Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 162 - Goreme and the Open Air Museum

Pictures can't really do justice for what you see with your own eyes. I had seen so many amazing pictures of the rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey, and that was what really convinced me to visit this place, even before arriving in this country. Little did I know how much in awe I would be when I arrived by bus.

I woke up in the morning on the bus to an almost dream-like, fantastic view of the new city. We were driving high in the mountains near Goreme before heading down to the city center, and in front of me were tens of hot air balloons floating wherever the soft winds took them, with the sun slowly rising above the horizon. Below, the cave city of Goreme slept, with its cave homes and fairy chimneys giving an a sort of archaic atmosphere, as if I stepped back in time, or into another world. It was quite an introduction to this area of Turkey!

Upon arrival, I wasn't as prepared for the cold as I should have been, because it was freezing! We were in Central Anatolia and high in the mountains, so the temperatures sometimes got below 0 degrees at this time of year during the night. I walked around the small touristic city, looking for my couchsurfing hosts' home. She happened to have a friend who was in London at the time who offered to open her house to guests, and I was lucky enough to be able to stay there – in an authentic cave house! I found the place soon after and got situated. The views from the balcony were stellar, overlooking the rest of the city.

After taking a short nap to recover from sleeping on a bus, I decided to wander through the city and the outskits since everywhere around the city were incredible rock formations waiting to be explored and climbed around and over. The weather got warmer and it was an extremely cloudy day, which provided perfect lighting for taking photographs of this wonderland.

I found myself hiking alone in some areas outside of the typical touristic stops, exploring what used to be cave homes for people in the past, but have now been abandoned. I was followed by a dog as I traversed through the terrain, taking time to just sit around, take pictures, and continue to be in awe.

At the top of one of the rocks, I looked far in the distances to see where some tourist buses were and headed in that direction. There, I found the Goreme Open Air Museum and decided to buy an entry ticket. The museum was as described, outside, with numerous rock-cut churches to explore. There were fresco paintings of various religious scenes in each of the churches. The inhabitants of the city used to be mostly Christians before Islam dominated the country. While the museum was interesting, I found it much more fun to explore on my own, without having to stay within the boundaries of a demarcated space or follow the rules of a museum. 

I walked about 3 km north, unsure exactly where I was headed, but determined to get there because I saw a huge rock structure that I deemed worth exploring. When I arrived, I found out it was an old church. It was so huge, probably 7 or 8 stories high! I went in and out of some of the rooms, but wasn't able to reach the top since I couldn't find the entrance or stairs to get to the top.

At the end of the day, my host Junko and the surfers she hosted all had dinner at a restaurant in a cave, where we had typical Turkish Meze dishes, which are small appetizers shared amongst a party. Miwako, a surfer from Japan, had traveled for over 1.5 years and continued to travel. She had already visited China, SE Asia, Central Asia, India, Pakistan, Iran, and was now in Turkey. She plans to travel for another year, visiting more of Europe and some of Africa. Zack, a surfer from Berkeley, California, had been traveling for 6 months, starting in Cuba, and continuing through Asia from Sweden and down to Turkey. He traveled on bicycle the entire European leg of his trip, which is pretty incredible to think about. His last leg includes Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine It's amazing what some people do while traveling, and both of these people have had incredible journeys so far. 

Paintings inside the Open Air Museum

Turkish Meze

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