My plan to visit Cappadocia was almost entirely based on riding a hot air balloon. Floating over the beautiful landscape and seeing the fairy chimneys up close was all I could imagine about Cappadocia. That’s why I booked the hot air balloon flight one month earlier. I knew booking a reservation for an activity one month earlier was a little extreme, but it was the best decision I’ve made. After an emotional & memorable sunrise hot air balloon ride, I joined my group for a Green tour of Cappadocia. A tour that made me appreciate Cappadocia & the people who once used to live in the area on another level. Out of my four days stay in Cappadocia, the day of Balloon ride & Green tour was the best & most memorable one. If I had to choose between Red/North or Green/South Cappadocia tour, I would choose Green tour and here is why.
I was picked up from my hotel at around 9:45 in the morning and we spent quite some time picking up the rest of the group from their respective hotels. Though it felt like a huge waste of time, I was able to see some nice cave hotels that I couldn’t be able to afford! After some time the group was complete, then our Green tour guide, Mohammed started off the tour with a jock – Turkish people have a relatable sense of humor. He told us that the name Cappadocia means the Land of beautiful horses, which actually was derived from Kapatuka(the name of the region a long time ago), then later evolved to Kapadokya; and he sarcastically said that we used to have beautiful horses thousands of years ago, now we have German Horses(Mercedes, BMW, Audi).
As an African, Ethiopian national to be exact, I was actually wondering to myself why these luxury brand cars are everywhere in Goreme, even providing a Taxi service. Mercedes and BMW cars are used for special occasions in Ethiopia or can be seen being driven by the richest people. Mohammed then later added that Cappadocia is driven by Tourism money, and it wasn’t always like that, he challenged us to guess how much would it cost to buy a simple cave house in Goreme? I thought it could be around ten thousand dollars, which I assumed would be a fair price for a Cave house located in a city with a vibrant tourism activity. But I couldn’t be more wrong, he told us that the tourism industry started to flourish after the mid-1990s and within 20 years the price of cave houses skyrocketed to around 2 million dollars for the smallest ones. I found this to be interesting and was jealous of Turkish people cause my country, Ethiopia is very rich with history, we have many UNESCO world heritage sites & we opened access to these sites long before Cappadocia, but we are nowhere near to tourist activity in Cappadocia. Literally speaking tourists in Goreme outnumber the locals, I wished my country could do well in the Tourism sector the same way Turkey is doing through Cappadocia.
What was I writing about? Underground city! I have a real problem with skipping from one subject to the other and to be honest it’s something I couldn’t solve. Anyways from what our tour guide told us, there are many underground cities in Cappadocia & only a few are open for tourists. Even on the ones that are allowed to be visited, tourists can only visit a small portion of the structure. And on the caves with Fresco – paintings that were executed on freshly laid, or wet lime plaster, Photography is strictly prohibited. Some tourists were actually taking pictures even though there was a keeper who was saying “No Photograph” in more than 6 languages, maybe it’s an adventure for a tourist to take a picture of a restricted area, I don’t know. Our group was visiting Kaymakli an underground city with 5 levels and more than 30 meters below the ground level.
According to our guide, it is believed that more than 2500 people were living at the same time inside Kaymakli underground city, a carefully designed city with private rooms, communal kitchen, storage rooms, churches, and winery. I wasn’t able to follow the history info that Mohammod was telling us, mostly because I’m not good with history, but it was the extremely short rooms & small entrances we had to go through to get to other rooms & levels. My height added with the fresh hair transplanted head, it felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie. Though it was difficult, I managed to stay with the group and learned a few things.
I learned that the people who used to live in the underground city were actually smart, they had smart solutions for Security, Sewerage & Ventilation. To keep attacking enemies out, they have carved a circular stone door that can only be opened from the inside. These doors are huge with respect to the rocks that form the cave, and I’m still not convinced about how they were able to get these stones inside the underground cities narrow entrances, but our guide told us that they used large stones that came off while carving the caves. They had bathrooms with an opening on the sides that can enable the people to take the sewage out of the room to the surface of the underground city. The most amazing provision they had for me was the ventilation shaft, you can really feel a great difference in airflow when you get close to this vertical ventilation shaft that goes through all the levels. And also they had a very cold room which they were using as a storage room. You can really see there was Life in the underground city, but it was not a good life, as our guide told us these people were suffering from weak bones & muscles due to deficiency of vitamin D.
This was the best place that I’ve visited in Cappadocia. I don’t know why, but I feel very peaceful around places with flowing water or stream. And I also love trees, not an environmentalist but there is something about trees that makes me appreciate nature. When you arrive at the entrance of the Ihlara valley, you will see some amazing trees on the sides of the pavement that leads to 382 steps of stairs that will take you down to Melendiz stream. I enjoyed every single minute of the walk along the side of the river, it was perfect! (Reminder: This was in mid-October), I have seen some pictures of the place in the winter season and it’s horrible. If you want to visit Cappadocia and see Ihlara valley do it during the summer season.
We took a walk to one of the church’s of Ihlara valley(Maybe Agachalti church, I don’t really remember), there I saw some fresco drawings which are not in good shape, but still are magnificent. Then after taking thirty minutes of walk along the riversides we arrived at a floating raft restaurant, this is the perfect place to take a rest after a hike, you can relax on the comfortable low Arabian couch & see swimming ducks up close. Wished I had more time at this particular place, but it was time for lunch. The food was great, Turkish people really know how to cook.
Selime Monastery is located at the end of Ihlara valley and it has a two-story structure carved out of a rock. It contains carved churches which were used as worship place at those times, but later they were used for other purposes such as protection against enemies. To be honest, after seeing a few caves I lost my interest to follow the guide into other similar caves. And I wasn’t the only one, I remember one tourist from England telling the tour guide, “It’s all the same, Why do we need to change caves!”. The best thing about Selime monastery is that it’s located on higher ground and you can have a panoramic view of the surroundings, which I enjoyed very much.
Precious Stone Jewlery and Turkish Delight treat Store
We visited a volcanic stone(gemstone) store as part of the Green tour. They sell a lot of beautiful jewelry, but I was interested in the ones made from Zultanite, the color-changing gemstone found only in Turkey. This precious stone takes the color of light that it’s placed near to and I found that to be amazing, after a brief explanation from one of the saleswomen in the store, I immediately went to the Zultanite section. I wanted to buy one but found the price to be a bit high. I knew Turkish people like to bargain, they will tell you a price that’s 3 times higher than the selling price and settle for a lesser price depending on the tourists bargaining skills. But I didn’t try to bargain for the Zultanite jewelry and I’m glad that I didn’t. There are some Tripadvisor reviews that recommend not to buy from these kinds of onyx stores, saying some stores sell Zultanites created in labs.
We also had the chance to see a store that sells Turkish delights, where I’ve tasted some of the most amazing treat foods. Apricots are a culture in Turkey and they are the leading producers in both fresh & dried apricots in the world. Dried apricots taste good, but covering them with Chocolate takes it to another level. I loved the test so much that I bought one pack to take it back home to Ethiopia.
Our last stop for the Green tour was Goreme Panorama, a quiet place where you can sit and enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful white landscape of Goreme, Cappadocia. There is a tree decorated with miniature hot air balloons, blue disks, and as I have seen in many places around Turkey – Turkish Flag. There is a seat under the seat which can be a perfect stop to take a memorable picture with your loved ones. Since I was traveling alone & also Single, I didn’t let the moment pass me by I took a picture of couples I met in Goreme, Cappadocia! Overall this was my recollection of Green tour of Cappadocia, Hope it could help you in someways or another.