Bedrock City Exists!

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in Blog, Turkey | 3 comments

Dates of travel: 8/9 – 8/16/2012

Cappadocia (Göreme)

The town of bedrock in modern times.

Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey rich in exceptional natural wonders and unique historical and cultural heritage. Being relatively high in altitude Anja and I decided it would be a great place to escape the heat near the coastal regions. This turned out to be a very good route to take. We encountered many welcoming people and peddled through gorgeous landscapes.

Rose Valley Cappadocia (Göreme)

Many strange geologic formations, and great places to hike.

The first city we cycled through in the Cappdocia area was Nevsehir. There wasn’t much to see but we encountered an eerie neighborhood that seemed to have been systematically bulldozed to the ground. My thought was that the city had gone through a population shift leaving great numbers of buildings abandoned. So the city demolished the buildings instead of allowing squatters and crime to fester. Sadly, there were still a few elderly people living between all the rubble who had probably been in the area for decades. Even though they didn’t have much we received a friendly invitation for tea and food.

Our next major stop was Derinkuyu, one of the many underground cities in the area. These settlements beneath the ground were mostly used by Christians while they were hiding from the Romans because their religion wasn’t accepted yet. Anja and I used the caves to effectively hide from the midday heat. We had fun crawling around these caves and I was fascinated with the innovative defense systems which resembled the Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom rolling ball.

Derinkuyu Underground City

On the right is a stone wheel used to block the passage from invaders. Eric thought he heard it shift a little.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City

Later that day we made good headway towards Ihlara Valley, a massive gorge with caves that were used by the Christians as churches. On the way a couple of young farm hands waved us off the road and fixed us up some cay tea as we all struggled through language barriers. Further on down the road we crossed paths with another bike tourist (our first encounter in Turkey). Malte was friendly German on a recumbent bicycle. He advised us on a great stealth camp site overlooking a large valley. When we got there we were thrilled that it had a stunning view and it ended up being one of our favorite camp spots of the trip that far.

With Malte from Germany

Malte from Germany, the first bicycle tourist we encountered in Turkey.

Looking for a campsite

Anja looking for another great campsite.

Campsite over a vally near Ihlara

Malte suggested this site to us and we were glad he did. What a view.

On our next day we visited the steep walled gorge with equally steep roads getting to the parking lot. We enjoyed a hike down into the valley where ancient Christian churches dug into the cliff sides were around every corner. We were mildly intrigued by the many plaster paintings on the walls and ceilings of these churches. Unfortunately over the years these have been vandalized to such an extent it was difficult to make out the original art. Quite a shame. The highlight of the day was a midway café situated directly in the stream of water that meandered its way through the valley floor. Anja and I ordered a “Turkish pancake”, basically a quesadilla, and some apple teas. This was a perfect mid-day snack, with a reasonable price at such a unique location.

Ihlara Valley - drinking chai

Ihlara Valley – Drinking Chai

Even sheep need a bath sometimes.

Even sheep need a bath sometimes.

Ihlara Valley - Hungry puppy is watching how pancakes are made

Ihlara Valley – Hungry puppy is watching how pancakes are made.

Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley was very steep even going around it was difficult.

A second collection of ancient Christian churches was located in Solengi canyon. When we approached the canyon came across thousands of trees with low hanging fruit. About every 2 kilometers we stopped and grabbed as many apricots and plums as we could stuff into our handle bar bags. Within Solengi canyon we found some very interesting sandstone churches including the “most impressive church in all of Cappadocia”. It really was pretty impressive, especially if you can imagine of what it looked like hundreds of years ago.

Soğanlı rock church

This was identified as “The most impressive church in all of Turkey” according to the Goreme National Park Administration. Nice place for Sunday services?

Inside rock church in Soğanlı

Inside rock church in Soğanlı. Plaster paintings badly damaged and vandalized but interesting nevertheless.

Rock church in Soğanlı

People used to live around here, and they still do…

Picking apricots in Soğanlı

Apricot trees grow everywhere in Turkey. We took full advantage of this.

When it was time to leave we were presented with a very difficult hill climb on a lousy gravel road. Just before the top of this monster hill I was waved off the road by a nice farmer who offered us a ride on his tractor. I didn’t want to take away from the glory of reaching the top without assistance. If he had offered the ride from the bottom of the hill that would have been another story all together.

What a fun hill to ride up.

Turkey – the land of steep roads and crummy asphalt.

Camping above Güzelyurt monastery

Epic campsites rewarded difficult hill climbs.

Sunset near Mustafapaşa

Sunset near Mustafapaşa

The main attraction in Cappadocia is a small town called Goreme with numerous weird geologic formations caused by prehistoric volcanic activity. It has “fairy chimneys”, tall spires of sand stone that ancient tribes carved out to create living spaces. Now many of these are cleverly named hotels with monikers inferring to the Flintstones cartoon. In many ways the area did resemble the town of Bedrock. We found a nice campground with facilities overlooking the whole Cappadocia area.
After having stealth-camped five days in a row, we were excited to take nice long showers and we couldn’t stop being excited about having a table and chairs to sit on. It’s interesting to reflect on and identify the things we take for granted living the standard 9 to 5 work life back home. The table at our campsite represented this notion very well. When we realized how much this simple item improved our lives for the few days we were there, the flood of feelings about why we were still on the road started to overwhelm us.

Our feelings and frustrations were further intensified by two conflicting concepts this campsite brought to us. During our first night we met many travelers at the campsite with very nice traveling caravan vehicles (RV’s) and more importantly an English couple traveling the world in a modified delivery van. The RV’s didn’t cause us to reflect much since they are not a viable solution for our around the world aspirations, but this couple in a modified throw-away vehicle really stirred up some poignant conversations between Anja and I about how and why we were bicycling everywhere. It came down to the table, yes our trip (via bicycle) almost ended right there because of a table or a lack there-of. We understood that with a vehicle we could easily carry more gear including a table and live much more comfortably.

Our spirits lifted when in the evening of our second night in Goreme a couple of bicycle tourists set up camp right next to us. Ben and Helene were from Canada and we instantly started talking with them and sharing stories about our adventures. We were reminded of all the great things that cycling through the world brings to us. The adventures and close interaction with every person we pass on the road. The free fruit handed to us by generous farmers. The hundreds of quick conversations we have with villagers as we peddle through their towns. The smells, this is not always a good thing. And most of all, the hospitality of total strangers, providing quick help or a place to rest, and even full meals.

With Ben and Helene

With fellow bicycle tourists Ben and Helene

We chose to stick with the bikes, mostly because it was our plan all along and to change the plan at this point would be a Pandora’s box of trouble. So we came to peace and enjoyed all the other things Goreme had to offer. A parade of hot air balloons woke us up every morning and made for a fun photo session for Anja while I cooked breakfast.

Eric boiling us some eggs for breakfast as the balloons pass by over Cappadocia

Eric boiling us some eggs for breakfast as the balloons pass by over Goreme

Balloons over Cappadocia

Balloons over Cappadocia

The hiking around Goreme was excellent and free of charge. On our final evening in Goreme we found a ridge to climb up to where many of the locals where watching an amazing sunset. Afterwards we came across a man playing a hang drum. We were both mesmerized by the sound as it was very mellow and expressive.

 

Cycling through Cappadocia (Göreme)

Plenty of cycle and hiking paths throughout the Goreme area.

Turkish man on a donkey

Eric posing with a local man. He wanted to trade the donkey for our bikes.

Urgup Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimney formations.

Goreme area is a great place to visit. I would suggest at least 3 days to explore. The little town is touristy but still charming. And if you see the local farmers market running don’t be surprised if the farmers sneak extra fruit and vegetables into your purchase with a very welcoming smile.

At the fruit market in Göreme

Anja shopping for dinner at the fruit and vegetable market in Goreme.

Getting water at the Mosque

Mosques are great places to get water if fountains are hard to find. Thanks Allah for the free water!

See all pictures of Cappadocia

3 Comments

  1. amazing update. so happy for all the pictures and details… 🙂

  2. Hey Guys!

    Haven’t posted in a while and thought I would catch up. What an amazing set of pictures you have shared in Turkey! Stay safe and lots of love,

    Jon Jon

  3. love the balloon picture!