Planes, Caves and Numerous Hills
Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey – Oct 2020
The summer was almost over, more Covid lockdowns were threatened and I desperately needed an escape. The list of countries on our exemption list was diminishing by the minute, and a damp weekend in Clacton just wasn’t going to cut it. So when my son Dan suggested we meet up in Cappadocia, Turkey my interest was piqued.
I’d always been enthralled by the images of multi-coloured balloons gliding over the strange rock formations, carved out and inhabited by generations of cave-dwellers. So channelling my inner Flintstone, I “clubbed” together with Dan and my partner Ian and set off on our “mammoth” adventure.
On the transfer from the airport, we learnt that the UK had unexpectedly added Turkey to the “naughty list”. Unable and unwilling at this late stage to turn straight around and fly home, we were now compelled to quarantine on our return – not a great start to our trip. Finally arriving in Göreme, our frustration quickly dissipated at the enchanting scene that greeted us. It felt like we had landed in a magical kingdom. Multi coloured lights twinkled from weird shaped “buildings” which covered the hillside surrounding the town, as the bus navigated the winding, cobbled streets. Although dark, it somehow felt exciting and mysterious. Retiring to our cosy cave (yes, most of the hotels are actually built within the limestone) we decided that we were going to make the most of this adventure – possibly our last for some time
Dan had flown in from Amsterdam in the early hours so we met up with him on the rooftop terrace for breakfast, where we admired the amazing vista in bright sunlight. Göreme is situated at the centre of this UNESCO World Heritage site, and nestles pleasantly around (and in some cases, within) the “Fairy Chimneys” which dominate the landscape. These are rather phallic looking volcanic rock formations created millions of years ago and eroded over time to form their unusual shape.
Annoyingly the local wasps obviously also found the rooftop particularly enticing and decided to join us for breakfast each day. We discovered they were especially partial to the chicken sausage on our sumptuous platter, so we served them a plate of this at the far end of the table which mostly kept them buzzy.
Venturing down into the town (I swear I’ve never climbed down and up so many steps/hills before in my life as on this trip), we encountered a blissfully tourist free selection of shops and restaurants. As we strolled along the street however, we were aware we were being followed… Our new friend was an affable mutt we named George. The Turkish seem to love their stray cats and dogs who all seemed surprisingly well cared for. Wanting nothing more than company, he escorted us all around the town and up to the Open Air Museum.
This was a collection of monastic cave dwellings comprising mostly of churches and refuges carved out of the rock and decorated with frescoes since the Byzantine era by a series of religious affiliations. As fascinating at these were, we were lulled into submission by the endless descriptions of the holy scenes on the audio guides and feeling the effects of the heat and the jetlag, decided to return to the hotel for a rest. We couldn’t however resist the sales pitch of an ice cream seller on our way back, and Dan (who knew the spiel) was in fits as I fell (several times) for his “act” of pretending to drop the cone as he handed it to me! It was delicious however – made of goat’s milk and strangely chewy (I hoped it was just the goat’s milk they used!).