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Ihlara Valley, Selime Monastery and Derinkuyu Underground City

I started the day with a Turkish breakfast consisting of bread, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Afterwards we left for a day-trip visiting the surrounding area of Göreme. There was an option of three tours creatively named red, blue and green tour. We picked the green one because it sounded most exciting. It included a visit of the Ihlara Valley, the Selime Monastery and the Derinkuyu Underground City.

After leaving Göreme we stopped at a view point out of town. Here we had a first view of the bizarre landscape. Looking at it made me feel like being on the moon. It’s truly fascinating how nature can form such tall, thin spires of rock. I would expect mountain climbing in this area is kind of interesting but unfortunately we don’t have time for this activity.

The first stop of our tour was the Ihlara Valley which is a 16 km long gorge cut into volcanic rock. What makes the valley interesting is not just the beautiful landscape but the history associated with it. Unfortunately our guide was not very much into history which my fellow traveler Andrew, who has actually studied history, spotted quickly. So much of what happened here was subject to our imagination or the stories the guide made-up for us. We spotted a number of dwellings and churches hewn in the canyon like rock of the valley. The walls of the churches used to be decorated with frescoes but unfortunately they weren’t well preserved. In this valley the first Christians were hiding from Roman soldiers. Sometimes I would really like to travel a few hundred years back in time to see how live here actually was.

After a walk through parts of the valley we stopped for lunch in a restaurant which had a very touristy appearance. There was no menu but plastic sample meals from which you could see what is the selection you can order from. I had the vegetarian option consisting of potatoes and mushrooms which was surprisingly good.

The second stop was the Selime Monastery. Same as the dwellings and churches we saw in the Ihlara Valley the whole monastery was carved out of rock. It’s said to be done by monks in the 13th century. When wandering through the monastery we spotted the dwellings of the monks, a church, stables for animals and a kitchen.

Our last stop of today’s tour was the Derinkuyu Underground City. It’s a whole city hewn into soft volcanic rock. It was used as a refugee able to accommodate 35,000 to 50,000 people. I find it hard to imagine this high amount of people actually lived here and had a sufficient supply of air, water and food. However, the city featured everything what people would have needed for their daily live such as a church, a kitchen, storage rooms and stables. Another interesting feature were the heavy stone doors which were constructed in a way that they can only be opened from the people living inside the underground city but not by potential enemies.

Back in Göreme we went for a group dinner to a centrally located restaurant with a beautiful roof terrace overlooking the town. Everybody sampled a different dish of the local cuisine including a meal in a hot pot. The pot looked like a simple flower vase but was very hot and contained a meat dish. Before you can actually start eating it the waiter needs to come with a small hammer and take off the upper part of the pot so you can access your food. On the way back to the pension we ran into a local folk dancing competition which we enjoyed watching for a while.

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