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The Ihlara Canyon

By Hannah

sunny 20 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley

Today we left city life behind and went for a trek through the Ihlara Canyon. Since Dad's back wasn't exactly in peak condition, Abby, Mom, and I started off without him. We'd planned for him to pick us up at the other side of the canyon. It was a warm, windy day, and we were thrilled with the good timing of the weather. Apparently it's going to drop from 20 °C to 0 °C tomorrow, as well as rain. Lucky timing on our part.

There are a number of old caves that were used for churches and dwellings carved into the sides of the canyon. Our first stop was at one of these churches, which was covered in fading frescoes. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of graffiti, but it was still beautiful, and full of twists and turns and hidey holes. We went further into the cave, climbing up steep, dusty steps in order to reach the second storey. One of the rooms was pitch black, and as I ventured further into it, I stepped into one of the many sunken areas of the caves, and dropped a couple feet into the darkness. It gave Abby and Mom a scare, and certainly got my blood pumping. I was warier of the other shadowy, cavernous unknowns I encountered after that.

We continued along the trail, and soon came across a tea and snack shop, with several tables and chairs constructed from stumps spread across the path. The owner definitely has the best location he could hope for. We were urged to sit down and buy a tea, but we refused, astounded that anyone could drink hot tea in this weather. He persisted, however, and presented us with two refrigerators filled with juice and Fanta. So we ended up purchasing a couple of the overpriced drinks and settling down on the stumps. Turns out the fridges were just for show, as the drinks were as warm as the water in our backpacks. We were also instantly visited by swarms of pesky flies, so we quickly moved on.

Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley

The walk was fairly flat and smooth, and the scenery was gorgeous. The only downside was the buzzing, biting flies that would attack whenever the wind died down. Marvelling at the towering cliffs about us, we nearly missed the steadily approaching orange dot on the trail. Then Abby yelled "Daddy!" and barrelled towards it. Dad had decided to take a shot at the trek, as it had been one of his highlights when he planned the Turkey leg (haha) of our trip. Though he was bent like a nail hit by an amateur carpenter, he wasn't in half the pain he was yesterday. We were happy he'd gotten to have at least part of the canyon experience.

We stopped at another church that was quite similar to the first, though more open and decorated with frescoes that seemed to have done better at surviving the elements. There were more cliff-side dwellings nearby as well, but they were a little out of reach for the casual hiker.

We passed the parking lot and ticket booth, and started on the next portion of our walk. We parted ways with Dad once more, who decided he'd do the same thing as before and drove to the other end of the trail. The three of us continued alongside the stream running through the centre of the canyon, taking it all in. Eventually, our level riverside path gave way to rockier terrain. We climbed higher and higher up and along the boulder strewn side of the cliff, and ended up coming across a flock of sheep being lead up and over the rocks by a pair of shepherds. A couple of the braver animals kept to the path until forced to skirt around us, but most scampered off the trail as soon as they saw us coming. We in turn had to avoid the numerous droppings covering the path for the next few hundred metres.

At the seven kilometre mark, we spotted a sign that pointed upwards towards another cliff-side mosque. It took some scrambling off the beaten path to reach, but it provided a nice if mainly beige view of the canyon. We opened up our packs and made a lunch of the fruit, nuts and seeds we'd brought along. Relaxing in the cool of the cave, Mom told us that she was perfectly content. Abby was quick to point out that this meant Mom was happier without Dad there, which may have tainted the sentiment a bit. But it really was a great moment. I think that even Dad agrees that it's good for the three of us to have some time without his male influence.

Selime Cathedral (stone church)

Selime Cathedral (stone church)

Getting back down to the trail was a bit more difficult that climbing up, but we managed alright. We continued walking, and soon spotted the orange dot again. Reunited, we completed our tour of the Ihlara Canyon. At this end of the canyon rests the Selime Cathedral, a labyrinth of stairs and caves and fairy chimneys. Here's a video that will give you a much better idea of what it was like than I can. Let's just say it's nothing like Notre Dame. We entertained ourselves exploring the cathedral for the better part of an hour, and left just as a horde of tourists ascended. I'm going to miss the off season.

We returned to our hotel tired and slightly sunburnt. Mom and Dad went to see the Kizil Kilise, or Red Church, which they summed up as nice but nothing special. They also tried and failed to find Monastery Valley. We'll give it another shot tomorrow. We had dinner at the hotel again, and were served much more than we could ever eat, all of it tasty. Through our meals here we've learned that Turkish food isn't all döner and durum and pide, though you can always expect three or four kinds of starch on your plate.

Tomorrow is a travel day, and we'll be off to Göreme, a town about an hour and a half from Güzelyurt. Wow, two umlauts in a row.

Posted by KZFamily 10:34 Archived in Turkey Tagged canyon turkey cathedral guzelyurt ihlara selime Comments (2)

Exploring the Caravanserai

BY ABBY

sunny 22 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today was a travel day, and we drove from Konya to Guzelyurt in Cappadocia. The drive took quite a long time, considering that we only had to drive 185 km. The trip was pretty uneventful, as we travelled on the same straight road for 113 kilometers of it. But we had planned for some sightseeing so that we had something to keep us sane during the long hours of driving. We stopped at a Caravanserais (in Sultanhami) along the way, and unfortunately, three tour buses stopped there as well. But we managed to avoid most of the people and enjoyed looking around the places that camels would have stayed almost a thousand years ago. The walls around the caravanserais were guarded by three sleepy dogs, which didn't bat an eye as the hoards of people walked through to their domain. There was a covered area that was used for the winter, which was quite large and reminded us of the building of a church. There were many high pillars that came together in arches, and plenty of ground space for where the animals would have stayed. It was empty other than a few dull lights, some old machinery and some loud (and annoying) birds. There was also an uncovered courtyard-like area that they would have stored the camels in during the summer. It was surrounded by high walls and there was a kiosk-mosque in the centre of the area. There were also steps leading up the top of the walls surrounding the area, but these were "forbidden to go up". However, we were able to go up the stairs of the kiosk-mosque, which was interesting. Hannah, my mom and I went up, as my dad watched us from the ground below. Hannah and my mom explored the highest level as well.

Kiosk mosque (on the left) in the caravanserai

Kiosk mosque (on the left) in the caravanserai

We left happy, and after checking out a few stalls and shops, were back on the road again. We stopped at a small green space with some picnic tables to enjoy our lunch of wraps, veggies, fruit and nuts. As you see we are very healthy people, and of course we didn't have any Nutella with that.

Winter dwellings of the caravanserai

Winter dwellings of the caravanserai

Our new place is unlike anywhere we have stayed before. It is a "cave hotel", but not a very authentic one (a more genuine one is coming soon) as it is made out of stone bricks rather than a natural cave. It is very old and historic and looks more like a castle room. But we are happy all the same, and for the nights we are here we will be basically the only ones staying. However, the day we leave they are expecting 70 people to come, so we now understand their need for 65 rooms. The four of us occupy two rooms, in a small house, but because we are the only ones here, the common area is more of a rarely used living room. The hotel has its own restaurant, one of only two in the whole town, and is where we had our evening meal.

But before we had our dinner, the ones of us who were able (have a guess at who couldn't come) set out for a short walk to explore. We didn't see very much but we were able to stop at a tourist office to get some information. We were offered tea there, and now that I think about it, we were foolish not to take up the offer.

Guzelyurt Accommodations

Guzelyurt Accommodations

Dinner was large and very tasty. We had a starter of some mushroom soup and bread, a salad, and our main course was a chicken dish served with rice and a side of fries. We are a little worried about how much it costs, as we are pretty sure a meal like that would not be included in a room rate, but we'll just have to wait and see. I'm pretty excited to see what we'll be having for breakfast tomorrow.

We ended the evening with some games of backgammon, some West Wing, and a couple fruit platters delivered right to our rooms by one of the friendly employees. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Posted by KZFamily 01:05 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey guzelyurt Comments (1)

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