I write this article on a plane bound for Egypt after having spent 18 days in Turkey. Although I have a few more articles to write about this surprisingly magical country, I can tell you right now… Goreme is going to be hard to beat.
As with most of Turkey, Lorna did most of the planning and I didn’t have a clue what to expect of Goreme. Basically we had just experienced the blissful tree-houses, ruins and Cirili Beach of Olympus and asked the management to organize a bus later that day to take us there. We were told the bus wouldn’t arrive until 5 p.m. but we’d be allowed a late-checkout until it came. I used the rest of this time to continue shooting a little writing/travelling solo-movie in their bar-workout area which will eventually be found on this website.
At 5 p.m. a service bus picked us up from the tree-house, as promised, and drove us a few kilometers to the top of the hill to a restaurant. There we waited for the Antalya bus to drive us to the Antalya Bus Station. That took an hour and a half.
It’s like being on another planet at Antalya Bus Station. People stare at you and everything feels edgy. Have you ever had to go through a metal detector at a bus station before? Yeah. Now you’re getting the idea.
At 8:30 p.m. we hopped on an overnight bus headed for Goreme which would take about eleven hours.
Now. Let me tell you a thing or two about overnight bus travel in Turkey, because we took at least six bus trips during our stay in the country.
An overnight bus is basically a large-Greyhound-type bus, where the seats lean back, but not all the way. There’s not much leg room but it’s more comfortable than the standard buses we ride in Australia. There are a few drawbacks though.
Firstly, no matter what time of year, local Turks seem to have a lower core-temperature than Australians because the bus drivers crank up the heat as soon as they start the engine. I found it doesn’t matter if you’re on an overnighter or a smaller service bus, especially in the off-season, each driver wants as much heat pumping out of the heating ducts lining the bus near your feet at all times. Often we were seated near other Australians and it wasn’t just Lorna and I, our fellow-Aussies would complain to the attendants with minimal results. On this particular trip I really wanted to create a fuss so I even went up to talk to the bus-driver himself for my fourth complaint. Instead of turning the heating off, which he simply can’t comprehend doing, I was treated to three-minutes of air conditioning before an old Turkish lady toward the front of the bus complained. I kid-you-not, although it was only about two-degrees outside, at one point I had my jeans rolled up, shoes off and only a singlet on, with sweat pouring off my forehead and down my back while two local ladies in front and behind me had jumpers and blankets over themselves. Be warned.
Second, not all Turks, but a majority of them on the buses… They don’t smell so good.
Thirdly, most of the time the bus drivers are on their cell phones or talk their heads off with eyes-off-the-road to an assistant. They pay no attention to the white lines on the road and honk the horn every few minutes as though it’s a musical instrument. They’re not scared to overtake other cars at night around blind corners either.
If you can afford it and if the option is available, (and if you enjoy being alive) I’d say fly instead. If you must take a bus though, choose a good company by asking them if the bus has in-built TVs in the back of the seats. The more modern and comfortable buses do. At least then you’ve got a chance.
Twelve hours later and we arrived in Goreme. I’d gotten about four-broken-hours of sleep, but as the sun rose over the mountains and hot-air-balloons floated by like scenes from Alice in Wonderland, I instantly realized why Lorna had chosen to bring us here and I gave her a kiss on the cheek. (Note to guys – although it seems quite gay and you’d never do it in front of your mates, never underestimate a gentle kiss on the cheek.)
At the bus station we were turfed-out around 8 a.m. and it was frigging freezing. The spectacle of the balloons floating-by and the caves and fairy-chimneys surrounding us helped to briefly forget about the cold though. For a while at least. The tourist-info guy made a call to the Star Cave Hotel and asked them to come pick us up, but their bus was already taking people to the airport. Didn’t matter though, we were told we could walk for ten minutes ourselves toward the main mosque, turn right and then follow the signs. The only problems was, although the amazing environment had been distracting my freezing mind up until that point, I was, in fact, only rocking-around in a singlet with my jeans still rolled-up while breathing out a heap of fake-smoke ala Leonardo DiCaprio in the soppy-hit-movie, Titanic.
I quickly dressed more appropriately and we found the place easily enough. A cool young guy by the name of Mammut greeted us and told us to take a seat inside the fire-lit (albeit basic) reception and then disappeared. This is when we met the house-puppy named Hani.
Ten minutes later Mammut brought in two fresh plates of omelets, vegetables and Turkish coffee.
Now. Don’t get me wrong here. The coffee was gratefully received but… Turkish coffee is the worst crap you’re ever going to drink in your life. You may be a coffee drinker normally, but here’s a free tip for you… always go with a Turkish tea or even the tourist equivalent – an apple tea instead, over a coffee.
After breakfast (which was surprisingly good for Turkey) we were shown to our cave! Yes, you read that right, we were about to spend four nights in a frigging cave!
The Goreme caves and “fairy-chimneys” (in the Cappadocia region of Turkey) are said to have been lived-in from anywhere up to around 5000 years ago.
Apparently the termite-nest-type-formations occurred thousands of years earlier when a local volcano erupted and flattened the entire area. Large floods would have then played a major part in siphoning the softer mud-type-rock away from the more-dense stuff, leaving what looked to be these tall, thin rock formations. It wouldn’t have taken a rocket-scientist to figure out you can carve a cave out of the left-over formations with a bit of elbow-grease.
Okay, don’t quote me on any of that, but yes… that is my scientific explanation.
Anyway, the ancient local Cappadocians didn’t only build houses out of these things, they built churches and whole towns.
And they built small homes for pidgeons to live in.
The aim being to harvest the pigeon droppings to use as fertilizer for their crops.
While I we were staying in town though, I also met another cool guy named Selim who ran a hotel in the area called Gultekin Pension and Hotel. Selim, the bastard – he took me for four-games in a row at pool at the best restaurant and bar in town called Fat Boys. After kicking my arse, and making me buy him four beers (our wager), he took me and a few new buddies I met back to his hotel and made us all breakfast. His hotel looks nice, is right near the bus station, has one of the best views in town from his rooftop, is close to Fat Boys and… well, Selim is a nice guy. Still, the stay at Star Cave was great.
On the first day we did one of the two tours on offer called the Green Tour. This tour takes you to the Derinkuyu underground city, which is where the locals used to hide from would-be-attackers around five-thousand years ago.
And as recently as the Roman period of the 5th century.
We walked through the Ihlara Valley, which is basically a giant crack through Goreme with house-caves and churches built into its side. It’s the deepest gorge in Anatolia and again, thousands of years ago, people used to live and worship in these caves.
We visited Pigeon Valley. I mentioned above why the local Cappadocians cared so much about housing pigeons. Were you paying attention? Do you actually read anything I bloody write in these-here pages, or are you one of these buggers who only look at the pretty pictures?
And we visited the Selime Monastery and various other churches built inside the local mountains.
The next day we did the Red Tour, which mainly consisted of visiting the open-air museum, some more churches and other sites that resembled the day before.
I’d recommend only doing the Green Tour. You should probably skip the Red Tour. Maybe hire a scooter and visit the open-air museum yourself.
That night, Lorna was a little sick so I had to go-it alone to a great-little-night you should attend called Turkish Nights while in town. Whichever agency organizes the Green Tour for you will also be able to hook you up with this. Basically for around $30 AU per head, you are driven to a Turkish restaurant where local Turkish dancers perform a religious dervish dance. After that they bring out heaps of local food and as much local beer and wine as you can drink in two-hours. Good times! But the best part… it involves a belly dancer coming out to perform for you. She makes quite an entrance, but I won’t spoil it here. Oh, and you’ll laugh you arse off when the local Americans in the audience start putting bills in her bra strap as she’s frowning.
Then again. Maybe you won’t.
I met a couple of cool peeps on the night going by the names of Jono and Leah. We had one of those magic nights where we were complete strangers but also instantly clicked. I don’t really remember how it all happened, but we ended up buying plates from the restaurant with our faces printed on them?!
The next day Lorna and I got up at 4 a.m. so she could go hot-air ballooning over Goreme! It was an amazing experience for her to be up there, as she’s always wanted to do it. It costs around $150 AU, but as you can see from the photos, it’s just another experience in Turkey that you will never forget.
After spending four days in Goreme and our lives feeling all-the-better for visiting, we made our way to the bus station later that night for another thirteen-hour hell-trip on the stupid-bloody-boiling-hot overnight-bus headed for Istanbul.
At that point though, because Goreme had been so worth-it, we were willing to put up with anything.
Or so we thought.
Rob Kaay is an Australian author and musician.
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157625307665169″]