Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cappadocia - Day Two

And here are photos from our second day in Cappadocia:

I think they're supposed to be chickens or something, even though they look exactly like dinosaurs to me.

There are a bunch of underground cities in the area. The one we visited went 8 stories underground. There was a tunnel which connected it to a neighboring underground city, 9 km away. The first rooms and levels in the city were dug out a long time ago, maybe 8th century BC. In the 6th and 7th century AD, tens of thousands of Christians lived in the cities for months at a time -- as a place of refuge from persecution. Obviously, the lighting isn't great down there which made it difficult to photograph.

That's all for awesome pictures, although I have one more post about the trip in my back pocket.


Monday, January 09, 2012

Cappadocia - Day One

There really isn't much I could write about Cappadocia that isn't better conveyed in photographs. All these photos were taken in one day.

The striking rock formations which look rather mushroom-like are known as 'fairy chimneys.'

The Göreme Open-Air Museum is a Byzantine monastic settlement with a cluster of rock-cut churches. You can go into a bunch of the churches which have red-colored religious designs (i.e., crosses) and heavily damaged biblically-themed frescos that are difficult to photograph in the gloom.

Cut into the rock in the photo below, you can see part of a church. From that point, there's an entrance to the "Dark Church." Inside, very well preserved frescos are on every surface. There's no photography in there, and, of course, it costs extra. (Pay the extra!)

Did I crawl into that crevice? I can't remember. I suspect not even though I'm sure it goes through. It's not in the US, so scrambling up, on, along, and through (some very dark tunnels) with no safety precautions is almost always allowed.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cappadocia - Göreme and Logistics

Sean and I saw Cappadocia on a travel show a couple years ago. It looked incredible. Try Google image searching 'cappadocia' right now: it's full of crazy scenery. But we were both like 'we're never going to go there.' It's too far off the beaten path and there's a lot of cool places we need to see first. But once you're in Turkey, it's not that hard to get to. And it looks just like the pictures.

These are just the views around our hotel, so nothing really cool.

To get to Cappadocia, we flew from Izmir back to Istanbul and out again to Kayseri. Then, a van from the hotel picked us up and took us the 1 hour drive to Göreme. The area around the airport was all golden color fields and mountains. And the roads are pristine-ly new but with very few cars. It was like being in the Central Asian Steppe, if I actually had any idea what that is like.

Three volcanos ring Cappadocia and erosion of the layers of volcanic ash is the cause of the crazy rock formations you see in the area. The things to see are the scenery, the Byzantine churches in caves cut into the rock, and the underground cities. Taking a hot air balloon ride is very popular and must be spectacular, but you do have to get up at 4 for the sunrise flight and we opted to skip that.

We stayed in Göreme, which is basically a backpacker town. If you're looking for a more upscale vacation, you might prefer to stay in some neighboring town. We stayed at the Kelebek hotel, which is one of the original cave hotels. We took the cheapest room with a private bath, but, be warned, those rooms have windows out on the path between the entrance and the restaurant and people outside will wake you several times a night.

Two things about traveling in Turkey. We had fairly good (and free) wifi in our room at every hotel we stayed at, which is better than you could expect in the U.S. or in Europe. We also had tiny bathrooms in every hotel except at Kelebek. In a room carved into rock we had a fabulously large shower.

Finally, remember what I said about every tour having 'shopping stops?' Well, we pre-booked with a reputable company in Cappadocia, and it was fine. But what isn't mentioned in the guide books or even on the tour company websites -- and would have definitely swayed our choice -- is that Heritage Travel (which operates out the Kelebek) doesn't have shopping stops. You'd think they'd advertise that fact more.