Sunrise to Sunset – A Turkish Delight in Cappadocia
The early bird may have captured the worm but it’s the eager beaver that squeezes a week of touring into one day. For the past twelve months I’ve sneakily stalked your instagram travels and one destination has made it to the top of my bucket list. As I prepare myself for a much anticipated day here’s a brief look at one of the most intriguing natural landscapes on the planet.
Once upon a time, on a tectonic place some millions and millions of years ago in the central Anatolian highlands of Turkey, intense activity from three volcanoes began to emit layer upon layer of ash. Add heavy erosion, hot dry summers and cold snowy winters and presto you a have magical, fairytale landscape.
Welcome to the trendy Cappadocia its mixture of unique geological, historic and cultural features, makes this a natural mecca for tourism.
HOT AIR BALLOON
Hello, 4am alarm, I thought you were safely stored at home. Crawling out of my Fred Flintstone troglodyte cave I join a busload of sleep-deprived hot air balloon enthusiasts.
Excitement builds as the shotgun of fiery burners echoes through the valley. The first of around one hundred balloons steadily ascends into a light layer of mist, drifting up, over and amongst the mystical peaks. As the sun comes up a fusion of colours splash across the morning sky, shadows cast away.
Dreamily floating 600 metres high, I lean over the basket; breathing in the fresh air words cannot describe Cappadocia’s grand celestial beauty.
Breakfast then it’s a quick escape to find some solace exploring this lunarscape on land. Supposedly ‘Cappadocia’ comes from the ancient Hittite word ‘Katpatuka’ meaning ‘Land of the beautiful horses.’ I guess the best way to get to the heart of land is the old fashion way – on horseback.
“Your horse is lovely but it likes its space,” warns my guide. This food loving mare is a little wild, I take a tumble flat on my back, ego and butt bruised I manage to last the four hour journey. Pacing along winding paths, undulating hillsides, sloped valleys and lush farmyards, the hot desert sun radiates from the dry, dusty ground.
Our horses take us through Swords Valley, Rose/Red Valley, Pigeon Valley (pigeons were once farmed inside these caves), White Valley and the main attraction Fairy Chimneys. Shyly named Love Valley, Mother Nature had her wits about her when she carved this phallic forest (insert a blush and giggle). Amazing, the power of erosion!
DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND CITY
A quick kebab, two local buses and an hour later I find myself wandering around Derinkuyu looking for the underground city, the race is on, closing time is in one hour!
There’s believed to be at least 100 secret openings to this ancient multi–level city. With a guide in tow I enter through the official door, down into a network of complexed tunnels that comprises of eight floors, its one hundred metres deep and large enough to house 20,000 people but the public can only access ten per cent of it.
As the tunnels dwindle in size I am forced to crouch. Almost on my hands and knees I make my way up the lengthy staircase.
The guide explains life underground. Animals lived upstairs, ventilation shafts were built for oxygen, wells for water, stone wheels were rolled into entrances to prevent intruders from getting in, bedrooms were small to keep in the warmth. Christians added a church, Baptist room and a school.
Discovered by a man knocking down a wall in his home back in 1963, this is the deepest of the 36 underground cities. As I come up for fresh air it’s hard to believe life existed in such a cramped space without natural sunlight.
It’s a rush back to Goreme. Wearily climbing up to Sunset Point I arrive just in time. As the sun folds into the horizon, the vivid shades of colour bounce off the rock formations reminding me the best things in life are free.
Although I could happily crawl back into my cave there is something else I need to do. A traditional Turkish bath followed by a Turkish pizza. As the final Salah – Muslim prayer echoes through the valley I say goodnight to nature’s artistic splendour.