After four days in Istanbul, we left towards the heart of Turkey, to spend two days in Cappadocia. We set camp in Göreme and stayed at this hotel which, like most of the hotels in the area, has cave rooms carved in the stone.
The greatest attraction of this area lies not only in its unique geography, but also in the caves where the Christians took refuge during the first century BC. Göreme’s Open Air Museum was the first place we visited upon arriving, and we were stunned. The churches and their frescoes representing pasages from the Bible, painted so long ago with minimum resources are amazing. The Dark Church is wonderful, so much so that taking pictures inside is forbidden in order to preserve the paintings.
Another ‘must do’ in Cappadocia is the hot air balloon flight at sunrise. We booked our spots 10 days before our trip with Royal Balloon and it turned out to be awesome. They picked us up from our hotel at 4.30 am, gave us a light breakfast at their offices and whisked us to the take off site, which varies depending on the wind conditions each day. Needless to say that it’s an incredible experience: the crisp morning air in your face, softly flying over a beautiful landscape in almost complete silence is an unforgettable experience.
By 8.30 that morning we where back at our hotel (having breakfast again, ha), ready to enjoy our short stay in Cappadocia to the max. At 9.30 we left on the ‘Green Tour’ that we booked when we got to Göreme, to the south of the region -the other excursion offered is the Red one, which includes the north area, the Open Air Museum, more rock formations and visits to weavers and potters-. Our first stop was Derinkuyu underground city (avoid it if you suffer from claustrophobia) which used to house a whole town in times of invasions within its more than ten levels.
Back on the surface, we went on to Ihlara Valley, a greener area where we had lunch in a dreamy spot by the Melendiz river and hiked under the rain to the stone carved Saint George’s church. From there, we where driven to Selime Monastery, another architectural wonder carved in a cave in the 13th century.
The last stop was a little cafe by the side of the road, with panoramic views of the Pigeon Valley and the best coffee we had in Turkey. By that time, our eclectic group of Colombians, Germans, Italians, Indians and Argentinians felt like a big family, and that’s one of the most enjoyable things when traveling: to share moments and experiences with people you had never imagine you’d meet.
Bottom line is: Cappadocia is beautiful, mysterious and has an impressive historic and cultural background. Maybe it was the gloomy days, or realizing that a lot of people found shelter in that place when they were persecuted, but we left thinking and putting into perspective so many things we usually take for granted, like our freedom to think (and have religious beliefs) and our access to proper housing, both basic rights that today, ten centuries later, no everybody has.