Then we drove about thirty minutes to the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu. Built in the 8th century B.C. and enlarged in the Byzantine era, Derinkuyu was an underground refuge where entire towns, complete with their livestock and possessions, could weather enemy invasions. Though its series of chambers, tunnels and stairs extend eleven stories into the ground, only 10 percent of it is accessible to the public today.
Confession time: I’m claustrophobic. I braved the first room on the first level, but after attempting to walk further in I knew I couldn’t handle it. So I stepped out and decreed Marlon our official representative and photographer.
We worked up our appetites for lunch with a hike through the truly stunning Ihlara Valley. A 16-km gorge cut deep into the mountainous landscape, we hiked only about a fourth of the way through it (4km, which took about an hour to an hour and a half). Four kilometers was not too bad at all. Remember, I like hiking now!
Hike along with me, after the jump!
We began our hike with a visit to one of the many old churches carved into the walls of the canyon. The pattern junkie in me loved these ancient frescoes on the ceiling and walls.
Then we were off at a rather fast clip. Again, I felt like a character in an adventure novel.
… walking amidst scenery taken right out of an epic fantasy.
I almost expected a pair of unicorns to come galloping down this stream. Very Legend, circa 1985.
This was definitely the most active day tour I’ve ever been on—because more hiking and climbing followed after lunch! This time, it was up the mountain to the stronghold of the Nome King (Return to Oz, 1985)… or the Selime Cathedral in real life.
It’s worth the climb, though, to access the hauntingly lovely complex of monasteries, churches and refectories carved within these rocky peaks.
The view of Tattooine from the top is a big bonus. The tour guides are very emphatic in correcting the myth that parts of Star Wars were filmed here, but you can see why people would think that.
On the way back to Goreme, we stopped for a view over Pigeon Valley.
It’s called that because all over this valley, the rocky peaks have been turned into pigeon houses. Pigeons were very important in Cappadocia, which is largely an agricultural region, because they provided fertilizer for the crops.
Of course, no agency-organized tour can end without a big selling opportunity. For our last stop, we were taken to a workshop that processes onyx, a mineral mined in this region. Some of the onyx baubles were pretty, but stone is not really my thing.
However, I did win an onyx egg for answering a trivia question. (Marlon couldn’t believe I know who the founder of the Republic of Turkey was. He thinks he’s married to Hermione.) So at least I got my Cappadocia souvenir without having to spend a cent.