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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Turkey - 26 September, 2002



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Göreme (Kaya Campsite) N38º38.209' E034º51.264' 1,228 meters .
Tour of the area . . . .
-  Ortahisar . . . .
-  Kaymakli Underground City . . . .
-  Zelve Open Air Museum . . . .
-  Fairy Chimneys . . . .
Finish Göreme (Kaya Campsite) N38º38.209' E034º51.264' 1,228 meters

95 km

Total Leg 3:

3,956 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

9,127 km


Weather: Mostly clear, sunny and very hot.  Cool in the evening/night.



Today we will have a full day of seeing the sights in the area - there is lots to see and do.  We have breakfast off the truck and then head off at 9 AM. We have about a 30 minute drive through the arid, brown hilly landscape to our first sight of the day at Ortahibar.  This is a strange place.  As all the towns around here, they have been carved into the soft volcanic stone that forms the hills in this region.


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But this one stands out for the tall column of rock that forms the centerpiece of the village.  It juts straight up into the sky and dominates the surroundings.  We head up to the rock outcropping to climb it.  It is an amazing climb up.  The way they carved the steps and rooms into the inverted plug is unbelievable.  We climbed up steep steps carved straight into the vertical wall.  At times we entered into rooms that would connect with other rooms via vertical passages.  We finally make it to the top of the plug and are welcomed by a magnificent view over the surrounding countryside.


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While at the top enjoying the view and catching our breath, the guide gives us an historical overview of the town and the entire area.  We are sitting in between two massive volcanoes that provided all the lava that formed these hills and the soft stone that was so easily carved.  The caves would give the residents protection from the heat and cold and from various enemies that came and went.   Then we headed back down to the bottom, where we were greeted by the usual multitude of shops and aggressive owners.


Jacqui tried to go and buy some postcards, but we only had the large notes that we had gotten when we had changed our money.  He could not provide change so the nice shop keeper just gave her the cards.  After we pulled other group members away from the shops, we headed off in the truck to our next destination.


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This is the Kaymakli underground city.  This is another amazing place.  It is one of 36 underground cities in the area and was used as a place of refuge in times of danger when the villages were threatened.  We entered down a long passage way and started to wind through a number of halls and rooms.  We are told that this place has a total of 24,000 rooms and could accommodate up to 10,000 people.  They have rooms for all purposes, ranging from prayer to sleeping to making wine to cooking to hospitals.


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We went to a number of different levels and checked out types of rooms.  One of the most interesting features were the huge wheels made out of stone that could be rolled into place blocking off the passageways to keep out enemies. They were built such that it would not take much effort, but would be impossible to roll open once locked in place.  There were also long, vertical shafts that led to the surface that provided fresh air.  These shafts dropped way down below the level we were on and they have not yet been fully explored by archeologists.


It was good our guide did not abandon us in there - even though a few of us photographers came close to getting left behind.  We emerged into the bright sun light shortly before noon and had to once again fight our way through the souvenir stands to make our way back to the truck.  Once we gathered everyone together, we headed off to a nearby town for lunch.  We ate our midday meal at a local eatery (it was filled with locals) and that was just yummy.  Our guide helped us order food and it was worth the wait as we had various local dishes.


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From lunch we headed onto see some more of the sights.  The next stop was a mixture of sightseeing and shopping (read tourist trap).  We went to a pottery factory where they showed us how they made pottery.  It was interesting, but we had already been to some of these types of places, so it was a bit repetitive, especially when this was a bit more staged.  The worst part was when we got to the obligatory shop at the end of the tour.  The stuff had outrageous prices - it was disgusting.  We looked around a bit, but just had to walk out after a while (after using their bathroom).


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The next stop was just stunning.  We went to the Zelve Open Air Museum.  This World Heritage Site is a city that has been carved into the rock face.  It was initially established in the 9th to 13th centuries and was inhabited until 1952.  It was then deemed to unsafe and the people living there were relocated.


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We wondered through the city, checking out a number of rooms including the mosque.  But the highlight was the monastery.  The monastery over five stories high and is carved into a an overhang that provides cover and an awesome position.  Our guide asked us if we were interested in exploring the interior and we said yes - lets go!  He warned that it might be a bit difficult and that we would get dirty - we just said how do we get in.


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It was quite an adventure.  We climbed up steep stairs that led to a balcony hanging way up on the cliff face.  Then came the difficult spots.


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We wandered through various interconnected rooms and then headed from one level to another.  This was the challenging part.  We had some tricky climbs up vertical shafts that seemed almost impossible to climb up or down.  We would have to search for foot and hand holds.  We would be wedging our body between the walls of the shaft.  And then sometimes dropping down a few feet into the darkness below.


One vertical shaft was very challenging - it involved a long drop and you had to maneuver yourself to minimise the drop.  We were glad that the guide only told us the story afterwards.  It appears that just a few years ago a couple of Europe on their honeymoon lost their lives here.  One went first and came down OK, but when the second one came down, he or she lost her balance, fell against the spouse and they both went out a nearby floor to ceiling window carved into the room.  It was about a four story drop onto the rocks below.  They now have a railing blocking the open space.


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We make our way down to the bottom through a number of passageways and stairs - glad to be down just a little hot and dusty.  We slowly make our way back to the truck, looking at the various other rooms carved into the rocks.  Many just had small steps carved into the vertical cliff face that provided access.  Once we had all gathered back at the truck, once again beating off the vendors, we headed off.


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On our way back to Göreme, we stopped off at a spot on the side of the road that provided a nice view of the many fairy chimneys that dot the landscape.  The fairy chimneys are plugs of stone that jut up from the surrounding area looking just like, well, chimneys.  We did not even escape from the many souvenir sellers at this spot.  Our last stop of the day is back in town at the carpet seller that owns our campsite.  They provided us with an overview of carpet making and a light dinner and they hoped that we would be forthcoming buyers.  For some of us, it was a bit much, in particular when the prices they were quoting was just too much.  We were able to get much better prices and pieces in the Central Asian countries that we had visited.


After all that sightseeing and hard selling, we decide to go off and visit a hamam for a Turkish bath.  There was one right nearby, so we were able to take a short walk there.  This was a co-ed facility.  They seemed to cater mainly to tourists.  The bath room was fairly nice and they had a steam room.  But the hotplate was just not hot enough.  We could lay on it without a problem.  We had a scrub down and massage by the burly men working there, but it was a bit short.  But it was still worth the $5 per person.


All refreshed and scrubbed down, we headed back to the campsite.  We had an early night as we will be getting up early in the morning to go on a balloon flight over the Cappadocia.


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