Spring in Cappadochia
At only three hours (at least if I’m driving) from Ankara, Cappadochia is the by far the most rewarding short trip from the capital. So far I’ve seen it in late fall (https://libertinelog.com/2012/11/27/devil-towers-or-fairy-chimneys-a-weekend-in-cappadocia/) and spring – I’m so enamored of the place that now I’ll go back to see it in every season. Luckily most visitors to Turkey make a trip there (if you have time, you usually choose between Cappadochia and Ephesus as your Anatolian destination, and if you’re lucky, you do both) so I think simply by escorting my guests during my tour here I’ll cover all the seasons. Both Ephesus and Cappadochia are essentially piles of rocks, just created by different methods. The great thing about Turkey is that the people are so warm and welcoming that even if you quickly bore of looking at Roman ruins or geological wonders, there will be some local diversions, like a guy selling dondurma (ice cream) with a show full of funny tricks, that revives your interest.
An Olmsted family from France came for a day in Ankara (all you really need to see the city) and a weekend in Cappadochia. This was my first trip in Turkey with kids in tow and I think its a great place to bring them along. Just in Cappadochia, the kids got to crawl all over a cave city, ride a camel, eat crazy ice cream, climb all over rocks, and stay in a cave hotel. Turks are especially friendly to children and will usually give them a small gift, even if the adults in the group refuse to buy anything. Sometimes their overt love of children can be overwhelming though. While we were touring the Goreme Open Air Museum, some people would come up to the kids and pick them up without asking the child or parent’s permission – and I’m not just talking about the Turks here! All kinds of tourists went crazy over a two-year old, although I have to admit, he is pretty adorable.
Another warning: negotiate the price of a camel ride before the kid gets on – otherwise, you’ve got no real leverage in the bargaining. The kids wanted to ride a camel, and voila, as we’re walking to the museum, there were perfectly-placed camels. The camel-runners just reached out for the kids saying “Gel” (come) and put them up on the camel, threw a mom on one and some other kids on another, and then took them for a little circuit. Of course, afterwards, they asked for 60 euros for the 15 minute experience! We were able to change it to 60 TL, but it was still a racket. The next day we saw the same kid asking 6 euro for a coke!
I’ve talked about the Goreme Open Air Museum before – it’s a monastery area full of churches with beautiful frescoes from the 10-14th centuries and one of the first UNESCO sites in Turkey.
We also visited the Derinkuyu underground city, but I had camera issues again so no pictures. It’s very similar to the Kaymakli Underground City that I wrote about in November, but Derinkuyu seems deeper with more offshoots that you can explore, depending on how long you’re comfortable walking nearly bent in half in order to see another cave room.
We stayed at the Vezir Cave Suites, where all the rooms are built into a cave or fairy chimney. I cheaped out and had a ground level room, but my friends got a room in the chimney with great views of the rocks and the balloons in the morning. The only problem with cave hotels is the lack of ventilation, which sometimes causes a sour/musty smell to develop. I only noticed it in my bathroom, which was at the back of my room, but in the upstairs suite it was hard to miss. There is a cluster of this type of hotels in Goreme, and if you climb all the way to the top, you can walk above the hotels and check out the city and an amazing sunset view.
Food is good everywhere in Turkey, and Cappadochia is no exception. The specialty of the area is a clay pot with a meat stew cooked inside, making for very flavorful and tender meats. We got one chicken, beef, and lamb, and had no trouble getting them down. It’s the first time I’ve been served the dish flaming (kind of like fajitas in USA). As another flourish, they break the pot in front of you so you get the first whiff of your yummy meal!
Megan and I got up early to check out the sunrise balloons over the Rose Valley. Once again I was amazed at how captivating the hot air balloons are. Even in a beautiful setting with crazy rock formations, you just can’t stop looking at the balloons. If you’re playing photographer, they become the focus of every picture! Here are some of my shots:
Finally, my favorite part of our weekend, besides the great company, of course, was a hike we did in the Red Valley. Our hotel manager recommended it as doable with kids, and even though imagining returning up the steps while we descended was daunting, overall it was an easy hike. If you enter the Red Valley Parking Area, we took the hike toward the Uzumlu Kilesesi (Grape Church), which is the first left as you enter the trailheads. I definitely recommend spending some quality time hiking through the rocks, especially in spring when the weather is so beautiful.
The Grape Church is down the trail a bit, right next to a small cafe in the middle of the rocks. At first we thought we could only look through the gate, but then the family at the cafe offered us the key to see the frescoes. Finding something so beautiful in the middle of the rocks inspired me to try all the trails in the region – who knows what amazing stuff is down there! Future guests, bring your hiking shoes!
Of course, right across from the church was an old winery, also built into a rock chimney. Here’s the view of the valley and a vineyard from the storage area: