Posts tagged with 'Turkey'

Rose Valley

By Ross in Travel on Fri 13 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

After the detour to the pigeon house, I set out to hike Rose Valley. The directions were relatively straightforward (take the road past the Open Air Museum until you get to Kaya Camping, then take the first road on your left), and soon I found myself descending into another Cappadocian valley. The trail was practically empty, and I saw more locals attending the various tea stops along the way than fellow hikers. The trail has very informative signs, whose only fault other than a cluttered presentation of map data is the tendency to be missing. 

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This particular sign pointed me to the pigeon houses carved in the valley wall (here, the entrances to the pigeon houses are the same size as pigeonholes). It explained that the decoration around the pigeon houses is one of the few examples of Islamic art in the region.

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The trail passed through several rock tunnels:

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Eventually I reached a sign for Meskendir cave church. The sign gave no directions for how to actually find the church, but the dot on the map suggested I had to look on the right side of the trail. This involved scrambling up a relatively steep hillside along a dubious trail, but in the end I was rewarded with another well-preserved interior.

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Here is a picture from under the dome:

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And here is the alcove where I rested and had a snack:

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Continuing on the trail, I passed by another impressive set of pigeon houses and under a stone archway.

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The trail then passed by a church carved into this monolithic rock formation (the interior was not nearly as interesting as the exterior):

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The valley ended at the town of Cavushin, with its souvenir shops positioned below the carved rock-castle.

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Cavushin notably contains a rock-mosque, which is a nice counterpart to the rock-churches of the region.

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Pigeon House

By Ross in Travel on Fri 13 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

Since yesterday was a relatively easy day, I woke up early in the morning, intent on doing some more serious hiking. On my way to Rose Valley, I saw a sign which read "Aynali Church, 50 m", and decided on a whim to check it out. For 5 TL, I was given a flashlight and a quick tour of the church. The interior was very dark (hence the flashlight):

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Next to the church was this room:

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And in a chamber behind that room, there was a narrow stairway, which I was instructed to take up to the pigeon house. 

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By this time I had seen the exterior of many a pigeon house, so I was curious what I would find on the inside. A pigeon house is exactly what it sounds like, a house for pigeons. In this pigeon house, the pigeons enter through the wide opening in the outside wall. There are pigeonholes in every wall, maximizing the surface area available for pigeon roosting.

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I learned from my tour guide that pigeons served several purposes to the people of Cappadocia, hence the pervasiveness of pigeonholes throughout the region. Pigeon droppings were used both for a white pigment in fresco paintings and for fertilizer. Pigeons were also used for communication.

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Pigeonholes have other uses as well, such as proving that a subset of a finite group is a subgroup if it is closed under the group operation.


Hobbit Cave

By Ross in Travel on Thu 12 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

After returning from Pigeon Valley, I moved my meager possessions across town to Yasin's Place Backpackers Cave Hotel. Although variety is nice, price was the motivation here, as this was the cheapest single room I was able to find in all of Goreme (it was not available the prior two nights). 

From the reception and dining area, I walked up some stairs and down a narrow hallway,  ducking in several places to avoid hitting my head on the low cave ceiling. At the end, I came to a tiny, hobbit-sized door:

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And I found myself in an even smaller hobbit cave than the one before:

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This one did have windows, which was nice:

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I was even able to rig a clothesline to dry my clothes by the open window:

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No "engrotte" bathroom this time, but the room is more than sufficient for three nights.


Pigeon Valley

By Ross in Travel on Thu 12 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

Given that the weather forecast called for rain and that there were already dark clouds amassing in the sky when I awoke, I decided to take it easy (or at least as easy I am capable of) and not venture too far from Goreme. The plan was to hike up Pigeon Valley to the castle at Uchisar and then figure it out from there.

The entrance to Pigeon Valley from below was well marked, but after walking for about 500 meters, the trail abruptly ended. I was unclear what to do at this juncture, as was a group of Belgian tourists. They headed back down the trail, while I decided to scramble up the side of the valley to the main road, which I then took to Uchisar:

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Uchisar castle does not have many features which are traditionally associated with castles, but as it is the highest point in Cappadocia, it was of key strategic importance to the region. Here are two views of the castle, one from the touristy side of Uchisar and the other from the more agricultural side of the city:

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There are many rooms carved into the castle rock (which are empty now) as well as numerous pigeonholes, some of which even contain pigeons:

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I got an impressive, panoramic view of the entire region from atop the castle. On the way down, I ran into two Korean tourists who shared the Green Tour with me, and this photo was taken (complete with entertaining height difference!):

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Since I had been unsuccessful hiking Pigeon Valley from below, I decided to try hiking back down the valley from above. A shortcut down from the castle took me through a more agrarian section of town, where I saw a farmhouse covered in pigeonholes and met some more goats:

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I eventually made it to Pigeon Valley proper, where I descended into a gorge sandwiched between dramatic, quasi-columnar cliffs:

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On the way down, I stopped many times to take pictures of flowers and insects. The most unusual plant I saw had yellow flowers and large seed pods, and I also got a nice photograph of a butterfly (less than ideal crop on iPad):

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I made it down to Goreme successfully, where I discovered a different entrance to Pigeon Valley from the one I had used in the morning. At the end of the day, I was rewarded with a beautiful, Cappadocian sunset.

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Green Tour, part 2

By Ross in Travel on Wed 11 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

After leaving the underground city, we drove to the Ihlara valley, one of the longest of the many gorges which are found all over Cappadocia.

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We made our descent via this set of stairs:

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When we reached the bottom of the gorge, we visited the Church under the Tree, also known as the Church of Daniel after its (partially intact) fresco of Daniel and the lions' den on the far wall of the central apse:

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Here is a fresco of the annunciation along with a photo from underneath the central dome of the church:

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If you look carefully, you can see the evil eye hiding in the filigree:

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We then hiked 4 km up the valley and stopped for lunch (included with the tour) at a local restaurant. On the way, I passed a bunch (paddling? raft?) of ducks on the water.

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After lunch, we drove to the Selime Monastery, a complete monastic complex carved into the rock. Rumor has it that the monastery was the inspiration for the caves of the sand people (Tusken raiders) in the original Star Wars movie. When George Lucas was unable to get permission to film in Cappadocia, he reconstructed something similar in Tunisia. Although our guide said that this is almost certainly false, the landscape around the monastery evokes a Star Wars-esque feeling

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These are the columns and arches of the cathedral, the most impressive stucture in the monstery:

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This structure is labeled as the church:

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Finally, here is the "Star Wars" view, looking out from one of the towers:

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I would have liked to spend longer at Selime, but it was an hour's drive back to Goreme, and there were still a few stops left on the tour. The first of these was a jewelry shop. While this was mostly an excuse to sell us stuff, the proprietor did show us some interesting things, including a stone called Zultanite ("magic stone") which turns at least three different colors under different types of light. We also were given a demonstration in which "onyxman" carved an egg out of a solid block of onyx; the entire process, including polishing, took no more than five minutes.

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Finally, we stopped by Guvercinlik (Pigeon Valley, named for the numerous "pigeonholes" in the rock) to get one more spectacular view of the area.

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Although I wish I had felt a little less rushed, overall the tour was a good experience, and it allowed me to see some amazing sites that would have otherwise been difficult to reach.