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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Just over an hour later 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 caught sight of the magical Uchisar Castle which had, throughout history, been the main point of defence for the Cappadocia region.
We stopped to take some photos of the castle and have a look around. Our poor camper van looked very icy and travel worn.
Soon we were on our way again for the last bit of the icy journey to Göreme.
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!
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.
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.
The museum consists of three valleys where the rock formations are filled with caves that were once dwellings or churches.
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.
Unbelievably, the caves were inhabited until 1952 when finally serious erosion made it too dangerous to live in and the villagers were resettled nearby.
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!
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!
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).
The sun was getting very low as we drove back to Goreme, slipping and sliding all the way.
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!