After our post-balloon-watching-bliss cat nap, we rallied and embarked on our all day Green Tour spanning the entire Cappadocia Valley. We started off at an incredible vantage point right outside of Goreme -overlooking the entire city, framed by fairy chimneys and the Rose valley.
We then drove out to Selime Monastery, an enormous cluster of rock mountains that had been carved out for monks in the 13th century. They had fashioned the entire area into a functioning monastery – complete with kitchens, churches and living areas. Painted frescoes and elaborate carvings decorated the insides of the church auditoriums. There were ovens carved out in the floors, chimney holes for smoke, cut-outs in the walls for hanging oil lamps, and perhaps most intriguing – “pigeon holes” carved out along the sides outdoors. These were used to attract pigeons, so monks could gather their poop, which apparently makes for great ammunition.
Nearby was Ihlara Valley, the longest valley in Turkey and fifth deepest valley in the world. We hiked through a portion of the valley before ending for our lunch break. Ihlara Valley made the perfect hiding spot for Christians against Roman invaders, so this area was built and sustained for long-term dwellings. Similar to the Monastery, the Valley was full of pigeon holes, carved out living spaces and churches dating back to the Byzantine period.
In between formidable volcanic rock formations and curtains of majestic poplar trees the Melendiz Stream flows through the 10 mile valley, with mini-gazebos perfect for a relaxing tea break while hiking.
One of our last stops was at the Derinkuyu Underground City – again, used to hide and house refugees during the Byzantine era (thought to be built by the Persian King). It’s the largest underground city in Turkey, and connected to many others in the area, creating a labyrinth of underground tunnels and dwellings. Our tour guide was exceptional and really helped the city come to life- explaining details on the creation & day to day lives of these refugees. The city is 8 levels deep and connected with narrow and low tunnels (good for slowing down enemies, but refugees would still be able to harm attackers with their long spears). Since it was so far underground, the cities were always a perfectly moderate temperature – protecting from the heat in the summer time, and snow during winters.
Cappadocia was definitely my highlight of our two week Turkey trip… and I think the main reason why was because it’s not only an astonishing natural wonder but also steeped in ancient history while currently balancing an active & rich local life.