Turkey is a country like no other. It combines a European flair with the exotic culture of the Middle East. It has unique sites that are so diverse and beautiful, that no matter where you travel within the county you will feel like a kid in a candy store. One place that I can say without a doubt is a highlight of this fantastic country is the region of Cappadocia.
Driving into the town of Goreme is like driving into a fantasy world. Goreme is a cute little town nestled in among ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations. Cappadocia is truly unique in that you feel like you are in a science fiction movie. This bizarre but captivating landscape was created millions of years ago when volcanic eruptions formed massive mountains and valleys, and over time the wind, climate and erosion have formed the rocks into pinnacle like cones. As the top layers of the rock are relatively soft, past civilizations have carved homes into this geological oddity, which makes this town come alive with an abundance of history.
The town itself is full of cute shops and friendly places to eat. One place that we discovered was a restaurant that was located in one of the fairy chimneys. We were given a five course meal with the main course being a traditional Turkish dish that is literally cooked in a sealed clay pot. Once the dish was ready we were given a mallet and had to smash the pot open to get to the food.
My shopping addiction was definitely well fed here in Goreme. They have shops that specialize in anything from jewelry to handcrafts. One shop that stands out in my mind was full of hand crafted leather shoes and bags. Family owned and operated, I was able to meet the shoemaker himself. He didn’t speak a word of English, but had a smile that spoke every language in the world. After I left the shop and was about a block down the road I heard a woman running behind me yelling ‘lady, lady’. I had forgot my change on the desk and she went out of her way to bring it to me. After giving me my money she hugged me and went back to her shop. This is the essence of the people here – warm, friendly and kind!
There are definitely some historical sites that are a must see for anyone visiting this area. The first is the Goreme Open-Air Museum. This Unesco World Heritage Site was first a Byzantine monastic settlement, and then a pilgrimage site that dated back to the 17th century. There are about ten churches carved into the formations with fresco paintings that still remain vibrant and beautiful. As well, some still have tombs carved into the ground that you can see the skeletons still under a protective glass.
Another interesting site is the Kaymakli Underground City. Deep under the earth’s surface is an entire city that dates before Christ. There are eight levels of tunnels and rooms that stretch into a labyrinth of mazes. This is definitely not a place to go if you are claustrophobic. The tunnels reflect the size of the people at the time – so small that you must crouch down to get through. It is absolutely fascinating that this was a fully functioning city at one point in time.
Lastly and in my eyes the most fabulous experience of all is taking a hot air balloon high above the town. In order to catch the most captivating views you must wake up early to see the sun rise. About 100 balloons are flown daily in the area because there is no better way to get this magnificent view. With the sun rising over the rock formations it felt like I was in some magical world. Navigating the balloon around the cone shaped rocks and then floating about 500 meters in the air was in describable. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I have been in the world and I just can’t stress how truly peaceful and perfect it was.
Other great links to Turkey:
Budget Backpacking Guide to Turkey by Goats on the Road