Underground city and Ihlara Gorge tour

August 14, 2005

Today is tour day. After much consideration and deliberation we decided to book a group tour which included the most popular sites of the area. We are finding along the way that we really aren't big tour people but after pricing out the transportation and entry fees to the sites we decided the tour made more sense financially. The tour departed at 9:00 am and our first stop was to one of the two underground cities. Walking through the city I got the impression that the claustrophobic would have a real problems living in such quarters. There were tunnels and long, narrow flights of stairs throughout the city and they had everything one would expect within a city. There were churches, markets areas, livestock pens, oil storage, wine presses and deep wells for water. The city we toured had about 8 levels carved into the earth. The inhabitants would live within these cities until it was safe to move back to their villages. I would've loved to really go exploring through the cities but the masses of tour groups made that impossible.

The next stop was the Ihlara Gorge where we would hike 4 kms with the group and had the option to walk the remaining 9 kms on our own. We decided to bring our own lunch and walk the remainder of the gorge on our own. One other couple had decided to do the same but we saw them hanging back from the group at the beginning and it seemed that they went another way completely. While the others stopped for lunch we walked another 1/2 mile and sat next to the meandering stream while feasting on vegetable sandwiches and carrots. The hike got really nice the further into the gorge we walked. The path continued along the stream and it was shaded with large trees which was a great break from the intense sun and heat of Turkey.

As the trail ended we were to find the rest of our group at a nearby cemetery but as there weren't any signs or markers to the cemetery we weren't sure which was to turn. Fortunately a family came around the corner and we played a nice game of Pictionary in the gravel road and the mother was able to decipher my picture as a cemetery and pointed us in the right direction. It was almost 3:30, which was our time to join the group, so we were happy that we found the meeting place in time. As the rest of the group climbed the rock formations in the area we met up with the tour leader and she indicated that the other couple arrived 30 minutes after us at the lunch point so there were a way behind us. That afforded us the ability to do some climbing ourselves and take a nice break in the shade of the caves. We waited another hour for the other couple to arrive and when they did they didn't look happy and either were many in our group. They promptly started a disagreement with our tour leader that she should've given them 2 hours to finish the hike and she let them know we finished in time to make the cutoff. We stayed out of it but had to wonder why they would even start such a disagreement when we knew they weren't walking with the group the entire trek.

A stop in Avanos to visit a local pottery shop was our next stop. We were shown how the local pottery is made and we able to watch the painters create the intricate details on the vases, plates and wine holders. My eyes hurt just watching them paint line after line on 3 ft tall vases. The shop also asked if anyone would like to try throwing some clay and after 2 minutes of silence I spoke up and got to try my skills out on the wheel. They gave me another set of great pants to wear and helped me through the steps of creating a simple bowl. It was really fun and it definitely reaffirmed my interest in taking a pottery class when we get back from our trip.

Once the group got their pottery shopping done we headed to the local fairy chimneys to watch the sunset. The fairy chimneys are thick layers of volcanic which had eroded into numerous shapes and some of the locals dubbed them fairy chimneys. As you enter the chimneys you could still see the stairs which were etched into the walls of the chimneys but with our large feet we had to use the nearby ladders to climb the chambers.

Once we arrived back into Goreme we stopped at a cheap restaurant for some tasty Turkish pizza. Along with Turkish Delight and apple tea (really just apple cider) the Turkish pizza is one of our favorite local foods.

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