FOOTLOOSE WITH ANJALY
Anjaly Thomas explores Goreme – the fascinating cave town in Cappadocia
One look at the town gets you started. How, you wonder, just how did that happen? And by that, I really mean, just how did nature put so many caves and chimneys of different hues and shapes into one little town that now lays claim to the most magnificent sights in the world?
Goreme and its neighbouring town such as Urgup live in and out of caves. Whatever you see, hotels, restaurants, churches or even museums, is built into the caves – of course it is hard to argue if the hotels were built inside the pixie-hat like caves or if the caves grew around the hotels – but that is an argument for another day. Suffice to say that whatever be the origins of the caves or the chimneys, a visit to this out- worldly town is a must on every travellers list.
When I visited Goreme, it was cold. “Snow is on its way,” the hotel manager said. “But Goreme is beautiful anyway you look at it.” I suppose he was right. I didn’t get to see the snow covered valleys or chimneys, but the ethereal beauty of the place made me wonder – just why, and how, did those chimneys get that shape?
Hollow pointed rock huts with mushroom like formations on the top clearly did things to your imaginations, but valleys full of similar structures in various shapes and colour must be seen to be believed.
A day at Goreme can be spent wandering through the Valleys on foot (plenty of day tours available if you wish to cover more sights in short time) – the most popular ones being The Rose Valley, The Love Valley (where the Chimneys are white) and Deverent Valley. All these places are within easy hiking distance from the town of Goreme, although you might require a minimum fitness level to complete the trek.
Goreme Open Air Museum, a short walking distance from the tourism office in Goreme (entry free) is a must visit. It has plenty of cave churches – like pretty much everything here that is built into caves or around it – but it is a good peek into the era of the Byzantine Christians who made the rocks their safe-home in the medieval age, made frescoes and put them on the cave roof. You really cannot help feeling that in the region of Cappadocia, everything worth seeing was either underground or shooting up in the skies so, if you have had your full of churches and cave dwelling and are looking for a change of scenery, head to the Ilhara Valley.
Ideally, to cover a lot of distance and to be able to see a lot of places in the fascinating region of Cappadocia, it is ideal to opt for a day tour. Unless of course you wish to drive (but that can be expensive and chances of getting lost are high), day tours work rather well. Not only is the transportation and guide included, entry fees into most of the touristic site like the Derinkuyu Underground City, access to the churches and Ilhara Valley is included. Most of the sites are spread out far and wide and very few buses run between the areas you may want to visit making tours seem like a real good idea.
Derinkuyu, the deepest of thirty six underground cities was a great example of man’s industry and resourcefulness and gave you an idea where film makers sought inspiration for unconvincing aliens-invading-city type movies. Derinkuyu was the real thing, so to speak, and hunching through low doors into interconnected rooms made you feel like you had been caught in a time warp and if that was not enough, the sight of underground school, church, wineries, ventilation ducts and storage place made you want to believe there was a saner world outside the eighty-five meters cave you have just been admiring.
Nine kilometers away from Goreme is the town of Avanos- well known for pottery and the now famous Chez Galip Museum of Hair- buses ply on this route, though not frequently, (but you can always hitch a ride). Female visitors to this cave museum usually ‘donate’ a lock of their hair which is then stuck to the wall of the cave. Not surprisingly this cave museum has a Guinness Record – not to mention a number of female tourists.
There are plenty of places to eat in Goreme, although during peak season, the prices may go up a notch. Low season usually means low prices and many hotels remain closed too – those that are open, have special discounts on food, tours, stays and balloon rides. The tourism office is just where you get off the bus and they speak enough English to point you in the right direction. But it helps to remember that most locals do not speak English.
What you need to know
Goreme is a small town which can be easily covered on foot. Being fit helps.
Tours are great, but if you wish to spend more time at a particular place, go on your own
Plenty of easy-moderate treks around, but study a map first
Balloon rides are great, a little expensive, but worth it.
Plenty of accommodations to choose from, some as low as 15L
What not to miss in Goreme
Turkish Coffee, kebabs and evil-eye souvenirs
Onyx and pottery works makes great souvenirs
Mingling with the locals – and their offer of tea.
How to reach
Fly from Istanbul to Nevsehir and hop on a bus to Goreme
Fly to Kayseri from Istanbul and get on a bus from Kayseri
Buses run to Goreme from every town in Turkey – bus journeys can take up to 10 hours or more, but buses are very comfortable.
Buses usually cost 60L one way
Package tours are an option too that includes stay and transport and often food.