Subterranean Turkey – Curious Cappadocia

Subterranean Turkey – Curious Cappadocia

Subterranean Turkey – Curious Cappadocia

It would be easy, in my profession, to become a little inured to spectacular beauty and gorgeous vistas.  After all, I spend my days researching and selling some of the most beautiful places on earth to would-be explorers and travellers and my evenings scouring other travel blogs for tidbits of information and the Next Great Place. Once you’ve seen 100 aquamarine-water-and-white-sands paradises, you’ve seen them all, right?

Wrong.  I can never quite overcome my awe at some of the things I see when I put together leisure itineraries.  Even the most over-commercialised tourist traps can offer up unexpected gems for the mindful traveler, if you know where to look.  Be it a previously-neglected view, a transcendent dining experience or an off-the-wall cultural encounter, the world offers an overabundance of wonderful things to discover, no matter where you are.

That being said (and bearing in mind that I am of the over-enthusiastic brand of traveller, who gets very excited about mints on my pillow), there are some experiences that exist in a whole different orbit, even to the jaded seen-it-all variety of traveller.  I encountered one this week, when TheNutLady contacted me requesting information about “a place that looks like fairy castles and caves that my friend visited a few hours away from Istanbul, that starts with a G…”.

Thank God for Google.  She was talking about the open-air museum of Goreme, in the fantasy-like landscape of Cappadocia – a place I’d heard of but had never actively researched.  And so began a magical afternoon of rock spires and mystical caverns began, transporting me to an other-worldly moonscape where nature and culture and history collide in spell bounding fashion.  If ever there was a must-see destination, it’s this one.

Cappadocia has several underground cities of which the open-air museum at Goreme is one, dating back to 300 AD and used throughout history as places of refuge and worship by early Christians.  The underground city of Derinkuyu, also in Cappadocia, could accommodate up to 20 000 people at its height, and had stables, wine presses, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, school and chapels.  The soft volcanic rock of the Cappadocia region eroded over centuries to produce intricate cave-systems which have been inhabited by people since the 7th century BC.

Today, you can stay in one of the many hotels in the region and experience living in a cave for yourself.  There are regular flights from Istanbul to Kayseri Airport, and the trip takes about an hour.  From Kayseri, it’s a 45-60 minute road transfer to Cappadocia and there are dozens of shuttles which operate this route for as little as R100 per way.  A two-night stay at a 4* cave hotel will cost between R1000 and R1500 per person, including breakfast, making this an economical and very unique stopover destination.  Once there, you can explore the underground tunnels and catacombs by booking a guided tour, or simply wander around in the open-air museums, taking it all in.

In his book, The World Without Us, Alan Weisman speculates that, in the event of mankind disappearing from the face of the earth, the underground cities of Cappadocia would outlast everything else we’ve ever built.  TheNutLady agreed – the place has to be seen to be believed.  We’re adding it to a 3-night stopover in Istanbul for a complete experience, and I’m supremely jealous!

I love my job.

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