Finding a frosty fairyland in flurries of snow and freezing conditions

Waking up on a garage forecourt to the sounds of a snowplough clearing yet another freshly fallen blanket of snow was just one of the many unusual experiences that we have encountered on our road trip in Turkey.

The garage workers clear the snow off the roof of a customer’s car

We were on our way to Cappadocia – a region of natural wonders and probably one of the most famous tourist destinations in Turkey. The day before we had driven from Konya through snow flurries and freezing conditions, travelling as far as Aksaray where we decided to stop for the night as road conditions were fairly precarious.

After a good sleep on the garage forecourt we had breakfast and then we crawled through the still snowy city streets in our van to Jan and Jack’s hotel where we found them looking bleary after contending with a burglar alarm that rang constantly throughout the night.

We crawled through the still snowy city streets in our van

We decided between us to try and keep going but thought we should check to see if the roads to Cappadocia were open. Jan asked the hotel receptionist who rang the police hotline. The message was loud and clear: Do not travel, the roads are closed.

A lot of fresh snow had fallen in the night

An hour or so later we tried again and the message was the same. Despite this, we decided to to go and check out the main route to Göreme – arguably the best town to stay in when visiting the Cappadocia area.

The roads were very snowy to be sure but they seemed no worse than the previous day and there were no road blocks or any activity to prevent us driving on them.

The roads to Cappadocia were declared closed by the police
Fortunately the roads weren’t crowded

So off we went – very carefully and slowly! The all-weather tyres on our van held us steady and Jonathan drove with extreme concentration and skill.

The countryside was buried deep in snow
It really did look stunning!
Jonathan drove with extreme concentration and skill

Just over an hour later we started to see the first of the ubiquitous rock formations that Cappadocia is famous for.

We started to see the first of the ubiquitous rock formations that Cappadocia is famous for

We were all instantly captivated by the beauty of the so-called “fairy chimneys” made even more stunning by the sprinkling of shimmering snow, looking for all the world like sparkling fairy dust.

We were all instantly captivated by the beauty of the so-called “fairy chimneys”

We caught sight of the magical Uchisar Castle which had, throughout history, been the main point of defence for the Cappadocia region.

The magical Uchisar Castle
Finding a frosty fairyland

We stopped to take some photos of the castle and have a look around. Our poor camper van looked very icy and travel worn.

Our poor camper van looked very icy and travel worn
So much ice packed into the wheel arches it was surprising that the wheels could turn!
The snow on the roof started to melt and then froze again on the way down
The views were so photogenic

Soon we were on our way again for the last bit of the icy journey to Göreme.

More “fairy houses” on the way to Göreme
What an amazing view as we
drove into Göreme
The snow enhanced the natural beauty of the rock formations
Sorry, I just couldn’t stop taking photos

From what we could see the little town was delightful with lots of little cave hotels carved into rock formations and many nice looking cafes and restaurants. And it was all covered in white icing!

The small town of Göreme looked delightful
It was very quiet in the town – not many tourists for some reason!
There were many hotels built in caves
and rock formations

While Jan and Jack looked for a nice hotel we said hello to some beautiful Antatolian Shepherd dogs. These lovely animals are livestock guardians and in Turkey are often found roaming on the streets. Despite their size they are gentle and respectful and we’ve never seen one behave aggressively.

We said hello to some beautiful Antatolian Shepherd dogs

Once Jan and Jack had found a good hotel and settled in happily we set off to visit the Zelve open air museum, said to be one of the most visually stunning historical sites in Turkey.

On the way to the Zelve open air museum
There were some gorgeous sights on the way
Fairy chimneys on the way to Zelve
Looks like the fairies were snowed in!

The museum consists of three valleys where the rock formations are filled with caves that were once dwellings or churches.

Jan and Jack exploring Zelve open air museum

Zelve was in fact, a monastic retreat from the 9th to the 13th century and then later became a village. It is one of the earliest-settled and last-abandoned monastic valleys in Cappadocia.

Zelve was a monastic retreat from the 9th to the 13th century
An inviting cave entrance

Unbelievably, the caves were inhabited until 1952 when finally serious erosion made it too dangerous to live in and the villagers were resettled nearby.

This is what was inside!

It was wonderful to follow a walking trail that had been mostly cleared of snow (although still slippery!) and to climb up some stairs to caves that had been part of the monastery. It was very atmospheric!

The caves were very atmospheric
We found it amazing that these structures still looked so fresh

It was getting towards late afternoon and quite chilly which made us wonder how on earth the people who had dwelled there over the centuries kept themselves warm. What hardships they must have experienced!

What hardships people must have
experienced living here
We wondered how on earth people living here kept themselves warm in winter
The caves were inhabited until 1952
The very tiny holes were for pigeons
– a useful food source
Some of the interiors looked precarious

One of the cave settlements was way up a high cliff. The intrepid three Js ((Jonathan, Jan and Jack) climbed all the way up and explored the network of caves up there (see photo).

Forgive my clumsy drawing but can you see Jan way up high?!
Hard to believe people were still living
here in my lifetime
There would have several families living in the cave complex
We felt sad for the villagers who had lived in the caves all their lives – hopefully they adapted happily to their new homes!

The sun was getting very low as we drove back to Goreme, slipping and sliding all the way.

The sun was beginning to set
We enjoyed the views on the way
back to Göreme

That evening we found a cosy restaurant built in a cave where we had a delightful dinner and a very enjoyable bottle of local red wine. It felt amazing to be in Cappadocia at last despite the snow and ice!

The restaurant was built inside a cave
The local red wine was very drinkable
A great way to end an exciting day!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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