“Traveller’s illness” has reared its ugly head. Tuesday and Thursday were pretty much wasted days for me, and CeCe is currently working on finishing her third book for the week. We think it can be attributed to some unknown fruit I picked up near the bus station in Ankara. I neglected to wash it. Oops. Thankfully, CeCe prepared appropriately and our medical arsenal is well-stocked. (For those of you in Baltimore, we both highly recommend Union Memorial’s Travel Health Center. Dr. Vij enabled us to travel with confidence.)
Despite our maladies, we have been able to moderately enjoy Goreme in Turkey’s Cappadocian region. Briefly, Cappadocia is located in central Turkey and topographically much resembles the American southwest with its weathered rock outcroppings and seemingly arid mesas. That said, there are pronounced differences. First, Cappadocia receives a good deal of precipitation in winter and the soil is highly fertile tuff, a fine powder of volcanic origin. So, Goreme only seems like a barren desert outpost.
On Wednesday, we walked to the nearby UNESCO-listed Goreme Open Air Museum. (Well, CeCe walked. I staggered.) The preserved cliff dwellings and churches are the site of much early-Christian history, when the persecuted faithful retreated to their remote rock-hewn hideaways. Most of the churches we saw however dated to about 1,000 years ago, although they were actively used until the 1920’s when the Treaty of Lausanne resulted in a swap of minorities between Greece and Turkey. Greece got Turkey’s Christians.
The day’s highlight was the walk home. We proved once again that it’s not hard to get off the beaten path. We dodged the tours and motor homes and headed about 500 feet into the hills. (Yes, there are motorhomes. Our campground had been inundated by a caravan of Italian RV’ers when we returned.) We were treated to vistas of several nearby valleys and many unprotected cave dwellings of an unknown vintage. You’ll have to wait for CeCe’s photos. And we found the “Hidden Church” of the main road a bit, tucked on the other side of a ravine. It was locked unfortunately, but we were able to peer through the gate. We felt triumphant.
The next day, we felt adequate enough to hop on a couple of minibuses to Derinkuyu where we spent a couple of hours exploring the town’s intriguing underground city. Dropping nine levels below the ground, they were designed ingeniously as a refuge against marauding intruders. Thus, the emphasis was on security not comfort or aesthetics. It was somewhat disappointing in that regard, but the memory of a 110-step staircase twisting down into the ground with stay with me for a while.
Unfortunately, due to our fatigue that’s been pretty much all we’ve been able to accomplish lately. We have met a few fun expats however, including Diane, a Watertown, Mass., native and professor of linguistics in Leeds, England, whose husband runs our favorite restaurant in Goreme. They recently bought a cave house and she has promised us a tour. Let’s see if we can make it happen before we catch our bus of town tonight at 8.