Monday, 1 August 2011

Gorgeous Goreme!

Goreme landscape
Friday 29th July - Amasya to Goreme

The view from the car
 For hundreds of kilometres we drove south through the wheatbelt of Turkey to reach Goreme.
The roads varied from super highways to country roads, with a huge amount of roadworks in progress, but only a minimal amount of the new work actually completed. Ewan did a great job of staying on the right side of the road, which is very challenging when you negotiate roundabouts. Of course Erin and I are invaluable assistants in keeping him not only on the straight and narrow, but also on the RIGHT side of the road. There was some muttering about back seat drivers, but I'm sure he appreciates our assistance - well, most of the time.(Mum, he did mention something about me turning into you, but I'm sure he meant it as a compliment! - no he didn't:ES )
We are convinced that the Turks make a point of ignoring road rules and speed limits at all times. Every day we have been on the road, at least twice we have been faced with someone heading for us on our side of the road whilst overtaking. I think it might be a test of their manhood to only overtake on blind corners. As we travelled from Amasya there were huge numbers of tractors, often pulling one or two trailers loaded with grain, bales of hay and people, or all of the above.
We stopped at several large service staions for sustenance along the way, and the last one had its own mosque - not a big feature of Australian service stations.
As we approached Goreme the endless rolling hills, mountains, fields of hay, green valleys and market gardens ceased, and were replaced by the amazing limestone cliffs and formations for which the Cappodocia Region is famous (and which has earnt it a World Heritage listing).
Cappodocia is an enormous region with an endless variety of natural formations above the ground, and many man-made formations created within the limestone, both above and below ground.
We eventually found our hotel - the Dervish Cave House - and discovered that our large hotel room is built out of the local stone on the side of one of these limestone 'fairy chimneys' whilst our bathroom is actually situated in the limestone, so it stays very cool. Our room has a huge Mulberry tree at the door full of ripe mulberries, and there is a grassed terrace overlooking Goreme for us to breakfast on, and to enjoy when the evenings cool down.Very nice. It's a one minute walk into town, so we wandered around trying to get our bearings. Apparently there aer only three families who still live in houses that are caves in the limestone : all of the others have been bought out and turned into hotels. There is supposed to be a limit on creating any more cave hotels, but, as happens everywhere, if you know the right people or have enough money, well........
The first thing we noticed are the TOURISTS!!! We have only spoken to about 5 Australians since we arrived in Turkey and have seen very few tourists anywhere. But this is the place! Every evening at about 7pm huge modern buses pull up and deposit one lot of backpackers, then fill up with another load on overnight trips to Istanbul or elsewhere. There seems to be representation from every country and we have come across a few Aussies. One of the cafes advertises it's coffee by saying it is made by a barista trained in Melbourne. The village atmosphere is maintained by lots of locals as well, thank heavens - mostly older men sitting around drinking tea and playing card and board games.
There are lots of tourist craft shops too of course but I was thrilled to find the Bookshop which has English books to trade and buy! Fabulous! ( Sorry Lauren, was that as boring as me rattling on about the laundry???!!) And once we had located the Turkish Delight shop ( recommended by Grazyna) we were very happy travellers.
Saturday 30th July and Sunday 31st July: Goreme
For the last 2 days we have excelled our previous performances in seeing as much as we can. The list includes:
- Tramping around various valleys to admire the limestone formations : they are different in every valley and have some imaginative names. Yesterday we went quite a few kms to Ilhara Valley which followed a winding river and was very green. In other valleys the limestone is quite pink, and less frequently, yellow.
-Many of the little windows cut into the limestone are pigeon houses and you can see the birds disappearing into the rock face.
- With a young turkish boy (who is training to be a primary teacher) as a guide, we visited a family whose house was partly in a cave.We were ushered into the living room which was very cool by an older woman who gave us tea. She had some English and we had a great time chatting: it turned out she was "nearly 60 " and we thought she was in her 70's! It's a hard life here. She had the usual photo of Ataturk and a very old photo of turkish soldiers in WW1 which Ewan thought was interesting. She had been a carpet maker as most women were in this area. The stables for the 3 cattle were in a cave and the house was surrounded by market gardens and fruit trees, including a hige walnut tree.
- Churches: there are hundreds of churches and monasteries built during the 4th to the 11th century within the limestone to protect the early Christians. They are in various stages of decay or have been effected by vandalism. However, many are beautifully painted and surprisingly intact.
- We visited Kaymakli, one of the largest of the 200 underground cities n the area, many of them waiting to be excavated. It was a rabbit warren of small tunnels and 'rooms' directly accessible from each of the old stone houses above. They were used in times of attack and had been carefully designed to allow for 'comfortable' living when it was unsafe to be above ground. They had ventilation shafts, stables near the entrance so the animals could be let out during the day, smoke flues which allowed the smoke to escape away from the city and this one was 45 metres underground with lots of different levels. Everything had been carved out of the limestone by unfortunate slaves.It wasn't as claustrophobic as the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, but you still wouldn't want to spend to long in there!
- The Goreme Open Air Museum had examples of all of these structures and explanations about their development so it was very interesting.
- And of course anything that is high has to be used as a citadel or a castle so we staggered up the stiars to the top of the Uchisar castle ( Kalesi). The views were stupendous, and so was the surprise on Ewan's face when he realised Erin and I had made it to the top!

The major achievement from all of this sightseeing was that it has been a minimum of 37 degrees celsius every day, so timing (and water bottles, sunscreen and hats!) is everything! It does cool down a little late in the day and doesn't get dark until 9pm so there is plenty of time to see everything. We have been having siestas to cope in the middle of the day, but you do seem to acclimatise eventually. Goreme has about 20cms of snow in winter too, so quite a variation in seasons.
The food here has been delicious; it has a Pide restaurant with 12 different sorts of pide (Turkish bread with filling). It's also famous for one-use clay pots full of slow-cooked stew, ususally lamb, tomatoes , eggplant, onions, herbs etc.. The opening at the top where the ingredients are added is covered by dough and the whole pot is cooked in a slow oven. The pots are scored around the midde and snapped off when the meal is ready. Delicious!
Of course we have also enjoyed the turkish delight, baklava, rice pudding, smoothies and ice cream to counteract the heat!

1 comment:

  1. Aha! Finally found out how to post a comment - only took me a month or so! What a wonderful time you're having. I just said to Dawn how great it is that you are recording it while there - all we have is photos from Sth America & fading memories - would have been great to write at the time, but all we did was record what & where the photos were.
    I recognise some of the places from Giselle's trip last year. Turkey is definitely on our wish list after seeing her photos & even more now after your blog. We are not going to Vietnam in Sept now - decided to postpone it as settlement on the Somers house occurs in the middle of the hols & we want to do a few things before Giselle & Jesse move in at the end of the hols. Probably early 2013 now for Vietnam.
    Keep enjoying those peaches & nectarines, goat's cheese, seafood...that's it - I'm coming over!! XX