In 2008, Jonathan and I visited Cappadocia, an historic region of Central Anatolia. Cappadocia is extremely special because of its exceptional, other-worldly geology that people have carved into rock dwellings since the 8th century BC.
Getting to Cappadocia
It was pretty easy to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul. We flew in on a small plane (Turkish Air) to Nevsaşhir. It was a 60 minute flight but it would have taken 25 hours on a bus. We had a driver waiting for us and they took us to our hotel in Göreme which was a 30 – 45 minute drive through the beautiful “fairy chimney” rock formations.
Goreme (Göreme, pronounced guh-reh-meh, uh like er in “her”) is a small town in the middle of Cappadocia. The whole area around Göreme and the area immediately around it is a Turkish National Park and on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We stayed at the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Goreme. It was a really lovely place. All the rooms/caves are different. Some of the walls are natural cave walls and some are built out of cut stone, making for really unique spaces.
Our bedroom at the Kelebek. Cave hotels are pretty dark, but our room was very cozy. As a bonus – there was a cave hot tub in the bathroom, behind me, but I forgot to take a picture of it.
This was our sitting room, with a few windows. Everything was kind of miniature.
It found it hilarious because Jonathan had to duck down to get through all the doorways. He was a giant living in a little cave with me.
Here we are, rug shopping on the main drag in Göreme. The town is a tourist destination, but it is still very quiet and sleepy. We were shocked by how few people we saw, mostly backpackers. You would think this place would be mobbed, but it was incredibly peaceful. In the background you can see a minaret from a local mosque. From my expression you can tell how excited I am to be there!
Underground Cave Cities
Not only did the ancient people build cave dwellings above ground, they also built whole cities underground! We toured Derinkuya Underground City that had 7 levels underground and could hold about 20,000 people for up to a few months. As it was explained to us, when raiders came into the region the villages would disappear underground until the danger had passed. They had apartments, kitchens, shops, bathrooms, stables(!), chapels, everything underground like a modern apartment building, including running water and air shafts. The construction dates back to the 7-8 c BC. It was really astounding engineering. I couldn’t help but try to imagine what it was like when it was bustling with 20,000 people.
Want to learn more about these underground cities? (See diagram)
A few years ago I had Mitocondrial DNA testing — which basically identified the ethnic background of your mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother and so on. According to my results, my people passed through Turkey 7,000-9,000 years ago, making their way north through what is now Russia and ending up in present day Scandinavia. It makes me happy to think that some of my ancestors might have taken refuge in a cave in Cappadocia a long time ago.
Our last morning in Göreme, we got up at 4:30 am to go ballooning. We were really excited because neither of us had ever been on a hot air balloon ride before. When we were researching the trip we had read that Cappadocia is one of the five best places to go ballooning in the world. I was hoping it would be the highlight of the trip — but sadly, right before we were going to board the balloon they decided that the winds were too high to fly that morning. So we never got to go.
Maybe someday we will go back and try again. Turkey was completely amazing — the people, the landscape, the architecture, the culture, the food, everything. I’d love to go back and explore other parts of the country sometime.
Keep on exploring!
What is your most favorite place you have traveled?