Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cappadocia- A different world in itself

I would say your trip to Turkey can’t be complete if you don’t visit Cappadocia. It will be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. The landscape of Cappadocia doesn’t look like it is a part of this Earth. It looks like a mysterious place with unique geological and historical features with many underground cities to unravel.

The tour guide picked us up from Kayseri airport and straight away took us to unravel the mysteries surrounding us. Our first stop was the Devrent Valley, also known as the Imaginary Valley due to its resemblance to the lunar landscape. Gazing upon the Devrent Valley we were confronted with overwhelming natural beauty with no civilization for miles. The extraordinary landscape is an archeological wonder filled with fairy chimneys, rock pillars, amazing volcanic structures and unique rock formations.

From Devrent Valley we headed to Zelve Open Air Museum. Until as recent as 40 to 50 years back the houses carved in the rocks had been a part of a cave town bustling with cave dwellers living in a honeycombed fashion. The Christians and Muslims lived together in perfect harmony. You can still see the Cave Churches and the Cave Mosques. The inhabitants had to ultimately move out due to the dangerous risk of erosion and had to finally settle in modern villages. It is extremely hard to imagine that people chose to stay there for such a long time without any electricity or technology. I am no one to judge but really have respect for those who stayed there since they valued their fellowship more than the comforts of materialistic world. I can certainly say that they were richer than us in every way for they spent quality time with their friends and family without any modern day distractions of phones, television or other gadgets that sidetrack us from our own people. Although now a ghost town it takes 2 hours to walk through the valley to see the entire place. I would encourage everyone to take a walk through the valley and go through the cave tunnels and houses in which once a civilization thrived and flourished. The government is trying to restore the place since the erosion continues to take place.

Later we went to Pasabaglari also known as the Monks Valley to see the three headed fairy chimneys. From the beautiful fairy chimneys we went to Avanos where we saw pottery demonstration and I got to try my hands on the potter’s wheels. It was my first experience and I did manage to make a pot. After a hard day’s labour our tummies were rumbling and we were taken by our travel guide to a beautiful restaurant by the side of a lake where the ducks were swimming and we were relishing the view coupled with the scrumptious Turkish cuisine. 

Later we headed to Uchisar rock castle. This perforated rock castle has many interconnecting rooms and staircases, tunnels and passages. It is said that a 1000 people could stay in it at one time. One thing is certain that seeing these places makes you wonder if you are on another planet. Even whilst we were planning the trip I had already decided to stay in one of the original rock castles. A word of caution - there are many hotels which claim to be rock castles but are not originals and have been created only for the purpose of tourism. So after a lot of research and asking I finally found an authentic rock castle with fairy chimneys as well. I really wanted to stay in a fairy chimney but only a couple can stay there and not a family of 4 coz they are tiny rooms. Of course the rooms had been modified to help the tourists stay more comfortably but I was happy to see that our bedroom was one of the original rock caves where people lived. So after an overload of sightseeing and an early dinner we retired to our rooms for the night so that we could be fresh in the morning to unravel the strange land that we were in.

The morning welcomed us with breakfast under the open sky surrounded by the extra-terrestrial landscape. Gagan and Shweta had got up very early in the morning to go for the hot air balloon ride which I feel is compulsory; however we backed off due to our small lil kids. Our first stop for the day was the famous Kaymakli underground city which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the largest, organized and structured underground cities with 8 stories under the ground out of which only 4 are open to the tourists. In its hay days 5000 people could easily live there. The whole tour takes about 2 hours so put on your comfortable walking shoes and be ready to bend and crawl through the small corridors.

From there we made a short stop at an old Greek town called Mustafapsa which became part of Turkey after the Greco-Turkish war. After crossing the town we went to Taskinpasa Medresesi an Ottoman theological school. Later we headed to Keslik monastery which has beautiful frescos dating back to a 1000 years. It is a must visit place even if you are not an art lover. After the Keslik Monastery our guide took us to Cemil - a Greek orthodox church.

Later we went to another UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited tourist place - The Gerome Open Air Museum. The museum has rock cut 1000 year old churches, frescos and monasteries. After spending about 2 hours we headed to Esentepe for the magnificent panoramic view of the Gerome Valley. The beautiful trees covered with evil eye makes the place look even more splendid. With this we concluded our stay in Cappadocia and were ready to take our flight to Izmer the next day.