Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Göreme Wonderland

Around  Göreme    
Fortunately we were awake as the bus approached Göreme as the place is something out of a fairy tale with rock cut windows and doors dotting the rock peaks that stand like mushrooms all over the town as well as the entire place being covered in a fresh dusting of snow, it was simply magical.  It was 6.45am when we arrived and the conductor kindly informed us that the air temp outside was -17°C, which meant we would go from our over-warmed bus to instant frozen-ness!  We walked very briskly to our hostel, the Rock Valley, and discovered it was twice the cost of what we’d thought (that what happens when a place gets in the Lonely Planet….) but since everything else in town was that price or more and would require us hiking through the snow we had no option but to take a room there, luckily it was a nice place.
Inside a chapel
After an extra hot shower and breaky we ventured back outside to visit the Open Air Museum which is a collection of rock cut chapels that you can go inside.  The interiors have many frescoes depicting Biblical New Testament stories, some extremely well preserved and others looking a bit like a two-year old child had a go at cave painting….

We recharged and defrosted with a hot salep at the museum because our next plan was to walk to the Rose and Red Valleys and onto the next town.  We were unsure as to where the path actually started as the fields were covered in at least a foot of snow so no path was visible, but fortunately when we asked the friendly museum guy for directions he said that he had to head that direction and gave us a lift to the starting point!
Fairy chimneys in the snow

It was a good thing he did as we would’ve never found it, and even with his directions we still felt like we were just trudging through a snow field in a random direction... but after we were 20 minutes in we finally saw a sign pointing us to where we wanted to go.  We trekked past many old dug out chapels and houses in the rocks that nowadays are used by local farmers to store the hay for their cows and horses. It was a bit strange to see these beautiful chapels with ancient paintings filled to the roof with straw!!

The Rose and Red Valleys are so named for the colour of their rock formations and they are very pretty to see, although the deep snow made exploring them an impossibility so we had to just appreciate them from a distance.  About 2 hours later we arrived at the small town of  Çavuşin which has a cliff towering over it that literally looks like Swiss cheese (the variety with a lot of holes in it!).  We hiked up to the top since there is a fantastic church carved deep into the rock. It was a real engineering feat and extremely impressive to see the ancient pick marks in the stone walls.
Çavuşin Swiss cheese

There was no food in town so we continued onto our next destination – Love Valley, where the rock formations are quite phallic in nature, hence the valley’s nickname.  Unfortunately, since the snow covered all the paths we cut across the snowy field too late, had to backtrack along the highway 20 minutes and by then the sun was setting which meant the temperature would plummet below our already below zero temperatures, and with the added strain of hiking through snow in our normal walking shoes, it was all taking it’s toll, so we gave up on seeing phallic rocks and turned around and walked the 40 minutes back into town (only to later discover we were one corner in road away from the valley - typical).

One of the first restaurants we saw had a pot-belly stove burning which was enough to entice us inside no matter what was on the menu! And actually we were so hungry that anything would’ve tasted good! At this point, we do have to apologise to our Greek friends as we ordered a Turkish Moussaka and it was really good…. but that might've been because we hadn't eaten lunch and been hiking in the snow all day...

The freezing temps, lack of sleep on our previous overnight bus and our alarm being set for 6am so we could go hot air ballooning the next day meant that we were in bed by 8pm and dead asleep not long afterwards.

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