At the end of our 2-week Turkey trip, we reached the beautiful central-Turkish province of Cappadocia. We took a late morning flight from Izmir to Nevsehir (more on Selcuk, Ephesus and Kusadasi later..). From Nevsehir we took a shuttle to Goreme which was 80km away.

On the way we watched in amazement as the landscape changed from almost desert-flat to hilly and then finally to the famous fairy chimneys. They were like nothing I’d seen before. They were huge hollow rock-like huts made by volcanoes and wind erosion–ready-made rock witch’s hat topped hollows that people could actually make their homes! I was amazed at their height. The fairy chimneys are Nature’s own apartment buildings for hunter-gatherers!

The shuttle raced a hundred miles or so dropping people to other destinations before we reached our hotel which was called Anatolia Cave Pensions. The owner of our heritage cave palace was an ever-smiling man called Bekir Okur.

Our rooms were actually caves with entrances that we had to bend ourselves double to get into! This felt really strange–even more so, because our hotel room made of all modern amenities and comforts boasted of rocky, uneven walls and floors. The best thing about the cave room, however, was that it had natural air conditioning. The temperature outside was around 28-30 degrees, but in the room the temperature went down into the single digits and we had to use comforters. And all this without leaving a carbon imprint on the universe.

On our first day we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum. The Museum contains the finest rock-cut churches in the Cappadocia region with beautiful frescoes whose colours still retain their original freshness. The museum also has unique examples of rock hewn architecture. As everything else in Cappadocia, it was a memorable experience. The next day we went on a full day “green” tour which took us to Mustafapasa (an old Greek village in central Turkey), Cemil (a Greek-Orthodox Church), Kelsik Monastry, Taskinpasa Medresei (an Ottoman theological school), Soganli Valley(a 3km trek up and down along a river), Kaymakli Underground City and an Onyx Factory. All these places were exceptional and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, even though I was drained by the end of the day. My favorite places were of course the Underground City, the trek and the Kelsic Monastery.

The monastery was built in a chain of fairy chimneys. There weren’t any real steps, so we had to climb the whole way to the top. The journey was tiring, but when we got to the top, it was worth every sweat we broke. The view from the top was just breathtaking. The monastery was fascinating. There were intricate carvings on the rocks, which added to the beauty of the place.

The best part of the whole trip was the Underground City. Kaymakli Underground City is one of the many underground cities in Cappadocia, the biggest being Derinkuyu Underground City. These underground cities were originally built to hide from the attack of wild animals and hard winter conditions. Later though, the cities were enlarged to accommodate large numbers of Christians who were trying to escape persecution byRoman soldiers.

Kaymakli Underground City had 12 floors built underground, the first being a floor filled with stables. This was actually a very clever cover up since stables were generally built slightly underground in those days. Therefore, if any Roman happened to stumble across an opening to the city, all they would find was a stable, which was pretty normal. The underground city had everything ranging from a winery to a church to classrooms to a monastery and sleeping quarters. They were well protected in the cities and could live underground for 6 months at a stretch. Endless, low and winding, maze-like went up and down the levels of the underground city. Sometimes, these tunnels would have rough steps hewn into them, sometimes not. Some of these tunnels were so tight and low that we had to almost crouch with our elbows and knees inwards and stay in that position as we crawled for minutes at a stretch. My old vertebrae were certainly not happy with me by the end of the tour!

Our last night in Cappadocia came too soon and to make it more special, we decided to go for the Turkish Night which was in a hotel in Ugrup, a half hour’s drive from Goreme. The night began with a traditional, ritual ceremony by the famous Whirling Dervish. After that there were a number of native dances including a mock Turkish wedding with delicious all-we-could-eat-and-drink night. The finale of the evening was an incredible belly-dancing performance. The night ended reluctantly with all of us dancing around a bonfire.

Turkey is an enchanting place filled with friendly and generous people and that made the trip even more enjoyable! My trip to Turkey has been one of the most memorable holidays of my life, and one I’ll surely be writing more about in posts to come.

Originally written for Places I’ve Been.

posts by Ranee Kaur Banerjee