If there’s one thing you should do (if you haven’t already) before you shuffle off this mortal coil, it’s take a dawn ride in a hot air balloon across the spectacular Cappadocian landscape. We had six fabulous days in Cappadocia, but the highlight was soaring through the valleys and across the unique volcanic rock formations known as “fairy chimneys”. There must have been 80-100 balloons in the air the morning we flew (too many to count), adding to the marvellous scenery. The skilled pilots fly you right into the valleys, then out again. Balloon “kisses” are not uncommon!
Having viewed the landscape from the air we also trekked through some of the valleys to get a worm’s eye view of the fairy chimneys. The locals made dovecotes within these structures so they could collect guano for fertiliser. Also to be found are the many rock-hewn churches carved into the fairy chimneys. Many still have colouful frescoes, but others are a bit delapidated. Exploring these churches is a bit like being inside a giant block of Swiss cheese. Rose Valley, Red Valley, Ihlara Valley, Love Valley (named for the phallic-like formations) are all worth a look and you can poke around inside many of these churches along the way. The Goreme Open Air Museum is also a must see. The complex is made up of chapels, churches and monasteries, some which date back to the 10th-12th centuries.
Another highlight in Cappadocia is a visit to one of the underground cities carved out of the soft volcanic rock. We visited Derinkuyu which is a maze of tunnels and assorted “rooms” over 8 levels. The complex housed cellars, wine and oil presses, chapels, etc, and extended to a depth of approximately 85m. The city was large enough to provide shelter for 20,000 people along with sufficient food stores and animals to keep them going for quite some time. Such cities we used by early Christians to hide from marauding Roman soldiers, then later from Arab Muslims, where they’d hide until it was safe to come out. They built an elaborate security system that could ingeniously seal off the city using a system of massive stone doors rolled across the tunnel entrances. Indiana Jones eat your heart out!
We found the government funded carpet-making school interesting, seeing how they harvest silk from the silk worm cocoons. Managed to resist the temptation to buy a carpet for Loki. Of course we couldn’t leave Turkey until we’d seen a Whirling Dervish performance. It’s amazing they’re not completely giddy after all that spinning!
We then farewelled Turkey and cleared into Greece at Samos. Whilst in Samos we took the ferry down to Patmos for the day, well known as the place where St John is said to have lived in a cave whilst writing the Book of Revelation in AD 95. The fortress-like Patmos monastery crowns the hill of the Hora. It was built in honour of St John in 1088 and is one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world. A visit to both the cave and the monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, is obligatory. The monastery museum houses a collection of religious art, relics, vestments and numerous original parchment manuscripts, some dating back to 1073. On first pass you could be forgiven for thinking all are printed documents, but as the printing press wasn’t invented until 1440 this is obviously not the case for the older ones. They are so meticulously crafted and illustrated its hard to believe these were created so long ago. Unfortunately no photography is allowed inside.
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