The overnight bus from Istanbul arrived in Urgup, a village of the Cappadocia region, during the early morning hours of my fourth day in Turkey. When I arrived at my cave hotel “Dedeli Konak”, I was giddy with excitement that I would be staying at this absolutely gorgeous cave hotel! Colorful bedspreads and pillows, plush exquisite sofas, fancy bathrooms with jacuzzis, and a private ‘cave room’ were the amenities of these luxurious accommodations! The Cappadocia region in central Anatolia is known for rock churches, underground cave cities, houses carved into the rocks, and rock mushroom formations in it’s landscape. Visitors can find cave hotels in the villages that make up the Cappadocia region. Their guests stay in cave rooms carved out of the local volcanic rock.
The cave hotel provided breakfast as part of my tour package. Watermelon, purple and green olives, cucumbers, various fruit jams, apricots, strawberries melons, and oranges comprised my morning meal. Of course, my beverage was the amazing Turkish orange juice.
I noticed that a blue eye plaque that wards off the “evil eye”, was hanging on the hotel entrance wall, as is typical in many Turkish homes and businesses.
Our day’s Cappadocia tour started with a visit to the Imaginary Valley.
Some of the rock formations resemble animals such as a camel. Hence it’s nickname “Imaginary Valley”.
In the photo below, the rock formation in the center background resembles The Virgin Mary.
Our next stop was the Devrent Valley. This is where one finds rock formations known as “fairy-chimneys”. These fairy chimneys form a moonlike landscape: a “moonscape”. Giant fair chimneys stood alone, in pairs, and in groups of many. It was quite an impressive sight to behold!
Our next drive took us to Monk’s Valley where we viewed some quite fascinating rock formations with mushroom-shaped pinnacles.
A hermitage for monk’s and a church was built here into the rock formations. This Pasabag valley region of Cappadocia really is home to some of the most striking mushroom rock formations!
Our guide surprised us with a visit to a pottery-making shop in Avanos. This is one of the pottery and craft centers of Turkey. A local craftsman showed us how he creates his pieces. Colorful plates and bowls with raised etchings were proudly displayed for the guests to admire.
Lunchtime had arrived. Our guide had arrived for us to dine at Aydede Restaurant in Avanos. The restaurant is actually a cave restaurant made of the local volcanic rock. What a fun dining experience!
My luncheon consisted of tomato soup, hummus with chili sauce, breads with olive oil for dipping, hummus, and veggie casserole, with a side of rice. Watermelon was the day’s dessert. It was a filling and good homestyle meal.
After our lunch, the guide had a surprise in store for us! He brought to a nearby jewelry factory and shop! The staff informed us of the mining process involved in rare local jewels. We then were free to wander about the showroom to view the various jewelry pieces available for purchase. Black onyx is a gem that is mined locally in Turkey.
Our afternoon tour was about to commence! The Goreme Open Air Museum is a tourist hot spot in the Cappadocia region! This medieval painted, rock cut churches were carved by Orthodox monks. The complex contains many monasteries, with unique looking churches adjacent to each other. Many of the churches contain gorgeous frescos, still beaming with vibrant colors! Tourists are free to roam about and climb inside the nooks and crannies and small spaces within the churches. Some are actually quite large.
A couple of the churches require visitors to climb up quite a few steps to the high perched cave entrance.
The church of St. Basil is the first of the rock cave churches that we counter. He was a theologian who was monumental in developing Christian monasticism. The huge complex of rock cave monasteries was carved between the years 900 and 1200 AD. The complex includes ten churches, houses, and a religious school.
Crosses bordered with orange paint display over the entrances, on sides of the churches, and within the interior walls of some of the churches.
The frescos within these Orthodox Christian church walls depict various Christian scenes, Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other church figures such as John The Baptist.
Our tour bus then made a stop at a scenic overlook where we could have a panoramic view of the Goreme area and Pidgeon Valley below us. This landscape of fairy chimneys and pidgeon houses carved out of the rocks is quite stunning!
Uchisar Castle was next on our agenda. This massive rock on top of the hill in Uchisar is quite impressive. Multiple rooms are carved into its sides. It is the region’s tallest fairy chimney.
Dinner time had arrived when we returned back to our lovely cave hotel. The hotel staff prepared a wonderful vegan meal. The Turkish homestyle cooking made for an amazing dinner! The appetizer was the Turkish Spinach Gozeleme or spinach in a thin, crispy pastry crust(photo from Turkey somehow got erased from camera, so instead I’ve posted this photo of spinach gozeleme in a flatbread, from local restaurant near my hometown.). My meal included sautéed local fresh veggie such as eggplant, zucchini, greens, and tomatoes in a tomato sauce, with a side of rice. My dessert was a slice of tasty watermelon with apricots. Everything tasted absolutely delicious! Tourists can typically get great homestyle cooking, local dishes at their cave hotels.
I opted for the evening entertainment tour. Our group attended a Turkish music and dance performance nearby in Cappadocia region. Our table was provided with mixed nuts and dried chickpeas, a popular snack in Turkey. Refreshing watermelon was also served to us.
The evening started with Whirling Dervish dances! They perform ritualistic dances to arrive at a state of trans, as a mystical or ecstatic experience of their spirituality, as followers of Rumi.
The remainder of the evening showcased various regional Turkish dances, some of which included waving of colorful handkerchiefs in the air.
What a glorious day this had been! The rock cave churches and formations were absolutely magnificent and stunning! I went to sleep in excited anticipation of what the next day’s adventures in the Cappadocia region would bring!
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