I saved what would become one of my favorite destinations in Turkey for last. I knew before I went that it would be a highlight of the trip. In fact, I heard this from just about every exchange student who made this trip back in mid-February.
For the entire time I was in Turkey (ever since late February) I had a chip on my shoulder about getting to Cappadocia. One of the Turkish students, Mert, had planned a trip for a set number of exchange students to go to Cappadocia together. He arranged the busses, hotels, activities, etc. I can't remember how much it was, but it was definitely more than it should have been. He was almost certainly making money on this little arrangement. Even still, for a weekend trip, it was quite cheap to us foreigners. I had originally planned to go on the trip, myself. I signed up and was going to pay him the money. Unfortunately, the only place he was willing to collect the money was in the Superdorm. Truthfully, it made sense because thats where 95% of the exchange students lived. He said that he would be there at 8pm to collect money. I guess for whatever reason I messed up the time and I thought he meant 9pm. I was there for 30 minutes, money in hand, ready to pay him. He was not. When another person told me he had already been by, I raced back to my room and emailed him. He received the email no later than 9:35. I told him of my mistake and that I would be willing to meet him anywhere right now to get him the money in time because I really wanted to go on the trip. He told me that I missed my opportunity and that I would be put on the bottom of the waiting list (giving me no hope to get a seat on the trip). He was actually a real douchebag about the whole thing. The reason I was really upset was not just because I was missing the trip, but because I lived in another place, away from the exchange students. They live in the same dorm, see each other every night, hang out, plan outings and trips together. I felt that this trip to Cappadocia would have been an opportunity for me to meet some of the American and European students who were traveling so that I would be invited and involved in potential weekend trips. It is no fun to travel alone (and not always very safe either). At any rate, I missed out on the chance to go. Upon the return from the trip, I heard from several exchange students about how great Cappadocia was and how I needed to go see it. For these reasons, it was one of the places I REALLY wanted to visit during my time there.
I took another overnight bus trip from Antalya to Nevşehir. The bus cost about 60 TL (as expected for an overnight bus). The bus ride was approximately 12 hours. My feelings about the overnight busses were mixed. I took several of them on this trip. On one hand, it saved me the cost of a room for a night, but on the other hand, they were usually uncomfortable and I got little sleep (it's kind of like trying to sleep on an airplane). Even though it wasn't really that far, the roads were difficult because the path weaved through the mountains of the southern Mediterranean and up towards the center of the country. By the next morning, I was at a bus stop outside of Nevşehir waiting for the bus company shuttle to take me to Göreme, where I would be staying for the next three days (and the heart of Cappadocia).
While waiting for the shuttle to Göreme, I recognized the two Canadian girls that I had previously stayed with in Olympos. We had talked about potentially being in Cappadocia at the same time and that if we were it would be fun to see it together. I was glad to see them, as I had been traveling alone since I had seen them in Olympos a few days prior. While I had been traveling, they stayed in Olympos and relaxed in the hammocks, swam, and enjoyed the ridiculously good deals of staying in the air-conditioned treehouses (which were actually a lot more comfortable than they sounded). I had not made plans as to which pansiyon I would stay in. They had and I just followed them.
The ride into Göreme was magnificent. I could instantly see why everyone wanted to visit this place in Turkey. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. This is what I saw on the way in:
These rock structures are called "fairy chimneys." Basically, they are tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the ground in a dry place. The sediment had been piled on for years, hardening, and creating new layers. These things were all over the place. It was a beautiful sight to see.
We made our way to the pension. I was ready to go sightseeing after a little nap. The Canadian girls had a different plan, it seemed. One of them had gotten sick in Olympos (I had heard that people who stay there for a while end up getting sick but it was unclear whether it was staying in close proximity to a lot of other people or if it was because the fresh water creek that emptied into the ocean near where a lot of people swam had some sewage and other disgusting things that one would not want to swim in). At any rate, rather than rent the cheap, dorm style rooms, the girls opted for a slightly more expensive private room. We had hoped that the sick girl would feel better by the next day and made plans to take a tour. Now I had been using my lonely planet guide and had specifically not taken tours because I kind of wanted to do it myself on my own schedule (and my own budget). However, Cappadocia was a HUGE place, and there is no way I would even get to see a fraction of what I wanted to see unless I took the tour. So I booked the tour with the girls for the next day.
The room I was staying in was interesting. It was a part of one of the fairy chimneys. It had been hollowed out and it was slightly underground. This created a kind of natural air conditioner, keeping things cool. This was necessary, as I was in the middle of a high plateau (that gets very hot) in the middle of the summer. The accommodations were also quite reasonable. (Only something like 8TL per night), the cheapest I had seen yet! It was so cheap that I didn't even try to negotiate (It likely wouldn't have done much good anyway).
I took a nap and then asked the concierge about the open air museum. He told me that it was about 1.5km (1 mile) or so down the road and that I could walk if I wanted (which was just fine with me). He also gave me a map of the area and told me which areas he would suggest hiking (I wanted to go for a hike after the open air museum). So armed with the map he gave me of some cool hiking trails and the direction to the open air museum, I was off.
Here's the road I followed:
The Open Air Museum
The Open Air Museum was really neat. Persecuted Christians lived here inside the fairy chimneys and painted frescoes on the walls and the ceilings. These have been preserved for over a thousand years. There were several churches (perhaps they did not all function as churches but they all had frescoes depicting christian scenes on them). Once inside, you could wander from one room to the next, seeing the history. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Open Air Museum.
There are several more pictures from the open air museum (see the link on the right of this page).
After I finished walking around the Open Air Museum (it took a couple of hours), I decided to go hiking in the area around Göreme. The area itself is famous for its hikes and a big reason why many backpackers choose this particular town when they come to Cappadocia.
The Open Air Museum is nearest to the Valley of the Swords, so that's where I decided to go first. The map was unclear exactly where I was supposed to go to get in, so I hiked up the large hill next to the Open Air Museum to see if there was an entrance way up there.
Near the sign, there was a gravel path to the right which lead down into the valley. I figured this was my best option for getting into the Valley of Swords. I hiked down the hill for a few minutes into the rocky area. The trail had definitely been trodden before but there were tall grasses on either side. The rock formations were stunning. In hindsight, the ensuing hike was probably not something I should have done alone in a foreign country, but I did it anyway.
I saw instantly why they called it the valley of swords.
This is what the trail looked like.
I hiked on it for a little while. I went in between rocks. Amazingly, on the cliffs on each side, you could see evidence of people who lived here in quite a few of the rocks (even the ones further away from the open air museum). It seems this whole area was used as a natural shelter from enemies. Lots of them have random doorways carved out of them. After a little while, I got to a cliff on the trail. The drop was probably a good 15-25 feet. I probably could have climbed down and continued on the trail (which likely would have connected up with one of the others I was going to walk on), but I didn't think it would be a good idea to try (especially being alone without a cell phone). If I were to fall, it might have been days before someone would have found me.
Rather than go on, I turned around and came back the way I had come originally. I found the main road and walked back towards Goreme on it until I saw a dirt path on flat ground going in the direction I had just come from (to the right). It would lead me to another trail .
I began walking towards and inside the Rose Valley. It was a much more open trail than the Valley of Swords. The fairy chimneys were further apart.
After walking a ways, the pathway opened up. I ran into some other hikers and they told me that one of the fairy chimneys was open and you could go inside. I went inside and found that it was in the same style as the ones in the open air museum. Pretty cool.
From this place, I hiked up the side of some rocks to another church and went inside there. The view from the higher ground was amazing.
I hiked some more and found another random church. Now I was much higher in elevation from where I started the hike. Right about when I got to the church, it started drizzling and a rainshower passed by. I waited it out in another place next to the church. An older Turkish man was there. He obviously made money by selling drinks and snacks to tourists who hike out there. He showed me some of his art work and allowed me to wait out the rainstorm with him. He was a friendly guy.
It was so strange to be raining in July there. I hadn't come prepared for it. I also found out later from both the people in my hostel and my tour guide that they had NEVER in their entire lives seen rain in Cappadocia in July. It was the weirdest thing. I was hot and it was hot outside, so it was refreshing...but very very odd. (I guess I attract this kind of odd weather because it also rained the first time I went to a desert in Israel).
Here are some more pictures from the hike.
After hiking for a couple of hours, it was time to turn around and go home. I hiked back towards where I came from and thought I went to the right place. I tried to go a slightly different way than I came so that I could see new things and I thought it would be a little quicker. Much to my dismay I got turned around and got lost. By the time I found the road (I ended up walking up the hill where the Goreme sign was and ended up about an extra quarter to half a mile further from the town than I thought I would be, I was exausted. I found the road and began walking towards town. Luckily, an American couple had rented a car and they were lost. They asked me for directions, which I was able to provide. They offered to give me a ride back to town, which was awesome of them. So I basically ended up hiking for about 5 solid hours after walking to the open air museum. The hike was amazing and was definitely a highlight of my trip (see more pictures on the Cappadocia link on the right).
I went to a quick restaurant when I got back to town and went to bed. I had to get up early and I was completely exhausted from the day's hike.