Cappadocia – famous for its spectacular “fairy chimneys”, hot air balloons and underground cities is also renowned for its beautiful horses.
It is said that the name Cappadocia stems from the Persian word meaning “Land of good horses” (the Persian Empire ruled Cappadocia from 547 BC until Alexander the Great conquered it in 332 BC).
If you arrive in Cappadocia by road, one of the first things you notice are the countless models of horses on roundabouts, median strips and along the side of the road – now you know why!
Even today there are hundreds of beautiful horses in this region – many of them used for tourists to trek through the stunning landscapes.
As we drove in towards Goreme we couldn’t help being bowled over by the beauty of the uniquely shaped rock formations that surrounded us.
These strange looking and dramatic expanses of soft volcanic rock shaped by erosion into towers, cones, valleys, and caves rocks, took our breath away even though we had visited earlier in 2022 and seen “it all before”.
We were there with Jonathan’s brother and partner who had come to visit us in Turkey for two weeks. Unfortunately the weather on the coast was chilly with intermittent rain so we decided a road trip was a good alternative to a sailing trip!
After we had settled in our accommodation we explored the delightful and magical village of Göreme which sits at the heart of a network of valleys filled with those astonishing rock formations.
As night fell, the place looked like a massive fairy land – especially with all the lights from the rooftop restaurants, shops and hotels sparkling in the clear air.
A testi kebab was the best dinner choice – a mouthwatering casserole cooked for hours in a clay pot in a tandoor (clay oven). The seal is broken by using a small hammer to tap it open and as it breaks the most wonderful aroma wafts out of the clay pot – delicious!
The following day we spent some hours at the Göreme open air museum. We had wanted to go there last time we were in Cappadocia but thick snow and ice prevented us from driving along the steep and windy road to get there.
The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
The museum is made up of a large Christian monastic complex dating from 10th – 12th Century composed of eleven refectory monasteries scattered around the complex – each one in a cave and with its own fantastic church carved out from the rock. Beautiful colourful frescoes adorn the walls in many of the churches.
Later that day we went to “Love Valley” which isn’t far from Göreme. This was another place we tried to get to last time we were in Cappadocia but prevented from doing so by the snow.
Love Valley is home to hundreds of phallic rock pinacles – hence the valley’s name! These huge natural structures seem like some sort of ancient homage to male fertility. However, they are far from being man-made – they have developed over the Millenia from eroded volcanic stone.
Later that afternoon we left our guests (who had unfortunately fallen ill with a nasty cold) to rest while we headed to the village of Uçhisar.
Situated on the edge of Göreme National Park Uçhisar is an ancient village built on an elevation and huddled around the base of a huge rock cone castle.
The highest point of Cappadocia, the 60-metre-high ‘castle’ is in reality a maze of tunnels, passages, stairs and rooms carved out of the massive cone which from around the 7th Century AD was used to defend the region from attackers.
The glorious panoramic views would have ensured excellent early warning of any threats – you can see for ever across the surrounding countryside.
After our visit to Uçhisar we headed over to the other side of Göreme planning to explore the Rose Valley near the village of Çavuşin (which also boasts a cone “castle”.)
We arrived in Çavuşin in the late afternoon and followed a dirt road off the main square out of the village which led to a group of interesting rock formations that looked as though they could still be inhabited.
We hopped out of the car and went to explore the caves that had caught our eye. The first one we entered was empty but definitely felt and looked like it had been someone’s home recently.
Then we saw a notice that welcomed guests to step in and see a genuine cave house that was still lived in. Of course we went in! There was a central courtyard which contained a kitchen area with a tandoor (clay) oven buried underneath the stone floor.
Surrounding the courtyard were rooms going off on each side. One of these rooms was a reception/living room complete with long comfortable couches along the walls and a wood burning stove to keep the room warm and cosy on winter nights (which as we discovered on our previous visit are extremely chilly – we experienced minus 12 degrees one night).
Other rooms included a nursery and various bedrooms. It was fascinating to see what it was like to live in a cave dwelling.
By the time we had finished chatting to the home owner who told us more about what living in a cave house is like, it was starting to get late.
Rose Valley would have to wait as it was time to travel back to Göreme to meet the others for dinner.