Our first day in Cappadocia was spent in the town of Ürgüp. We arrived in the morning, left our bags at the hotel, headed into town to explore a bit and eat an early lunch. Afterwards, we returned to our hotel, where we hoped the kids might nap. No such luck, though my wife had a nice nap.
A fantastic travel agent, who was recommended by the local Fulbright office, got us our flights, our hotel, our transportation from the Kayseri airport to and from the hotel, and the two day-long tours. We were lucky to have all of this put together less than two weeks out because we booked our travel during the week of Kurban Bayram, when pretty much the entire country of Turkey goes on vacation to celebrate the Feast (aka Eid).
The next day, Sunday, the tour bus picked the four of us up from our hotel at 9:30am. Our tour guide, Özay, was wonderful, providing clear explanations throughout the day of what we were seeing and their importance both culturally and historically. There was so much information that I know I’ve forgotten much of it.
Did I mention our kids were the only kids on the tour? This proved to be the case both of the days we did tours. We saw very few children on tours in Cappadocia. This confirms the belief my wife and I share that the two of us are not the most sane people.
I mean, who the hell brings their kids with them while mom is on a Fulbright Fellowship? We are the only Fulbrighters in Turkey who have brought their children with them. The other scholars on Fulbright Fellowships either don’t have children or have children who are college age or older. And then my wife and I wonder why our kids sometimes act like spazzed-out goofballs….
There was a young couple from Taiwan, a global expat couple who were originally from Morocco, and a couple from Chicago (all hetero). There were ten of us in total in what is called a “dolmus” here; the kind of small bus (larger than a van) the kids ride back and forth to school.
Our first stop was in the town of Mustafapaşa, This town was Greek until the “exchange” following the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War from 1919-1922. There are many things in Turkey called the “Greek [something]” be it a school, mansion, church, town, whatever. I attended part of the Istanbul Biennial in a former Greek school.
We saw the remains of a church that was given the blessing of the Sultan. Here is the plaque on the outside of the church,
and its translation.
I thought I had taken a picture of the church itself, but apparently I didn’t. You can go here to see what the church looks like. I think I was listening to our guide talk about the church.
Afterwards, we saw the Keslik monastery. There are frescoes inside which are roughly 1000 years old.
Our kids liked that they were the only ones who didn’t have to crouch down to go inside the winery.
Next we visited a recently uncovered ruins of the Roman Era town called Sobessos. We saw the bath,
and the church. The floor mosaics were in remarkable condition.
The bus dropped us off and our guide Özay led us on a walk through the Soganli Valley, providing us with grand views of the countryside and closeup looks at a few of the small churches that dot the hills.
This is the Domed Church, named because its top was shaped like a dome.
Below is a section of the path on which we walked.
After our walk through the hills and valley in Soganli, we ate lunch (also included with the tour). Though we had to order french fries for our kids because they wouldn’t eat the salad, the freshly baked bread, the lentil soup, the delicious local stew, the fresh honeydew, or the yogurt with honey. Their loss.
After lunch we rode the tour bus to Kaymakli Underground City. This was the highlight of the two days. Henry and Meredith both said it was there favorite. The passageways seemed endless. There were also several places where us adults had to scrunch down while our kids simply walked through.
Özay grew up in the town where the Kaymakli underground city was located. He said he’d been giving tours of the underground city since he was 13 years old. He also said he and his friends used to play hide and seek in the caves. Someone from our group asked him if he’d ever gotten lost in the caves and he said, yes, just once.
The passageways were narrow.
There were places for living, sleeping, their animals, and food storage. They even had a place to grind spices.
The spaces kept expanding, winding, and going deeper just when you thought there couldn’t be more to it.
The wheel here was used in case they were attacked. The people retreated to the caves and used a lever to move the stone wheel and clock the passageway. There were many of these wheels placed near the entrances to the cave and even some well within, in case invaders managed to get inside.
After being underground for an hour in the dark and dimly-lit rooms of Kaymakli, it was good to top off the day with a visit to a view overlooking Pigeon Valley.
Pigeons have played an important role in the region of Cappadocia for thousands of years. If you notice in some of the pictures I’ve posted these past few days, above many of the cave dwellings you’ll see small holes marked with white. These are pigeon houses. The people who lived in the region fed the pigeons and collected their poop (called “guano”) to use as fertilizer for their crops.
Next to the overlook is the Turkish Cappadocia Naturel Viagra Market. No, I did not buy anything there before we headed back to our hotel.