Sivas, Goreme (Cappadocia + Uchisar), Pamukkale, Ephesus - Didyma and Zeus cave, Bergama (Pergamon) via Sirince and Izmir, Canakkale for ferry, Demirkoy
Sumuli Monastery, Goreme (Cappadocia + Uchisar), Gokyurt (Little Cappadocie), Pamukkale, Ephesus, Didyma and Zeus cave, Bergama (Pergamon) via Izmir, Istanbul, Erdine.
Border crossing, Sumuli and Cappadocia
Border crossing into Turkey
After crossing the border, we continue towards the Sumuli monastery. With every kilometre, the weather gets better and by the time we reached the road towards the monastery, the sun was shining again…
Sumuli and Sivas
We found a very nice bushcamp spot just off the main road with a beautiful view into the valley. The next morning when we intended to visit the monastery, when we learned that it was closed for renovation. As we had no interest to stay in the park, we made a U-turn. Our objective of the day was to reach Goreme (better known as the Cappadocia area). We followed the road towards Sivas where we have a break and visit its old Mosque’s.
We arrived late in Cappadocia and parked the car for the night just above Goreme on the rocky plateau where we would have a perfect view over the valley and the famous hot air balloons early morning. At 4.45AM, we were awakened by 65 hot air balloons; a magnificent sight! (and only a fraction of the capacity, as Turkey’s tourism was heavily hit by Erdogan’s attitude towards Europe and the bombings that have taken place earlier this year). There was hardly any western tourist in Turkey when we were there. Small local businesses that rely on tourism were closed, either bankrupt or it was just not with it to open their business as we were told that Cappadocia only got 10% of last years tourists; A major plus for us, but certainly not for the sector).
After the hot air balloon show, we visited the Goreme Open Air museum, the Love valley, the Uchisar castle, the underground city of Ozkonak, the Devrent valley, the Parasagale valley, the Zelve Open Air Museum and last but not least, the Güllüdere (Rose) Valley… It was a long day after which we decided we had earned a hotel room J
Goreme open air museum is probably the most visited museum in Cappadocia. We arrived there early in the morning (after the hot air balloons) to avoid many tourist busses. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes whose colors still retain most their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique for Turkey. WE liked the dark church the most, a church that dates back to the end of the 12th century. Some of the scenes of the frescoes are: Deesis, Annunciation, Journey to Bethlehem, Nativity, Baptism, Raising of Lazarus, Transfiguration, Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, the Crucifixion and Anastasis. But we were not allowed to take any pictures of the frescoes, although some ‘gatekeepers’ allowed us to take a couple of pictures of the frescoes.
In Zelve open air museum, consisting of two connecting valleys, wich once housed the largest community of the region. Here we same many churches very close together as well as wineries and a mosque. Muslim and Christians were know to live in perfect harmony here until 1924.
After a couple of nights of bush camping and in ‘need’ of a proper toilet and shower we looked for a hotel to stay the night. With a serious discount, we stayed in a three-room suite, one of the first (and nicest) boutique hotels in Urgrup (Esbelli Evi) and had dinner in one of the recommended restaurants.
Underground cities, Ihlara Valley and Kilistra
Underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu
The next day, we left for ‘Kilistra’ near Gokyurt (also named Little Cappadocia) via the underground city of Kaymakli, the underground city of Derinkuyu and the beautiful Ihlara Valley.
It is incredible how many levels below the surface these underground cities had. Kaymakli is the widest underground city with as many as a hundred tunnels, connecting living rooms, churches, a school, wine cellars and even stables for horses. We were at least 18 metres below ground level. We were only allowed to visit four levels of the eight levels. The levels that we could visit were all connect to the ventilation shafts and looking up we could the blue sky. Derinkuyu is the deepest underground city. There are about six hundred outside doors into the city, hidden in the courtyards of surface dwellings. The underground city is approximately 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city such as stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc. Apart from these, a large room with a barrel vaulted served as a missionary school, and connected were some study rooms. The descent to the lowest level open to visitors was by vertical staircases which lead to a cruciform plan church and the ventilation shaft, fifty-five metres below ground level and we could hardly pass other tourist going up.
Both cities had the same method of blocking the entry to the tunnel could by huge ‘stone doors’. Large round stones would be pushed in front of the tunnel openings. In both underground cities we noticed that some tourists needed to get back above ground as it was too much for them being so many metres below ground level.
We liked the underground cities, but were absolutely impressed with the beauty of the Ihlara Valley; a canyon of 100 metres high and 26 bends carved by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. We only walked the first part of the canyon and visited one of the many cave churches, named St George. As Wilfred always seems to have a special interest for St. George as he slayed a dragon.
Gokyurt and Kilistra
When we enter the village of Gokyurt during sunset, we completely missed the Kilistra site and decided to set up camp on the old road that we found. We went to bed early as it was very, very cold and around midnight we were woken by voices and saw light of torches shining. We were not sure who was more surprised; the locals walking back home and seeing us camp on the old road or us…
The next morning, we returned to Gokyurt to find Kilistra… This time, we were more successful. Unfortunately, it was not too impressive and garbage, once again, spoiled the fun. We did visit the little St. Pauls church, which is carve from one rock both on the inside as well as from the outside, reminding us on the much larger monolith churches of Lailibella, Ethiopia.
After our visit to Kaklik cave we drove to the Laodicea ad Lycum archeological site. From the Laodicea site just eight kilometres before Pamukelle. Here we could see the white cotton rocks of Pamukkele in the distance on the other end of the valley. The site itself was nice, but we were not amused that the main attractions (and covered areas) were “closed for archeological research” (Turkish bullocks! No one was there, not even a guard…!) We suspected they laid off as many peolple as possible given the extremely low number of tourist).
The temperature at Pamukkele was high and we again decided to take a (discounted) hotel room. The next morning we climbed up the ‘cotton castle’ via the intricate series of travertines (calcite shelves) towards the ruined Roman and Byzantine spa city of Hieropolis. Most of the travertines were dry and we could not help thinking that is because they fill many ‘swimming pools’ where tourist are allowed to swim instead of letting the water flow freely. We had to walk this part on our bare feet and could feel that the water was sometimes icy cold and other times nice and warm. The nicest part of Hierapolis was the amphitheatre, which they were still restoring.
Datça peninsula, Selcuk, Bergama, Troye and leaving Turkey
After our visit to Pamukkele we drove towards the west coast peninsula of Datça where we set up camp at ‘Smuglers cove’ and had an illegal BBQ (we honestly did not know we were not allowed to make fire as the number of firepits on the beach warmed our appetite). The next morning, we visit Knidos on the most western tip and is perched on a steep hillside, providing dramatic views. It is surrounded by the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. Knidos was a rich, cosmopolitan city, and some famous mathematicians studied here. And a brit, named Sir Charles Newton, helped himself to many of the site’s statues and shipped them to London. You must now go to the British Museum if you want to see these statues.
After that we continued our way back towards Ephesus via Didyma’s Apollo temple and the Zeus Cave (which we found closed for the public after deadly accident).
In Selcuk, again, we stayed in a discounted luxury boutique hotel (possible the best quality price we ever had). The next morning, we got a ride from the hotel towards the upper gate of Ephesus and follow the trail down hill. Once again, we wished we could have seen the buildings in their full glory, but are still pleased to see the partially restored ruins. The most famous ruin in Ephesus is the library and it was built in honour of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. The library was "one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire" and third library after Alexandria and Pergamum. The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a mausoleum for Celsus, who is buried in a crypt beneath the library in a decorated marble sarcophagus.[
Impressed by the hotel facilities, we decided to enjoy them one more night. After visiting the improved museum and the Basilica of St. John, Judith planned a massage and Wilfred dove into the pool.
Bergama and Troye
The next morning, we drove towards Bergama and visited the two ancient sites (Acropolis and Asclepius) and the museum in the city centre.
On the Acropolis we saw ruins of various temples, an amphitheatre, a library and much more. However we did noet see any sulptures on the Acropolis itself as those are now housed in the museum in the centre of Bergama. After our visit to the museum we drove to Asclepio, also known under the name of ‘The Pergamum God of Health’. A health and medicine centre serving the people for several hundred years; thus making Pergamom a medical Centre of very great importance. Famous medical scholars, like Hippocrates and Galenus, were born in Pergamom and worked there.
Afterwards, we drove towards Troye where Wilfred pretended to be Brat Pitt and climbed into the horse. After a quick pic, we walked the site itself. Honestly, the legend of Troye is much more impressive than the ruins itself and one needs a very vivid imagination to translate the texts of all the extensions of time.
Canakkale or was it Istanbul...
Is it bad luck, or poor management… As we arrived at the ferry crossing from Canakkale to Eceabat, we learn that today, the day of the celebration (?) of the failed coupe a year ago, no ferries are crossing to the other side… Meaning that 60% of the total capacity along the shore is out of business! The only ferry that was operation had a long queue of more than 10 kilometre and only a small capacity…it might takes days to secure a spot on the ferry.
As we had to arrive in Sofia in time to meet Wilfred’s family, we decided to have a ‘en route’ dinner in the car and drive for a couple of hours towards Istanbul to make up for the aprox. 500-600 extra kilometres we now had to do. After some hours, we noticed that the route we decided to take would cross the bridge where Erdogan would hold his speech… As the traffic jam grew; we decided to pass Istanbul via the North and aimed for a bushcamp beyond Istanbul where we finally arrived at 2:30am. We popped up the roof and immediately went to sleep. The next morning we were again, maybe not surprised but disappointed that a nice picnic place is left with so much garbage lying around!
The next day drove to Plovdiv after a toll debacle and traffic jam at the border going into Bulgaria. Driving into Europe did not go as easy as we thought…standing in line for 4 hours in total. Luckily we still had some mobile data left and watched Federer win the final on Wimbledon.
After two days of driving we treated ourselves to a hotel in Plovdiv, went to bed early and slept till late the next morning.