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The Big O.E An epic adventure across the world, backpacker style :)

It's cool to live in a cave

TURKEY | Thursday, 12 June 2008 | Views [2459]

Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys

Wow, what a difference a few metres can make. Crossing from Syria into Turkey is like stepping into another world. Bam! Everything is cleaner and newer. The dress code is much more relaxed. The fields of crops are more uniform. Call to prayer at 4:30 in the morning is much more discrete. The ever present pictures of the country's leader virtually disappear. And us Kiwis don't need to stuff around with visas - on ya Helen.

Our first stop was Antakya. Known as Antioch back in the day, it had a reputation as Rome's most depraved outpost. These days the place seems like a pretty wholesome rural Turkish town, partly thanks to St. Peter who took it upon himself to save its citizens from eternal damnation. As practising Christianity was more likely to get you killed than saved in his day, he gathered his congregation in a cave on the outskirts of town. Today this is the oldest surving church in the world... or rather it was. After almost two thousand years the ceiling of the cave recently came crashing down. Bugger.

Living in caves is all the rage further north in Cappadocia too. But with thousands of kilometres of underground tunnels there are always different bits to show the tourists when some other bits collapse. We visited one of the many underground cities at Derinkuyu that covers four square kilometres and is linked to another underground city nine kilometres away! With ventilation and communication shafts, rolling stone doors to seal off parts of the city from intruders, stables, kitchens and churches, these were great fun to explore but were bit chilly at 13 degrees (we had been used to 35 after all).

The sheer walls of the beautiful Ihlara Gorge nearby were also riddled with troglodyte churches, although most had suffered the same fate as St Peter's over the years. Even so, just the walk along the stream amongst willows, poplars, pistachio bushes and wild flowers felt great after weeks in the desert.

The troglodytes really hit the jack pot in the surreal 'fairy chimney' valleys around Goreme. Formed by the rapid erosion of a soft volcanic rock called tuf, the fairy chimneys come in an assortment of shapes and sizes from cones to mushrooms and everything in between (no prizes for guessing what male appendage they are shaped like in Love Valley). Because the fairy chimneys are made of soft rock they are easy to hollow out into houses. The end result is Goreme, a wonderfully laid back town punctuated all over the place by cute fairy chimney houses and hotels. Walking down the streets you half expect little hobbits to pop out out of the nearest door in the rock.

We had an awesome time on quad bikes one afternoon as we set out to explore the neighbouring valleys. In fact, winding along narrow dirt tracks, over ridges, down into valleys, through tunnels and streams  brought out quite the speed demon in Catherine. To top off the tour we finished on a ridge top at sunset with local wine and cheese.


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