we drove through at least 50 tunnels. Thousands of people were forcibly resettled in uniform settlements that are the same as one egg to another. We drive a partly adventurous route along the Coruh River and through Yusufeli, where the dam is still under construction and should reach a height of 270m. In a few years everything here will be flooded and only a few isolated minarets rising out of the water will remind us that there were once villages here. We liked the route so much that we shot a small video clip which you can watch here: Road Trip Turkey
Shortly before the border the climate changes to subtropical with a good 70% humidity at 35 degrees. There comes joy. We look for a place at an altitude of 600m to make the night bearable. Surrounded by tea plantations we make our last stop in Turkey.
The next day we cross the border into Georgia. You can find out what we experience there in the next blog.
Turkey has inspired us as a travel destination. Everywhere we met friendly and helpful people, whether in the tourist centers or in the Anatolian hinterland. The many cultural treasures and breathtaking landscapes are truly unique. In addition, there is the simplicity of travelling. One finds practically everywhere a beautiful overnight accomodation place, it is in the wilderness, or on the few camping sites which we had to head for for the purpose of washing machine from time to time. We never had an insecure feeling with the choice of the overnight stay place. Unfortunately we only got to know a fraction of the huge country during the 32 days of our stay, but Turkey is not out of the world and for us it is always worth a trip again.