Cappadocia – Fairies, Monks and More

What’s the worst that could happen on a one hour flight with a 4 month old? An hour of frantic screaming and a lot of angry people on a plane. At least that’s what we were afraid of as we got ready for Ella’s second ever flight that would take us to Cappadocia.

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The day started out pleasantly enough. We had a last wander around the Old Town in Istanbul before heading out to the airport. The trip out to the airport was smooth too, with none of the traffic we faced coming into the city when we arrived. Things started to take a turn when I forgot to take my belt off through security and set off the metal detector causing the security officers to ask me to take a sleeping Ella out of her carrier. A suggestion, don’t do this. She was not pleased about it and was sure to let most of the airport know about it. I took a little solace in the fact that the guard looked a bit sheepish as we walked away. After we got settled and Katy fed Ella she calmed down, at least for a while.

About 20 minutes before our flight was scheduled to board we put Ella back into the carrier. The idea was to get Ella to sleep before we boarded and hope she stayed that way for at least the ascent. Ella however had a different plan: scare the other passengers.

Instead of settling to sleep, Ella cursed a blue streak at the top of her lungs for 20 minutes. (Sure, she doesn’t know any words, but that was clearly the sentiment.) Meanwhile I walked back and forth past the other passengers while they looked at me nervously or maliciously, depending on their view of babies.

Then, being the lucky parents we are, just as we were walking across the tarmac to the plane, Ella fell asleep. The flight attendants cooed and rubbed her feet as we went by to our seats. Then, we waited for the plane to take off. I must have looked like I was suffering from OCD, incessantly rocking back and forth in my seat but it worked. Ella slept all the way up and was a star the rest of the flight.

It’s way more fun this way

When we arrived in Cappadocia our driver was waiting for us. Hmm, well that sounds a bit pretentious, doesn’t it. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, don’t think limo and black hat. Instead, think big van, verging on bus, and friendly old driver. He did have a little sign and it it was just for us though. As in Istanbul, we had arranged the transfers so that Ella would have a car seat. Though it was a little big for Ella, and front facing when she should really be the other way around, Ella didn’t mind one bit.

"Weeeee!!"
“Weeeee!!”

I’d say that she quite liked being able to see where she was going for a change. We thought she would sleep for the whole ride, but she was clearly having too much fun.

Beautiful? Yes. Horses? Not so much.

The name Cappadocia, if you’ll excuse my simplifying the etymology a little, means “the land of beautiful horses”. It would seem that this designation didn’t work out too well for the horses, as I don’t think we saw one in our three days in Cappadocia, but it was easy to see why horses would like the area. It’s beautiful with lots of rolling hills for grazing. On the whole, it was a much greener than I had expected for Turkey.

Absentee horses aside, it’s the fascinating geological features of the area that bring people to Cappadocia. Whether it’s from one of the many, and I mean hundreds, of balloons that go up every morning or exploring on foot, things like the fairy chimneys, underground cities and rock carved churches make Cappadocia a must see. So, well, we did.

With three days in Cappadocia, we decided on two days of exploring and one of sitting by the pool relaxing. We, by which I mean Katy, found a company called Turkish Heritage Travel that offered a range of tour options including a two day private tour which sounded perfect. Though it was pricier, we opted for the private tour option, both because it gave us more flexibility and because if it turned out that Ella didn’t take to full day tours, the people who would have to listen to her complaints would either be biologically responsible for her existence, or paid to put up with it. We also split the tour so that rather than back-to-back full days of touring, we had a day off in the middle to recover if needed.

6 Fun ways to play with rocks and dirt

Our first tour included 6 main stops: the fairy chimneys, Devrent’s animal-shaped rock formations, Pasabag (Monk’s Valley), a pottery factory/gallery/store in Avanos, the Goreme Open Air Museum, and Uchisar Castle.

With the exception of the pottery, all of these sites stem from the region’s volcanic history.  There are lots of places you can get the details, but here’s my two second version. A long time ago big eruptions left large deposites of ash and some lava. The ash solidified as tuff and the lava as basalt. Tuff is much softer, keeping in mind it’s still rock. As a result it’s more easily eroded by things like water and wind than basalt and relatively easy to carve. The results? Well, a day of exploration:

Fairy Chimneys and Pasabag

Perhaps the most interesting result are called the fairy chimneys. Seeming to defy gravity, these happen where deposites of basalt protect the tuff below while the surrounding tuff erodes, leaving the basalt balancing precariously on top of pillars of tuff.

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Almost like a glacier receeding, the higher ground has been gradually eroding away leaving these pillars standing like fields of sentries… with hats.

Some of the fairy chimneys are found in Pasabag or Monk’s Valley. The name comes from a group of monks who lived in seclusion up in columns.

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Umm, sure, yeah, I can see that…

A visit to the animal-shaped rocks of the Devrent Valley requires that you bring your imagination. Our guide pointed out a number of different formations but apparently I’m a little too boring, as for the most part I didn’t see the animals. I will grant that this one does look like a camel. Though I’m not sure it’s so life-like that a fence, to keep it from walking away, is really warranted.

There, now we've got him penned in.
There, now we’ve got him penned in.

The Goreme Open Air Museum

The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. It’s a collection of churches that were carved into the rocks in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries CE. A number of the churches have really well preserved paintings ranging from simple Maltese crosses to more elaborate scenes from the bible.

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Taking pictures inside most of the churches is prohibited, but we did get a few of the simple maltese crosses.

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Pottery Class…With a Recess

We stopped in a pottery factory to see how they’ve been making pottery since the hittites were running the place. Amazing to see the time and skill required to put together each piece.

Stages of pottery decoration.
Stages of pottery decoration.
A potter at work... no relation.
A potter at work… no relation.

About halfway through the demonstration Ella woke up in the carrier and decided it was time for some food. The three guys with us (our guide, the potter, and the pottery guide) were very understanding and cleared the room in seconds flat to give Katy and Ella some privacy.

and like that, they were gone.
and like that, they were gone.

To the castle!

Our last stop of the day was just down the road from our hotel, Uchisar Castle. A rocky outcrop that is the highest point in Cappadocia, the castle has multiple levels of rooms, connected with tunnels and staircases all carved out of the rock.Uchisar castle

After visiting the castle our guide dropped us off at the hotel for some well earned rest by the pool before dinner and bed. Though Ella took the whole day in stride, I think we were all happy that the next day would be a rest day.

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