There was so much snow in Goreme, Cappadocia, that we couldn’t find a suitable place to park our campervan for the night. We ended up stopping outside a small supermarket just off the main road in a spot kept reasonably clear of snow by the steady stream of cars arriving and departing.
Once we had parked safely we were fine – although the temperature was well into minus temperatures we were lovely and warm thanks to our very effective diesel heater.
I was awakened the next morning by a most peculiar and really loud whooshing noise – and it was literally just above my head!
I quickly jumped out of bed and peered out of the window to see what was making the strange sound. Just above the roof of the shop next door was a massive hot air balloon rising gracefully upwards! It must have been very low as it drifted over the campervan roof – no wonder it sounded so loud!
Cappadocia is the capital of hot air ballooning in Turkey but because of the snow there were only a few balloons out that morning.
We met up again with Jan and Jack after breakfast and decided to head for the Derinkuyu – the largest excavated underground city in Turkey.
This very ancient and sprawling network of caves – carved into the soft volcanic rock – probably dates back to the 7th or 8th Century BC and was expanded during early Christian times.
The city was fully formed by the Byzantine era when local people used it to escape the Arab incursions from 780–1180 AD.
Reaching a depth of around 85 metres, (approx 280 feet) the city is on at least five levels (probably many more) and even connects with other underground cities in the Cappadocia region.
I thought I might feel claustrophobic but I was fine most of the time even though I did feel a bit nervous as we travelled deeper – especially going through very narrow tunnels where we had to stoop low so as not to hit our heads or backs.
We had a very good guide who explained that the city was not inhabited all the time but was used mostly during time of attack or unrest to keep women and children safe.
Having said that, there were stables, wine and oil presses, food storage areas and even a Church and a morgue so people must have spent a fair amount of time down there!
It was fascinating to see the different areas of the underground city and imagine what life was must have been like down there.
One thing I was surprised about was how fresh the air was – even on the lowest level. This is because there was a 55 feet deep ventilation shaft that ensured fresh air could enter. There would have been many of these when Derinkuyu was in its heyday.
I felt relieved to be back above ground even though it had snowed again and it was bitterly cold.
Before we left Derinkuyu Jonathan and Jack decided to use an ingenious method to unfreeze the van’s windscreen washer. Despite having antifreeze in the reservoir, and being reasonably close to the warmth of the engine, the fluid inside had frozen solid (we think the garage in Izmir helpfully topped up the reservoir with water after the “cat-astrophe”).
They started our trusty generator and plugged in the fan heater Jan and Jack had brought along in case of cold hotel rooms. The fan heater was wedged to allow maximum heat to the reservoir without melting the plastic. Genius! Unfortunately it didn’t work. The ice remained completely solid.
Apart from having to drive with a filthy windscreen, the van was behaving brilliantly in temperatures well below any vehicle’s comfort zone.
We drove back towards other “must see” sights such as Love Valley with its phallic “tower-shaped” rock formations but the snow prevented us from getting there. The roads had been ploughed but all the side lanes and entrances were blocked.
Likewise we were unable to access the Goreme Open Air Museum to see the fabulous Byzantine frescoes in the Churches and Monasteries that are carved into the rocks.
We did manage to find our way to a magnificent lookout perched high in the hills where we could see for miles across the valley with the ubiquitous rock formations of Cappadocia below.
We were the only people there so we had the magnificent snowy vistas to ourselves. There was a lonely coffee caravan so of course, we had to patronise it. Further on we found a row of tourist shops and cafes but again, no one was there.
Retracing our steps to the road we kept going towards the small town of Urgup and on the way we happily encountered the Turasan winery which had been recommended by several yachtie friends.
We spent a very pleasant time by the fire tasting some excellent wine! And of course, we bought a few bottles to take away too.
It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we reached Urgup itself and we made the decision to find a museum to look round (it was getting seriously cold).
We looked up “museums in Urgup” and followed the route on the map which took us up a narrow (snow covered) lane to a small cave-like entrance. we made the decision to find a museum to look round
We wandered in to a long hall-like room carved deep in the rock. Around the walls there were alcoves with brightly coloured cushions, some lovely rugs on the stone floor and signs of weaving activity.
There was nowhere to pay and no information so we just wandered in thinking there would be a reception desk at the next level. We followed our noses along a passageway carved out of stone that sloped upwards and twisted and turned.
On the next level was a terrace which would normally have had a great view of the town but was of course very snowy and all we could see was low cloud.
We continued to a door that was ajar and inside the room we found a young man who seemed rather surprised to see us!
The room was set up in a very traditional way with lovely old rugs, home carved tables and a cradle, lots of cushions, and more weaving apparatus.
The young man told us his family had lovingly restored the old cave house and set it up as a museum to show how people had lived in the past. It was so interesting!
Time was marching on so we wound our way back through the sloping stone passageway and back outside to find the van.
When we arrived back in Goreme was already getting dark and more snow had fallen. Our camping spot from the night before was empty but there was a bit of snow shovelling to do to with the excellent spade that Jack bought in Konya!
We had another excellent meal in a lovely warm restaurant and afterwards walked in a snowstorm back to Jack and Jan’s hotel for a nightcap in their lovely cave accommodation.
It was still snowing when left to return “home” and as we slipped and slid our way home the whole scene looked just like a Christmas card – it was absolutely beautiful!