Cappadocia – Goreme – Fairy Chimneys and Rock Cut Churches

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyIn Central Anatolia lies a land that looks like it comes from The Lord of the Rings- Cappadocia. Even the name has the ring of a fairy tale Kingdom.

“I, Sir Vago of the Kingdom of Cappadocia, do ride forth to seek out new lands and great fortunes.” – or something like that, though Cappadocia was never a kingdom of its own and in fact was a place of troglodyte refuge for Christian outcasts and societal misfits.

The landscape of massive stone chimneys (wistfully called fairy chimneys) and dream like rock formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. From the 4th to the 11th Century a community of Christian refugees carved an unbelievable number of churches from the stones. Houses were also carved and the traditional livelihood was agriculture until the 1980’s when a tourist boom started.

A new friend we met in Goreme, Cemil, has lived there since that time and he remembers when there were only three hotels in Goreme. Now there are hundreds and  when we arrived, they were almost all full. No need to tell you what the number one industry is now. Many people come to Goreme just so they can enjoy Cappadocia Balloon Tours. There is nothing quite like floating over the fairy chimneys as the sun comes up.

Goreme is a magical place and filled with charm. An interesting fact  is that in Goreme, it used to be that if a man didn’t own a pigeon house, he wouldn’t be able to get married. These days there must not be many marriages, though more likely is that that particular tradition was tossed aside with agriculture when tourism became so lucrative.

Virtually everything in Goreme is directed at tourists from the hot air balloons to the travel companies, tour companies, restaurants, and tourist shops. Unlike other tourism hot spots though, the prices seem reasonable and the people don’t seem so hungry for the hunt.
Goreme Cappadocia Turkey
It’s one of the things that really makes me sick about tourist places is that the people who work in tourism tend to forget that the clients or customers are real people, instead they become prey. It’s the same for criminals, people become prey and they are something to be hunted. I went through it myself as a tout and as a stock broker, if people simply become a means to an ends, life becomes much less magical and satisfying. While we did encounter quite a few people who were on the hunt in Goreme, it was less than r Fez and the hunt itself was less in your face than either place as well.

We had a very nice breakfast with our friend Cemil at the Blue Moon Hotel before heading out to the Goreme Open Air Museum. this is an astounding place, though no more so than Goreme itself. The big draw at the Open Air Museum are the rock cut Byzantine churches and the painting and frescoes they contain. Admission was 15 lira each.

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyFlash photos weren’t allowed and several guides told us not to take photos at all which was a bit extreme(they say the flash destroys the color of the old paintings). And in fact, everyone was doing it.

The rock cut churches had interesting pews and tables carved in them, graves which had been robbed or excavated in the floors, and of course the paintings. This was a monastic community and then became a pilgrimage site for Christians in the 17th Century.

Hanane was not overly impressed with the paintings, in particular the Red Ochre made very little impression on her. “I could get up there and paint the same thing right now. They’re fake.” By this point, we were laughing each time she called something fake but I still think she was partly serious. Once again we opted to skip the extra fee, this time 8 lira each to see the frescoes in the Karanlik Kilise. I feel no regrets over that. I really hate to pay an entrance fee only to be faced with another entrance fee.

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyWe exited feeling that we had both seen enough churches. While we didn’t have the time this visit to go to the underground cities, it was a nice thing to whet our appetite with the rural charms and comedic tourist hunting that takes place there. As examples of how the hunt is conducted in Goreme you can look at the names of the Pensions. Flintstones Pension, Bedrock Cave Hostel, Ufuk Pension, Shoestring Cave Pension and more. We were recommended to try the Peri Cave Hotel, though as I wrote previously, we were very fortunate to be staying in the Moonlight Cave Suites.

We strolled through the Rose Valley and then went back to Goreme village where we had a bad dinner, at Cappadocia Pide Salonu. Not recommended. Awful.

From there we hiked up to the highest point in Goreme and watched the sun go down and the lights of the fairy chimneys flicker on in Goreme. A bottle of wine would have made it perfect.

From there it was back to our cave to enjoy the hot tub, king size bed, and overall luxury of the Moonlight Cave Suites. Warning – don’t scroll down or you will see more of me than you want to.

too much exposure

From Fetiye to Goreme, Cappadocia – Moonlight Cave Suites

The bus ride from Fetiye to Goreme was 55 lira. I’d asked Omer if I should book our tickets from Goreme to Istanbul in advance and he’d told me that there was no need, later I found every bus we wanted was full.
Here is a full listing of hotels and cave hotels in Goreme, Turkey
If you want to go from Goreme to Istanbul on a specific day, book it in advance. At the Fetiye Otogar, I felt like some sort of shell game took place as we were led to a different bus company than I’d bought tickets for and our tickets were changed for new ones. We were then led to a big bus that wasn’t nearly as nice as I had thought it would be and then we set out. I looked for another bus heading out at the same time as us, but didn’t see one, maybe it was legit but something stunk of a swindle to me. Regardless, our bus left when it was supposed to and took us where it was supposed to so maybe being in a tourist trap had simply made me paranoid.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel
We slept on the bus and arrived in Goreme where Omer had said there was no need to make a reservation. I called our too top choices to see if they had cave rooms for us but they didn’t. In the small tourist information booth, I found another place which looked good and they did have a room so we went with them. They told us to sit and wait and the room would be ready in a few hours. I got on the net and realized they were trying to charge us 20 lira more than their published rate. When I asked why, the manager said it was because the room was bigger than the one’s on the web. He refused to budge and at 100 lira a night, I felt like we could find more than just a big room since this wasn’t even actually a cave.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city
Hanane wasn’t happy with me as we left with our bags but I wanted to walk and look and find the place that seemed best to me. I went into a few and asked the prices and if they had rooms. It seemed that 100-150 lira was the going rate for a double room. I started to walk into Moonlight Cave Suites and Hanane grabbed me and told me to stop because there was no way we could afford this one. It was beautiful. I almost listened to her, but to be honest, I was tired of not following my instincts and instead bowing to her Moroccan sense of ‘shame’ and ‘hshuma’ meaning that she didn’t want to ask because she didn’t think we could afford it. I went in and she decided to just wait in the street.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city, Moonlight Cave Suite
It was more beautiful inside. It was a new place and they’d spared no expense making it deluxe and beautiful. I’ve no doubt that it will become one of the top boutique hotels in Goreme. I say will become because in fact, it hadn’t really opened yet. They’d had a soft opening a few nights before and were offering rooms at incredible discounts just to get the word out.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city, Moonlight Cave Suite
Before he would tell me the price, the owner insisted on showing me the room. We walked in and I knew it was beyond our range. A beautiful cave room suite with a large flat screen TV, leather sofa, deluxe king size bed, full size jacuzzi bathtub, mini bar, jet shower, white robes, white slippers, and incredible inset lighting. It was gorgeous.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city, Moonlight Cave Suite
He laughed when I told him it was the nicest room I’d seen in Turkey. “It ought to be,” he said “We just spent 8 million Euros making this place.But wait until you see our deluxe suites…” The room I was drooling over was a ‘standard’ !!!
He suggested we go back to his office and talk about the price. I saw his rate sheet on the desk and knew it was going to be beyond us. Standard suite….180 Euro per night. We spent a few minutes talking about my travels in Turkey, travel writing, and the business of promotion. We settled on a price of 100 lira for the night! I was flabbergasted. I told him that I needed to let Hanane see the room before I said yes for certain. I was desperately afraid she would say no since I wanted to enjoy this room, but of course, she saw it and wanted it too.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city, Moonlight Cave Suite
Now, with a room like that, it’s hard to leave but I wanted to go get our bus tickets to Istanbul for the next night since we had the top suite at the Hotel Ayasofya reserved for our last night in Turkey.
Hanane laid down for a nap while I went to go get the tickets. Every bus company was sold out. I cursed Omar for his bad advice and tried to figure out what to do. The bus companies just told me I would need to wait another day. I couldn’t do that, we had another suite waiting and paid for!
I sat for a minute and figured it out. We’d take a bus to Ankara and from there we could take the train or a bus to Istanbul since the bus service is more frequent from Ankara than from Goreme. So, I bought tickets to Ankara and started to dream about catching a sleeper train to Istanbul. The only problem was that the bus to Ankara left at 2pm instead of 7 pm so we wouldn’t have time the next day to explore or take a tour.
cappadocia, Goreme, Cave hotel, Turkey, Cave city, Moonlight Cave Suite
Back in our deluxe cave suite, I forced Hanane to wake up since we only had half a day in Cappadocia and I thought it would be a shame not to see anything while we were here.

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