I’ve given my wife a lot of blank looks over the years but when she told me we were off to Goreme for a holiday I had to dig deep into my repertoire of bemused expressions. I settled for a bland gaze with my eyes twitching quizzically to the left and right. Then I did some research.
Goreme is a small town in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey. It is ‘famous’ for; developing the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, inspiring the set of Star Wars ‘A New Hope’, picturesque cave houses and hotels carved into the rock of the landscape, and over thirty cities dug underground over 1000 years ago capable of hiding 20 000 people with provisions and livestock. Quite a set of achievements, I guess the place deserves to be more famous. In truth the landscape would be considered amazing even if a human had never set foot there; balloon rides at dawn are a very popular way to view the topography if you aren’t scared of heights. Ah well…
On this kind of trip the local people are part of the deal. A big part of the story of this holiday for me was my chest infection; which eventually saw me bunged into a hospital and stuck on a drip with a suspected heart attack in the middle of the night. It was a process that took a week but in that time I swear I exhausted every home remedy Turkey has to offer for a snotty chest. Everywhere we went everybody had a cure their grandma taught them and every waiter, every hotelier, cared enough to give me their version of it.
An unsuspected benefit of coughing 24/7 was that it woke me in the night. In Goreme the muezzin waits for dawn to rise over the distant valley cliffs. At the merest glimpse he begins his call to prayer around 5.00 am. Armed with a good Shure 58 microphone, some pricey Bose speakers, and the natural resonance of the stone landscape he chants,
I would go to the window and peep out as the sun peeped into the valley. It was sublime and ethereal. I’d heard the call to prayer elsewhere and just thought it was a noise. In Goreme it sounded more like a meditative chant, it was beautiful. It’s hard to explain, but in the same way Church bells heard in the English countryside sound so perfect, the call to prayer had the same effect there. It fitted.
Though Goreme itself is worth a day’s exploration it is the kind of place where you arrange trips out. On your doorstep Goreme open air museum is the remains of a town-sized monastic community that was carved out of the rock. It’s got homes and churches with 1000-year-old Byzantine art on the walls. The museum raises the question why they didn’t just build houses like everyone else. The explanation lies in the volcanic rock and the way it has been weathered over time. I’m no geologist…
Kaymakli Underground City is pretty amazing (if a little scary) with four floors of the city open to tourists. The purpose of the all this dwarfish burrowing was defence; if an army was passing by the people just hid till they had gone. The city below ground had everything a city above would have, with added claustrophobia.
We went in summer, it was hot and sunny as you’d expect in Turkey. In winter it is cold and snows due to the relatively high altitude. There’s plenty to see and you can even try the local sweeties. In the UK you know when your box of chocolates can be slung in the bin. There’s only two, lonely, unwanted ones left. A vile, rose flavoured, gelatinous cube covered in dark chocolate we call ‘Turkish Delight’. The real thing is usually fruit flavoured with a light dusting of flour; gorgeous.
Goreme has no shortage of restaurants from the cheap and cheerful to the rather posh and pricey. As usual, check reviews on TripAdvisor. We never had a bad meal, in fact, you really don’t need to visit the expensive ones. Ask you hotel to book as they can get busy in high season. There was a little cafe which several people claimed did the best lentil soup on earth and, to be fair, I’ve never had better lentil soup. I appreciate it’s a long way to go just for a bowl of lentil soup but, maybe you’re really into lentil soup and I’m not judging you for that.
Should I go?
Yes, it’s worth a trip for a maximum five days in my opinion. However, the ‘middle of Cappadocia’ is rather ‘in the middle of nowhere’. The flight from Istanbul to Kayseri near Goreme takes just over an hour. Most visitors go there as part of a bigger trip; especially the backpackers on a world tour. We spent about five nights in Goreme, two nights in Selçuk (to visit Ephesus) and a week in Kalkan. All of these places were good; Goreme was special.
If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the comic novel I’ve recently published. As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.