Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Goreme, Turkey

Our destination was Goreme, but because we were intent on avoiding a night bus, we boarded the 9:20 am bus to Konya. We figured that if we could get to a bigger centre, there would be more buses and we could pick the one that suited our timetable. The Lonely Planet guide to Turkey warns people about a scam involving transportation to Cappadocia. You pay for a ticket to Goreme, but then you are dropped off at Nevsehir and you have to pay an additional fee to get to Goreme. Forewarned is forearmed, so off we went.
We arrived at the otogar in Konya a few minutes before 1:00 pm. We had not even been there two minutes and were collecting our backpacks when we were approached by a man who asked us if we were going to Goreme. It seems that he was collecting passengers for a bus that was leaving immediately. Since Craig is always telling Lynda that she needs to be more spontaneous, we followed him to the bus. We told him that we did not have a ticket and in broken English, he told us that we could buy the ticket on the bus. Before boarding, we checked the sign on the front of the bus and Goreme was clearly listed as a stopping point. Also, the bus was full of Turkish people and it seems that we were not the only ones without a ticket. The entire back of the bus was paying cash. Ah, ha! We are sure that none of the money from the cash paying customers is making it into the bus company coffers. The driver and the attendant have figured out a way to supplement their income. The ride was uneventful until we arrived in Nevsehir, at which point in time the attendant informed us that we had to get off the bus and take a shuttle to Goreme. "Here we go!" we thought. The attendant handed us over to a fellow from a local tour company who told us that the shuttle was not coming for 20 minutes, but we could wait in his office. While we were there, he attempted to sell us some tours. We graciously declined, but took his card and promised to call him when we made up our minds. He escorted us to the shuttle. We were a bit anxious when the attendant on this bus came down the aisle checking tickets, but he passed right by us. We made it to Goreme without any major incident and in better time than if we had waited for another bus.
We arrived at the Arch Palace in the late afternoon and although we were not staying in a cave hotel, we were thrilled with our choice. The owner, Mustafa, receives rave reviews on Trip Advisor, but adding to that is the fact that the hotel has been completely renovated. The rooms are very large. The shower in our room (# 202) was huge and it came with a rainforest shower head. What a treat! Mustafa and his family go out of their way to ensure that your stay is enjoyable. Mustafa gave us tips on hiking and day excursions, drove us to a travel agent in Urgup for the price of petrol, and suggested restaurants to try. His wife, Nurtan, did our laundry and provided us with tasty breakfasts(and a couple of dinners) on the terrace. We have no hesitation recommending the Arch Palace to anyone looking for a place to stay in Goreme.
Many people told us that Cappadocia was a must-do in Turkey. Even though it was quite a ways away from the coast, we added it to our itinerary. The draw of Cappadocia is its unique landscape. Commonly called "fairy chimnies," they are simply ancient layers of ash and lava that have been eroded over centuries by wind and water. Underneath the hard layers of lava, nomadic Turkish people have excavated dwellings in the compacted ash. The harder, less eroded lava layers remain as hat-like tops. These excavations vary from simple dwellings to decorated churches and even underground cities. One of the meanings of Cappadocia comes from the Persian word "Katpatuka" which means "the land of beautiful horses." That may well be the case, but we saw very few horses while we were in the area. We saw lots of donkeys working in the fields and pulling carts. Craig worked very hard to photograph this aspect of Turkish life.
We were looking for a low-key exploration on our first day. Mustafa suggested we take the dolmus to Uchisar to explore the castle and the village, then walk back via Pigeon Valley. Since we could see Uchisar from the terrace of our hotel, it all seemed manageable. We enjoyed the view from the sixty-metre high castle and wandered around the village. When it was time to walk back, we headed down into the valley. We found a well-worn trail, but then it became very dicey. It seemed better designed for mountain goats than human being. We explored a few other paths, but we ended up going in the opposite direction. It was a long walk back to the town centre, and by that time, Lynda had lost patience. We returned to the bus stop and hopped on a dolmus back to Goreme. If we had been blessed with more time it would have been great to try to reverse the direction and walk from Goreme to Uchisar.
As many of you know, we are not big fans of organized tours. We decided to take "the Green Tour" because it included the underground city of Derinkuyu, the Ilhara Valley, a tour guide, lunch and all your transportation for 50 Turkish Lira each. At Derinkuyu we went underground to a depth of eight floors, but apparently only one quarter of the original city is open to the public. It was a place of refuge that could maintain life for an extended period of time. We saw stables, wine presses, living areas, churches, a meeting hall and a confessional. This, and other cities, were linked together by nine kilometres of known tunnels. The Ilhara Valley is about one hour's drive from Derinkuyu. We walked three kilometres along the river between high cliffs, passing by churches and villages carved into the rock. After a full-sized meal at a restaurant along the river, we were back in the bus and on our way to the Selime monastery. We climbed up the side of the mountain and explored some more cave dwellings. The fresh air and the big lunch acted like a sedative for the other holiday-makers because as soon as we got back on the bus and started driving, they all fell asleep. We enjoyed the tour. It was a reasonably priced way for us to cover a few sites without renting a car.
Traditionally, Saturday is Market Day in Turkey. This is when the locals do their shopping. We had business at a travel agency in Urgup and only stumbled upon the market by accident. The range of products and the quantities were amazing. Lynda couldn't help herself and bought a kilo of fresh strawberries for two lira.(Icecream and strawberries for dessert that night.) Hopefully, some of Craig's pictures will give everyone a feel of what we experienced.
On our last day in Goreme, we took a dolmus to the Zelve Open Air Museum and spent several hours exploring more churches, cave dwellings and tunnels. Then we started hiking back towards Goreme, through the wine fields and along the ridge line over Pasabaz, and down into the village of Cavusin where we had lunch. After lunch we made our way through the Rose Valley and the Red Valley to Goreme. We met several interesting people, saw varying landscapes and structures, and enjoyed the warm, sunny day. There is so much more to explore in this area, but it is time to move on. We are cheating and taking the short route back to the coast. We have purchased a very reasonable flight from Kayseri to Izmir and are going to stop back in Selcuk at our favourite family pension, Homeros. Our intention is to spend the Easter weekend in Bodrum and then take a ferry from Kusadasi to Samos, Greece. We have loved our time in Turkey and will hopefully be back here next Spring Break.

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1 comment:

  1. First of all i would like to thank very much to Package tours Turkey for providing our trip to Turkey. We were very excited to come to turkey because it was going to be our first time in Turkey - we were hoping our trip to be well arranged and to see the nice places we want to visit. we heard very good toughts about istanbul and cappadocia. And finally we visited most of historical places and i can say our guide vas fantastic he was very nice and informative person. The hotel which was choosen by our company was also very nice it was in the exactly old part of istanbul and we were very happy with the organization. We also went to visit cappadocia for 2 days and everything fortunately went on very well. We were welcomed at the cappadocia and the tour was excellent. Turkish people must be very lucky because a lot to see and visit ...