The view from the hotel's rooftop restaurant, which was right below our window.
A Turkish breakfast, complete with Turkish coffee, which is very thick and the consistency of mud. It was also very bitter. I needed the caffeine boost, though, so I gulped down a few cups. Plus, bread. ALL OF THE BREAD because of my
starvation diet not drastic diet before the wedding.
The view of Goreme. In the very middle and back of the picture you can faintly see Uchisar Castle, which we visited later that day. It's the tallest point in the vicinity, and oh my goodness, it was incredible! But we'll get to that later.
Our first stop of the day was an open air museum, which was pretty much exactly what it sounded like. All over this region were castles, homes, and hideaways carved into the hillsides, and the open air museum gave you a chance to go inside a community of cave homes. On our way to the museum, we walked through an area of small stores. People were selling clothes, jewelry, food, artwork, and food to the tourists, and probably making a good sum of money doing it!
As we were walking we say two camels sitting by the road, so we decided to walk near them. I was so excited! Turkish camels! There were two men by the camels who must have sensed that I was a total sucker because one of them called to me and told me to go pet the camel. He asked where we were from and I told him, "The United States," and his face lit up and he said in broken English, "Perfect! This one is named Obama! Come, come! Pet him! Let me help you onto him!" I was basically forced to climb onto the camel's back and when I looked at Keith he was just laughing at me.
They pulled Keith up onto the other camel, and they took my phone so they could take pictures of us. They told us how to pose (Kiss! Put your hands up! Look to the side!) and led us around for a couple of minutes. They kept calling Keith Ali Baba and me Angelina Jolie. It was the coolest thing and I couldn't stop smiling!!
Camel riding is a lot harder than you would think. When the camels get up or sit down you have to hold on really tightly and really brace yourself of you'll tumble off over the camel's head. It was a good thing the two guys were there helping us.
When we got off the camels they demanded 30 Euros! Neither of us had noticed the sign saying that pictures were 5 Euros each, and a camel ride was 15 Euros. It was over $30 in US dollars, and definitely the most ridiculously overpriced part of our trip, but totally worth it. We kept joking that these camel guys were probably the richest guys in Turkey because they were able to take advantage of so many tourists.
Next, we got to the open air museum. There were tons of people there and it was pretty crowded. There were plenty of docents explaining what the different caves were used for (kitchens, churches, living rooms, even some graves with skeletons!) and that was really helpful. It was hard to navigate with so many people from so many countries all milling around and speaking in their native tongues, but a cool experience nonetheless.
It's amazing how they were able to carve so many homes and churches and things INTO the hills!
The churches all had amazing paintings inside of them. Most of the faces had been carved off around the 10th/11th century during different wars and changes in power, but it was still beautiful. I remember being extremely impressed/amazed that the people back then were able to do such intricate work, and be able to cover the whole ceiling! I was also amazed that these caves/painting have lasted for so long.
Most of the signs that were written in English weren't properly translated and we got a good laugh out of that!
There were very steep, slippery, and narrow stairs you had to take to get inside some of the caves. This was really hard with dozens of people trying to go up and down at once! I almost fell numerous times.
After the open air museum we went looking for what was called "The Hidden Church." It was very well hidden because we never succeeded in finding it, but we did find some other random hidden churches that had mattresses and sofas in them and were obviously inhabited by Turkish Country Folk, or Turkish Outlaws as I liked to call them. I was terrified that while we were out in the countryside on our own we would get attacked and robbed and left for dead. Keith assured me we were find but I'm convinced that we were in danger pretty often.
Next, we drove to Kaymakli to see an underground city. On our way we stopped at a gas station and I couldn't get over the neon cans of Coca Cola! They had pink, blue, purple, green, and orange. Keith laughed that the neon cans gave me so much delight but I refused to apologize for being so easily impressed.
Once we found the underground city, we had to find a guide. In Keith's research he found that it was pretty necessary to hire a local guide to take you through the city, and I'm so glad we did this! The price was pretty steep (50 Turkish Lira which ended up being about $17 I think), but if we hadn't hired him I think we may have gotten lost and ended up spending the night in the underground city. We read that a few years ago some tourists got lost in there and then got locked in and had to spend the night. I think I would have died if that had happened to us. I would have been terrified!
The cities went hundreds of feet deep, and it was a labyrinth. The Hittite people, who built the city, were very short, like 4 feet tall, so the tunnels had only been carved wide/tall enough to accommodate people with that kind of a stature. We hit our heads many times.
Our guide stopped us pretty often to say, "Photo now," and that was really nice of him! He pointed out everything, like what niches were for food storage, which holes in the wall were for oil lamps, where the ventilation shafts were, etc.
We are standing on a Hittite means of defense. The Hittites used these caves for protection when their cities were under attack. When the enemy started to come down to the caves, their feet would echo which would let the Hittites know to uncover their traps. They would remove a rock and uncover a hole (which we were standing on) that had rock spikes at the bottom of it. The enemies would fall into the hole and be impaled and die. The Hittites could go deep into their underground city and be safe for several weeks.
It was really amazing but I was glad to be back out in the sunshine when we were done!
Next, we drove back toward Goreme and stopped at Uchisar Castle. The streets were these really cool cobblestone streets and Keith had a lot of fun driving on them.
This is the view of Pigeon Valley from Uchisar Castle. To the left you can see a valley (that's Pigeon Valley) and we hiked that valley after the castle. W walked from the castle to the end of the valley and then back. If you follow the road in the center you can sort of tell where it looks like it starts to go uphill, that was about where our turnaround point was.
At this point it began to rain and I was exhausted and ready for a nap, so I was pretty cranky. Keith gets major kudos for putting up with me.
The picture below is to show you a zoomed in picture of our hotel from Uchisar Castle. It's in the center toward the bottom. Can you see it?
Another picture of Pigeon Valley with beautiful rays of sunshine and a rainbow on the left!
This whole place was absolutely breathtaking. The natural beauty was astounding!
Pigeon Valley is so named because thousands of years ago the townspeople would use pigeon droppings for fertilizer. The pigeons would poop in all these little holes in the valley walls that the people had carved, and then they would go through and collect the poop to use for whatever purpose they desired. We also read that the poop could be used to make explosives, which is gross.
In the photo below, you can see Uchisar Castle again. It's just to the left of the very center of the photo.
We found a huge cave that we obviously had to explore, and once again I was afraid of Turkish outlaws, but we were fine.
Keith with some pigeon homes. He did not collect any poop.-
To the left you can see Uchisar Castle again. We walked so far!
We ended up getting a little lost and getting kind of stuck by a cliff. Keith maintains that he could have gotten us back to our hotel without a problem but he sure seemed like he was having a hard time, so I guess we'll never know for sure if he could have led us out on our own.
I was very cranky during our hike. I was still tired and what he had promised would be "a really short and practically all downhill hike" had turned into "a really long and largely uphill hike" and while I was enjoying the stunning views, I would have paid $100 for a soft bed and a long nap. I was also wearing jeans that had gotten soaked from the rain on the castle, and I was just uncomfortable all the way around. I was also starving!
We ran into a French couple who was also struggling to find their way out of the valley, and then they ran into a local Turk. Of course, my first thought was that he was a Turkish outlaw and he was going to rob us, but instead he led us out of the valley! He was practically running and I was really struggling to keep up with everyone.
Here is a narrow tunnel that we were led through. Keith thought it was amazing. I was terrified of, you guessed it: Turkish outlaws.
There were facades carved into the sides of the valley. It was really cool to see! We explored a few of the caves but most of them were weren't able to get to.
Finally, we made it out. Our unofficial Turkish guide demanded 20 Turkish Lira EACH (for a total of 80 TL), but I think among the four of us we only had about 10. The man was very angry and was demanding more money, saying he "couldn't even buy cigarettes with this much money!" As we each passed him he muttered to himself how disappointed he was in us and how we were so rude, but there wasn't anything else we could do.
I don't know if I've ever seen a sight more beautiful than when we finally saw our hotel room again! We showered and relaxed for a few minutes before walking a short ways to town to find a restaurant. We found a cute local restaurant owned by some very friendly people, and we really enjoyed our meal!
I don't remember the technical name for what we ate, but it was delicious! They cook some meat and vegetables in some pottery and it turns into basically a stew, and then the break the top of the pot in front of you and you pour your steaming stew over a plate of rice and you end up with heaven for dinner. It was also really cheap! I want to say it was about $5 in US dollars. There was also bread and wine, with which you can absolutely never go wrong.