Due to space limitations, I'm posting a series of tips on Goreme Open Air Museum, rather than putting them all together in a single entry, starting with the following general tip on practicalities of visiting this World Heritage Site:
1) Going there - if you're staying in Goreme, it's an easy 1-km walk from the village center to the museum, albeit uphill. But you'd be rewarded with wonderful views along the way, and may even be tempted to venture to some diverting paths leading to some pleasant surprises.
2) Tickets - easily purchased at the entrance, costing YTL 10 as of October 2007.
3) Cameras and tripods - the former are allowed, the latter, big no no, so is flash photography. Since the cave churches are dimly lit inside, getting good shots without the flash is a challenge. Another tripod-carrying tourist I was with had to argue with the guards - but to no avail. Perhaps they don't want tourists taking commercial quality photos?
4) There's another one down the road - don't forget to visit another church, Tokali Kilise (Buckle Church) down the hill outside the main museum compound (on the road back to the village). Just show your ticket to the guide. Make sure you visit this church the same day you visit the main compound, although a little bit of friendly persuasion (and a smile and some Turkish phrases) will get you through the gate even if you're carrying an expired, pre-dated ticket.
Many say that Kapadokya has all the ingredients - attractions, weather, topography - for a great ballooning destination. I can't agree more with this. If you have the budget (EUR 210 for a 2-hr ride) and are visiting Goreme during the ballooning months from April through November, this is a must-do.
I registered with Kapadokya Balloons for my first balloon adventure. It's ran by British couple Lars and Kaili, who do the piloting themselves, and their firm is regarded as the best in the region, having been pioneers. Safety is paramount and the fee includes insurance.
The whole experience was an absolute delight. As you soar through the clouds, everyone is spellbound by the peacefulness of the ascent, with only camera shutters and ohhs and ahhs punctuating the silence. And then it gets better - you fly above the fairy chimneys, get up close with them, survey the out of this world landscape, get bowled over by sublime views...I'll let the pictures speak for the whole experience.
A word of caution though: the whole affair depends on the weather and wind direction, so there could be instances when rides have to be cancelled. You also have to wake up pretty early in the morning (around 5 am) as ballooning conditions are most conducive (and safe) at sunrise - which adds drama to the whole experience.
Definitely well worth every penny.
Another name of this Church is the Dark Church. It was a monastic compound built in the 11th century. It is a domed church with one main apse, two small apses and four columns. It was decorated with scenes from the New Testament: Christ Pantokrator, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, First Bath, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, Crucifixion, Anastasis.
After the Turkish invasion it was used as a pigeon house until 1950s. After 14 years of scraping pigeon droppings off the walls we can see these newly restored frescoes with scenes from the New Testament. They are the best preserved in Cappadocia and a fine example of XI-th century Byzantine art. Part of the narthex or vestibule however collapsed opening part of the church's roof to the sky. This caused damage to the fresco with Christ’s Ascension and the Benediction of the Saints, whereas the other scenes are only partially remain where the wall collapsed.
The church's name possibly comes from a small oculus looking out of the narthex which only lets in a very small amount of light. This feature is what has preserved the richness of the pigments and allowed them survived the test of time.
You have to pay extra fee to visit this church (may that's why it isn't overcrowded, haha!).
Learn more at wiki/Churches of Goreme or goreme.org/churches/karanlik.
You may watch my high resolution photo of Goreme Open Air Museum on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 38° 38' 19.20" N 34° 50' 44.26" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Karanlik Kilise or the Dark Church .
You may watch my 2 min 36 sec VIDEO-Clip Goreme Karanlik Kilise Part III with Greek Orthodox music out of my Youtube channel.
Balloon Rides - are one of the most popular activities in Goreme. Typically lifting off at sunrise, these rides last around 45 minutes and literally go wherever the wind may blow in the Cappadocia Valley. The balloon carriages hold around ten people with the pilot riding air currents much like a boat, floating down the valleys, often below the ridge line and quite close to the chimney rocks.
It's a fantastic ride and if you've ever had the urge to splurge on a balloon ride (approx. €150) this would be the place to do it. Several hot air balloon companies offer dawn balloon rides, claiming they are better than anywhere else in the world. Ask around about safety records, as some operators are better than others.
Have a look at my tourist trap tip and you will know about my intention to take a balloon ride!
It is said that within Kapadokya, there are more than 30 underground cities with some dating back to as early as 4,000 years ago during the time of the Hittites. These underground cities became a place of refuge for the inhabitants here during times of invasion.
Of these troglodyte dwellings, Derinkuyu, located 10 kms south of the town of Kaymakli is said to be one of the largest and very popular with tourists. I visited the city as a part of an day tour that took me to some of Kapadokya's major attractions outside Goreme.
While it's one of the larger underground cities, Derinkuyu, does possess a challenge for larger-built visitors as some parts are connected by narrow passages that even petite Asian tourists have to crawl through (so imagine how bad it is for another traveler who was a 6'3" professional baseball player in the States).
The greatest fun in exploring Derinkuyu is perhaps looking up through the ventilation shaft seven levels above, to see how deep you're into it. Those with claustrophobia may find this a very unpleasant experience. Bring a torch (flashlight) to help you maximize sightseeing opportunities below.
Entrance fee as of October 2007: YTL 5 (included in the YTL 50 tour fee).
What can I say? I haven't the words. The immensity of the hot-air balloon itself, the thinness of the material, the early morning hour, the size of the flames shooting out of the heater, I am at a loss to describe it all. Absolute silence, not even a bird and then *boom* the flames roar and heat up the air inside the balloon making it fight to rise while still tied down to the jeeps and 4WD vehicles…
And if that is hard to put into words, well the experience itself of floating gently and silently over the fields, over rock valley, over fairy towers and fantastically shaped rocks. All I can say is, if you ever have the chance – Do It! There is nothing like it. Ballooning can easily become addictive…I'm almost glad that it isn't available at home.
The sights, the feelings, the people and the balloonist himself were almost an existential experience.
Another name of this church is the Church of the Buckle. It is the largest church in Göreme. This Church is formed of four chambers: the Old Church, the larger New Church, the Paracclesion and the Lower Church.
The Old Church dates to the 10th century. It was originally a single-naved barrel-vaulted church. But its apse was destroyed when the New Church was added at the end of the 10th or early 11th century. Now the Old Church provides entrance to the New Church.
One noted feature of the church is the main nave containing ninth century frescoes in "provincial" style. The church contains frescoes of the twelve apostles, the saints and scenes from the life of Jesus. The church also has a crypt underneath the nave.
Learn more at wiki/Churches of Goreme or goreme.org/churches/tokali.
You may watch my high resolution photo of Goreme Open Air Museum on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 38° 38' 24.44" N 34° 50' 42.02" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Tokali Kilise or the Church of the Buckle .
The 10th-century Buckle Church is known as the oldest rock cut church in Cappadocia - and probably one of the biggest and most fabulously decorated. Like the Dark Church, the limited amount of light created the special conditions that preserved most of the frescoes for today's tourists to enjoy.
I liked every inch of this church and spent nearly an hour examining every corner of this double-chambered church. The images of Christ and many saints have been beautifully preserved and make you truly thankful that religions bring out the best in humans (don't we all wish this is the case all the time?).
It's also amazing to think that this church, which is the biggest in Goreme, was cut within a single rock with all those columns and naves - think about the skill that went into this, perhaps with the best tools they could get their hands on at that time.
Whether by car or by foot (like me) on your way to the Zelve Open Air Museum you are going to pass the Devrent Valley. This valley sometimes known at the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys. Clusters of the these bizarre conical shaped rock formations are scattered all over Cappadocia but it is here at Devrent that you will find the most interesting formations. The formations were formed by the erosion of the soft rock beneath the harder surface rock on top. Apparently this process is known as differential erosion.
Over the years, in the 10th and 11th century in particular, the locals carved into homes and churches into to lower base of the cones. These churches can be explored today free of charge. However the one problems with this part of Cappadocia is that it is saturated with souvenior stands and touts. Therefore though it is amongst the most interesting sites in the region, it is also the most annoying.
Kaymakli is one of the two great underground cities in the Cappadocia. There are actually many more underground cities but as Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are the two largest and largely excavated, they receive the most visitors. Of the two Kaymakli is the most popular as it is closer to the hotels in Goreme.
It is a labyrinth of tunnels dug 20m into the earth and consists of four levels. Many more levels have yet to excavated. The Hittites built these tunnels as a defensive system against other warring peoples. Supposedly the cave systems could accommodate up to 30,000 people. Although the Kaymakli was initially built by the Hittites, it was enlarged by early Christians who had hoped to hide from raiding Arabs during the Dark Ages. Hence there are some surprisingly large churches in the catacombs along with storerooms, kitchens, dining halls and stables for livestock.
I found that Kaymakli is much more confining that Derinkuyu in that the passages seemed smaller. This might freak some people out as some of the passage ways are also quite dark. This is why it is best to go with a guide into the tunnels. The possibility of getting lost is quite strong.
Kaymakli from 8am to 6pm and till 5pm in the off season. It cost $7.00US to enter.
The Ihlara Valley is one of the most pleasant excursions from Cappadocia. The valley is actually a canyon about 5km long near the town of Ihlara. It was inhabited by Byzantine monks who about a thousand years ago, carved a series of churches into the walls of the canyon. These in themselves are quite interesting to visit are quite interesting to visit. However even if you do not visit the churches, the valley is worth exploring for the splendid scenery. As compared to the rest of the region in Central Turkey, the valley is very verdant. It takes about 2.5 hours to walk the length of the valley. Bring good walking shoes as some of the paths are rather rugged.
I took a tour to the valley as it is rather difficult to reach from Goreme by public transport. The one problem with this was that the tour rushed through the valley a little too quickly for my liking. I would have like to explore a couple of more churches.
The canyon can only be entered through for entrances along the canyon walls. To enter you must pay $2.00US. The valley is open for exploration from 8am to 7pm.
There are many underground cities in the Cappadocia area.
The biggest and deepest is Derinkuyu Underground City. There are eight floors and extend at a depth of approximately 85 m.
Here you will find all that they needed to survive with, such as wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels. One room was used as a religious school and the rooms to the left were studies. Between the third and fourth levels is a vertical staircase. This passage way leads to a cruciform church on the lowest level.
The large 55 m ventilation shaft appears to have been used as a well. The shaft also provided water to both the villagers above and, if the outside world was not accessible, to those in hiding.
First built by the Phrygians in the 8th–7th centuries B.C , the Derinkuyu underground city was enlarged in the Byzantine era. The city could be closed from inside with large stone doors. With storerooms and wells that made long stays possible, the city had air shafts which are up to 100 feet (30 m) deep.
Derinkuyu is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey. The complex has a total 11 floors, though many floors have not been excavated. It has an area of 2,000 square feet, with a possible total area of 7,000 square feet (650 m2). Each floor could be closed off separately. The city was connected with other underground cities through miles of long tunnels. The city could accommodate between 20,000 and 50,000 people.
It was good being on a tour as our guide informed and showed us everything that you could see. It was very interesting. I wished we could have seen one of the large stone doors, they weighed half a ton!!!
I also have seen an underground city in Vietnam, so I could compare the two!
OPEN DAILY 8 - 5pm
Do not know admission charge as I was on a Tour.
The 6-7 storey rock mass to the left of the museum entrance is known as the "Nunnery". The dining hall, kitchen and some rooms on the first floor, together with the ruined chapel on the second level, can still be visited.
You may watch my high resolution photo of Goreme Open Air Museum on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 38° 38' 22.62" N 34° 50' 41.33" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Nunnery and Monastery .
Another name of this church is the Apple Church. The name of the church is believed to refer to a reddish orb in the left hand of the Archangel Michael in the dome of the main apse, or possibly to an apple tree that grew in the vicinity. It is a smaller cave church.
It was built around 1050AD and has carved into four irregular pillars the sign of a Greek cross with these pillars support its central dome. The church's paintings depict scenes of the saints, bishops, and martyrs. The Last Supper with the symbolic fish (the letters of the word fish stand for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior") is located to the right of the altar.
Learn more at wiki/Churches of Goreme or goreme.org/churches/elmali.
You may watch my high resolution photo of Goreme Open Air Museum on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 38° 38' 19.91" N 34° 50' 41.68" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Elmali Kilise or the Apple Church .
You may watch my 2 min 22 sec VIDEO-Clip Goreme Elmali Kilise and Barbara Kilise Part II with Mount Athos Orthdox church music out of my Youtube channel.
Another name of this church is the Church of Saint Barbara. Built in the late XI-th Century A.D, the church was possibly built as a tribute to the Martyr-Saint. The church has the same layout as Çarikli Kilise.
The church has a cross-dome with one central apse, two side apses and two columns. The dome depicts Christ on the Throne with geometrical patterns painted in red ochre, painted directly on the rock, believed to be symbolic in nature. Another fresco with the large locust possibly representing evil, which is warded off by the protection of two adjacent crosses. The north wall of the church contains a fresco of St. George and St Theodore on horse-back struggling against the dragon and snake.
Learn more at wiki/Churches of Goreme or goreme.org/churches/barbara.