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Exploring Cappadocia to Kayseri, Turkiye

October 6th, 2022

So since we couldn’t see the mechanic until Saturday, we thought we’d enjoy our day and check out this famous national park – Göreme National Park – famous for hot air balloons and “fairy chimneys”.

We hadn’t done much research (yes, slap us on the wrist!) so we weren’t sure where to start but the Göreme Open Air Museum sounded like a good place.  We found the larger of the parking lots, got parked, paid our fee and had brunch before walking over to the museum.

Göreme National Park became a UNESCO site in 1985 and is comprised of seven parts:  the park, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli Underground Cities, Karlik Church, Theodore Church, Karain Columbaries and Soganli Archaeological site.  The most significant feature of the park and Rock Cut Cappadocia Region is the existence of a large number of “fairy Chimneys” formed by the wind and rain water.  The columbaries on the high slopes of Soganli, Zelve and Uzengl Valleys and the monk cells carved in the depths of the valleys add value to the site.  The region was covered with turf when many volcanoes erupted.  Cappadocia, which was sculpted out of this turf through millions of years by sand and water erosion, has always been a settlement area with its unique geological structure since the Paleotlithic Era and bears witness to the culture and history of Anatolia. 

Hundreds of churches sculpted in the rocks of Göreme and its surroundings and in particular in the underground cites (of which there are over 150-200) built for security purposes at extraordinary times, still remains a mystery.

Walking over to the entrance area from the parking lot, you pass by the “Buckle Church”.  containing 9th-century frescoes depicting the 12 apostles and life of Jesus. This is the largest out of them all. It houses four chambers with one highlighting New Testament scenes, and the life and times of St Basil.

You are not allowed to take photos inside but they don’t tell you this until are you past the vestibule area so Fran managed to get this one before seeing the sign:

Upon paying the entrance fee to the museum , we proceeded onto the grounds.

Göreme Open Air Museum, the top attraction of Cappadocia in Turkey’s central Anatolian region is a massive collection of historical monasteries and cave churches displaying fine specimens of ancient Byzantine frescoes.

Within the region, over 600 churches made from soft rock dot the Cappadocia landscape, and there may well be much more undiscovered, but Göreme museum brings in visitors from near and far, who are eager to see traces of early Christianity.

 Thousands of years ago, nearby Mount Erciyes volcano erupted. Ash and lava fell across the landscape and hardened to form tufa rock. Over centuries to come, wind erosion slowly molded fairy chimneys that we see today. However, it didn’t take centuries for locals to realize they could carve into rocks and soon turned them into houses and churches. From then on, Cappadocia offered sanctuary to early Christians who decorated them with art and symbols. The churches also flourished under the guise of Saint Basil of Caesarea, one of three renowned Cappadocian Fathers who advanced early Christian theology.

 The 4th-century sanctuaries include many examples of Byzantine art, but later structures offer richer frescoes and images. Adorning walls and ceilings, they portray Biblical scenes, and their primary purpose was to help followers who couldn’t read or write.

 Unfortunately, when the Ottoman rule came to Cappadocia, locals used the caves as pigeon sheds, because they were not aware of their historical importance. It took many historians many years to clean and restore the frescoes to return them to their original condition. As a member of the UNESCO list since 1984, most date from the 9th to 12th centuries.

We then began the drive into the town of Göreme looking for some fresh bread for dinner.

After finding that, piping hot out of the oven no less, we began to look for a camp spot for the night hoping to get one close to the ATV tour so we could park now, and walk over.  Well that didn’t pan out as the wild camps were all on dirt tracks and after going a little ways in on one, we thought “Tigger could have done this no problem, but for Minou, it’s too much”.

We found the place where we were to meet for the ATV tour and then Doug suggested we find out from our contact, if we could park overnight there; turns out yes, so we are good.  It’s not scenic but it’s off the main road and we don’t have to drive somewhere after our tour after dusk.

The price of petrol has risen another lira today to over 25 but we managed to find just over 24 earlier today.

We have noticed that the number of RV’s had drastically gone down since the summer is over and even more so here in Turkiye.

Doug reached out to tomorrow’s mechanic and after some translation and communication issues, he told us to come Saturday morning instead of Friday.  So now we have a plan.  We began to research this area and figure out what to do tomorrow then.

We were told to meet up at 4:20 for our tour today, so we had a couple of hours of down time; however, at 4:10 Fran got a phone call from the tour guide, asking where we were!  We said we can be there in five minutes but were told 4:20.  We walked over, were asked to sign in, got helmets and then got put on our ATVS at the back of the pack (and it our surprise and dismay it was a big pack – at least 35 ATV’s; some with singles on them, some doubles).  We figured out later that the tour must have started at 4:30 not 5 as we were told and that we’d missed all the rules and regulations speech because we left almost immediately after getting on.

This was a big disappointment; while the scenery was wonderful as was the sunset, the whole operation is chaos and far too slow with so much stopping and starting.  No one told us how long we had at the first stop (Love Valley) and the drive there was stop and go and mostly on pavement!

The first stop was Love Valley:

We spent far too long a the first lookout as it took people too long to get back to move on and at the second stop, Sunset Point near Rose Valley, we were told ten minutes but although many of us got back within 20 (we were within 10) others still weren’t back after 25.

Rose Valley and Sunset Point:

Both us and a few others, began to complain about the delay so the lead guide pulled a couple of empty ATV’s out of the way and one of the other staff took us back at 6:15.  It was only a few minutes ride back to the start right past Minou.

We made dinner and had a pretty quiet night until the morning “call to prayer” and the sound of vehicle rushing past us.  Fran got up and said “there could be a balloon liftoff nearby” as we’d met a couple of young ladies from Vancouver Island yesterday who said they watched the launch this morning.  As we weren’t sure how far away it was we Doug began to drive over and within 200 m we saw balloons and lots of people, so we figured it was better to return to our spot, make tea in our travel mugs and then walk back as it still looking like nothing was taking off just yet.

Well that worked out great!  We saw about 100 balloons take off and flat over the Cappadocia landscape.

The sky was not perfectly clear and some balloons seemed to be “lost in the fog” but it was a wonderful sight to see (doesn’t compare to Albuquerque in numbers and variety of balloons though).

We returned to Minou and then packed up to make our way to see a few of the local sights in the hopes that we’d beat the tour buses.   It is unbelievable how many tourists there are here in October.  We are quite flabbergasted.

We made our way north a little bit to Cavusin where we see a “cave village” including the “Great Caves” and St. John the Baptist church.

just outside of town we saw fairy chimneys:

A little further northwest was Pasabag Valley with some pretty amazing “fairy chimneys”.  We stopped by the fence and took some pictures but did not enter the site as it was not a free open air museum (not even sure it was open yet either) and we felt we could see them just fine especially with a zoom lens and it was too early for them to be open.

Next was the Zelve open air museum which we’d seen had good ratings.  This cost us $4 each and included not only Zelve and but Pasabag that we’d just past.

Here we walked the 3 valleys and saw lots of cool caves, houses and a couple of churches and a mosque. The sky had begun to clear and we could still see a few balloons floating around too.

Since our ticket was good for Pasabag Valley we turned around and went back the 2km and boy that was worth it.  Lots of ferry chimneys we could wander through (more than you can see from the road)

and a large church:

A little further down the highway from Zelve was the Dervent Valley – lots and lots of rocks and fairy chimneys and more – this we just drove through one way and then turned around and went back for lots of video:

So now we drove back through Göreme and stopped at a panorama viewpoint on the other side where we could view the old Göreme village:

Again today, the price of gas was up another lira!  By the way, gas stations here are not self-serve and occasionally you get a gas jockey who will clean your windshield.

Then we drove to the more southerly town of Uchisar to see its castle which was not a castle as we think of, but another set of rock dwellings and quite massive and impressive.  We parked by the tour buses and we were right at the head of the trail down into the castle valley.  We walked around for about ten minutes.  The weather was pretty perfect, sunny and spring like.

So we’ve covered everything we wanted to see and it’s only late morning.  All of the above spots until we got to the castle were virtually empty – the tour buses not had arrived and we were very fortunate to have the places to ourselves except for the odd other couple.

We drove south through Nevsehir (where the mechanic for tomorrow is located) and on to the town of Kaymakli where one of the two big underground cities in Turkiye is located.  There is a parking lot right at the site where you can spend the night for about one dollar!  There is Wi-Fi (not great) and toilets.   After parking, Fran snuck into the ladies room and dumped our cassette and then we had showers in Minou and spent a quiet afternoon.

Doug found a cell phone store to help him figure out what his cell phone number is and then Fran went over later to see if the lady could tell her how to check her balance.  Turns out that the SIM card she bought that was supposed to have 25GB on it came with a bonus of 15GB (not 5) so she’s good but still doesn’t know how to check the balance as their system was down.  It seems you need an app which is all in Turkish and seems to have nowhere to create a new account.  Even when the store clerk tried, it wouldn’t work.

Other than some loud calls to prayer, we had a very quiet night as we were parked in a small part of the lot near the back away from the comings and goings of the majority of the cars/buses in the lot.   Saturday morning we visited the Underground City of Kaymakli and it was pretty cool.

Throughout history, the Cappadocia region has been subjected to frequent raids.  Underground cities were built to provide people with safe places of temporary shelter.  The cities were connected to houses above ground by passages.  There are about 150-200 underground and cliff settlements in this region.  Some of them were large enough to house 30,000 people. 

The ground levels were usually used as stables.  Parts of the walls were dug out for fodder for animals.  Warm all year round, kitchens and wineries are generally found on the upper levels.  Ovens, called “tandirs” were used.  

There were many storage rooms for food and there were communication and ventilation holes.  They even dug wells that were not accessible from outside so that their water source could not be poisoned by enemies.  They  had large air shafts that went very deep:

a “side cut” view of the portion of the underground city open to the public:

We spent about a half hour (all on our own) wandering the four levels open to the public seeing tunnels, rooms, stables, a church, kitchens and lots of rooms of various sizes that didn’t have any signage.  It was a good thing there were arrows to direct you through or you’d get lost in the maze of rooms/tunnels.

you can make out the different levels

Various rooms:

Sections of Tunnels:

We then made it to the mechanic in Nevsehir on time at 9am and he did a few things for us.  Doug wanted him to lube and do an inspection – all was good except we needed a new air filter; he checked the brakes and as we suspected, we needed new front ones.  He looked at our heating issue (defrost doesn’t blow) but he couldn’t sort that out.

We had a couple of electrical issues we wanted taken care of as well but Sedat doesn’t do electrical work but he actually drove us to a place that did and they fixed the marker lights (a jerry rig fix, but it works!) and looked at the defrost issue and said they thought they could repair it but it would cost about $100 and Doug was not confident that would actually fix it and we’ve managed so far, so we passed on that.

This area of Nevsehir has literally hundreds of automotive repair places.

At this shop we met a German Turk here who spoke some decent English and Doug explained our next issue.  This kind man arranged through this shop where we could get that looked and at actually came with us to direct us there; he left his contact details with us and went on his way.

Sedat had left us at this point so Fran walked over to his shop to pay and thank him.  We like to pass out Canada flag pins when we encounter such helpful people and Sedat was quite surprised and happy to receive one.

At this shop they removed our bumper, took off the broken taillight that Doug had taped back together and walked Doug over to a shop to repair the latter; Doug had to go back in two hours to pick it up.  We weren’t sure what they were going to do, but it had to better than it was.  So the man fixed the bumper (it was coming apart at some of the seams and Doug had taped it together), although it was not pretty.  While waiting to go pick up the taillight, this shop stopped for lunch and Doug went to find at ATM.  On his walk he saw a place that does car stereos and asked about having a USB port installed on our existing one that is only a radio/cd player and we have very few CD’s.  They could sell us a used one for $50 and they’d install it if we brought the vehicle around.

Doug picked up the taillights and it repaired one looked very good; they had managed to remove the broken side and replace it with a new section; it does look slightly different from the other side, but we think you’d have to know this to see it.

In the meantime, Doug spoke to a guy who could maybe “pretty up” the bumper now that it was back together and he said he could do it on Monday.  He is supposed to contact us to arrange and time and find out where later.

So we left this 4th mechanical shop and tried to drive to the stereo place; they were replacing the paving stones on that section of the street but we parked at the end, less than a block away, Doug walked over to get the fellow and he arrived with the “new to us” stereo.   He and his assistant, removed the old one, installed the new one and we inserted the USB and it works!  We paid him and then offered him the old one cause, what were we going to do with it?

So it’s now past 4:30, a long day but we got a lot done off our list.  Fran had worked on photos on and off in Minou during the day and made a dent in all the photos we took the past few days; always the most time consuming part.

And once again, the price of petrol was up another lira to over 27 but we found a 25 in the middle of nowhere so even though we didn’t need a lot, we topped up.

Fran found a wild camp with a view near the panorama point we went to yesterday so we made our way there; it’s between Uchisar and Göreme and we have a view in both directions!  Turns out there was an open Wi-Fi signal too – bonus!

It’s very close to the Panorama Restaurant so we walked over to see about having happy hour there; no dice – they don’t serve beer but since we’d eaten very little all day, we decided to have an early dinner.  We enjoyed some Turkish pancakes (some with spinach, others with cheese) and some chicken kebabs.  It was pretty good although the cheese in the pancakes was rather dry but the view from the picture windows in the place made up for any shortfall on the meal:

We returned to Minou in time to see this:

and later the lights of the city came on:

We ended up having a very quiet night (you could hardly hear the call to prayer from our spot) and slept well.  Doug went for his long run in the morning and his butt pain is decreasing but he did struggle with the altitude – we are up near 1300 m / 4300’ here upon the ridge above Göreme.

It was a cloudy, on and off rain sprinkling morning and there was no balloon launch which was a bit disappointing as we had the perfect spot to view it from.

By midday Doug had not heard from the fellow who might work on the bumper on Monday so we began looking forward and Doug found us a dentist in Kayseri (he’s being doing a great deal of research on this subject and found one with many five star reviews) – about 60 km / 40 mi east of here where we also knew there was a part of town with lots of automotive repair places.  We made our way back through Göreme:

And then stopped just past where we’d taken our ATV from where there is a water tap to fill up our fresh water.  Unfortunately, it was on the southbound side of the road with no shoulder on that side, so we parked on the northbound side and used our one gallon jug and our bucket.  Fran ran back and forth across the road filling while Doug used our funnel to dump the containers into the tank.   It began to sprinkle at this point and we almost stopped but the rain stopped first.  It did rain a little further down the road but we’d finished filling before that.

Fran had found a wild camp outside Kayseri up on a ridge overlooking the city in the distance and some mountains including the tall Mt. Erciyes, but the sky stayed overcast and we never saw their tops.

Doug chatted with a dentist online and we have appointments for free exams tomorrow afternoon in Kayseri.  He was quoted good prices to Doug for what he thinks he needs and Fran has a couple of small issues she wants dealt with.  If we hang around to get all that dental work done, she will look into the price and timing of new lenses.

After sitting here for about an hour, a police van pulled up.  They turned on their siren briefly and then came over to talk with us.  Of course, they spoke no English but with Google Translate on Doug’s phone they asked why we were here.  When we told them we were going in Kayseri in the morning to the dentist and get some vehicle repair done, they asked to see his driver’s license.  After looking at it, they said good bye and left.

The wind picked up some that afternoon but it still reached 20C / 70F.   A little later, another motorhome pulled up and parked 50 metres away from us.  They too had French plates and even later a huge German MAN type rig pulling a small covered utility trailer joined us on this large flat field and they parked off to the side about 100 m away.

The sky almost cleared by sunset but not fully and by morning it was no better – actually had fog hanging around the mountain peaks so we never saw this dormant volcano, Erciyes.

We left about 7:30 to reach an autobody place in Kayseri by 8 and hit a bit of traffic going into the city.  Like Nevsehir, there seems to be a part of the city that is full of mechanics etc.  We couldn’t find the one Doug was looking for but found the second best and he was able to take us right away.  He worked on repairing the wheel well on the driver’s side (damaged from our first tire blowout) and …..

In the meantime, Doug went looking for new batteries for the coach part of Minou.  With the shorter days we are finding that the batteries are getting a bit too low for comfort by bedtime.  It’s not dangerously low, but the days are only going to get shorter over the next couple of months and we know at least one of them is on the older side so if we can replace them both, it will give us some comfort and add to Minou’s resale value down the road.  Well, it turns out that we cannot purchase 120 AGM batteries here in Turkey so we’ll have to deal with this when we return to the EU if we decide to do it.

In the meantime, Mehmet, the auto body guy, arranged a taxi to come get us to take us downtown to our dental appointment.  We arrived early and were met by two dentists outside the building to escort us in.  They both spoke English, especially the young woman who just graduated from dental school.  We were taken upstairs to the third floor to:

and had x-rays taken.  Fran got examined first and her two issues which were that her baby tooth had a large chip off it and she just wanted it filled/built back up like she’d had done about 5 years ago in Peru.  They thought instead she should consider an implant or bridge but she’s been told that before and doesn’t want to go to that extreme.  If a cheap filling lasts 5 years and she’s not in pain, why go to that length?  So they agreed.

The next thing she wanted taken care of was that her two front teeth which are no longer white and she wanted suggestions on how to remedy this.  First idea was dental bleaching for €150 that could last a minimum of six months.  That seemed crazy to her and then they suggested bleaching and veneers just on the front.  So she said why  not just the veneers?  Having them made to the same colour as her other teeth and that would solve that problem.  They thought that was a good idea and it could even out her front teeth and her smile would look better.  This could be done for €160.  Sold.

Doug then took the chair and it seems he needs five dental implants and 7 crowns; two he wasn’t really even aware of but it will eliminate issues down the road.  This could be done in two ways:  with German implants or Korean ones.  If we went the first route, it could be done in a week!  This will cost €3000 for everything.  When you consider they are like $2000 each in the US, this was a good deal.

So we arranged for Fran’s work to be done right then and there, with temporary veneers done today and come back on Saturday for the permanent fitting.  The specialist went ahead and shaved down her two front teeth, took molds and went to make the temporary teeth.  Another dentist then did the filling on her baby tooth.  So she had three shots for numbing and it was all done in less than an hour.

Doug will return tomorrow at 2 and get his first session done and fitting on Saturday and the final fitting on Wednesday.  So we’ll take a short trip to some places east of here for a few days and come back for Saturday afternoon.

While Fran was in the chair, Doug went to get more of both of our prescription drugs as we are getting low on our supply from Kenya and to check out opticians and get prices.  When Fran was done, he took her over and they measured her eyes and discussed options.  She left her newer frames with them and they glasses will be ready in four days; that’s progressive transitions lenses for about the same price as we would have paid in the US at Costco or in Mexico.  So we’ll do it so it’s all done.  We then picked up our scripts and returned to the dentist for them to call the taxi back to pick us up.

When we returned to Mehmet’s shop, Minou was gone.  It had been driven over to a place to get the bumper prettied up.  Mehmet said he’d already finished the work on the wheel well and all that was left was mud flaps and the shower repair which we’re not sure he’s doing or not.  He sent his son to get the mud flaps for a Ford Transit and he installed the front ones; the rear ones will need some “adjustment” to fit as the rear of the vehicle is not a Ford Transit but a motorhome – he claims he can do it tomorrow.  He’s letting us stay overnight in the outer part of his garage and gave us access to power.  Considering where we were (the auto mechanic’s part of town) it was pretty quiet.

Overnight we decided we’ll pass on the rear mud flaps and in the morning after disconnecting from the power we spoke to Mehmet about coming back on Tuesday to have him (or someone he knows) do the shower repair.  He agreed.

We then made our way to a hospital to get some annual blood work done and found out after setting it all up, that it was a public hospital for foreigners (a lot of Syrian refugees were here) and there was no charge!  The results will be ready on Friday so we’ll get them on Monday as we won’t be back until Saturday and they are not open on weekends.

Next was to find a TurkCell shop as Doug seems to be locked out of his phone; got that taken care of and then to look for more statins for Doug as he was unable to buy a full year’s worth yesterday.  On our way to a drugstore, a Turkish man who spoke good English approached us asking if he could help.  Turns out he spent some time in Seattle and when we entered the pharmacy, he helped translate.  This pharmacy could have the 7 boxes he wanted delivered in about two hours so we arranged that.  Then this fellow began to tell us he is in the Turkish rug business and “what kind of rugs do we have at home and that many Canadians buy his rugs”.  Reminded us of the hustlers in Egypt.

We returned to the dentist because Fran’s bite is slightly off since they put the filling in her baby tooth so they adjusted that and then we went for some lunch.  Fran cannot bite into anything with her temporary veneers so we went to a restaurant where she could get soup, bread and French fries – yes really healthy!  After today, we’ll both be on soft foods as Doug for a short while.

Oh and we heard from Larry & Jenny today; their daughter managed to PayPal Fran the money we lent them so that’s all sorted.  Maybe we’ll meet up with them next time we are in the UK.  Thanks guys!

Doug went to get his drugs and Fran grabbed her laptop and went back to the dentist so she could use their Wi-Fi and Doug returned in time for his 2pm appointment.   It took about two hours and then we just wanted to get out of the city before rush hour really set in.

We stopped for groceries and then drove a bit out of the city to camp for the night.  It was getting dark well before we got to the spot we had in mind so we ended up parked at a gas station very close to the highway so it was by no means a quiet night but we managed to get some sleep.