Zelve Valley and Göreme

When we checked out of Kayakapı, the manager asked us where we were headed. To Göreme. A look of concern. It’s only a few kilometres away. Do we have a place to stay? No, we will attend to that when we arrive. A pained look. Must have been a strain for a hotel chain rep not to pitch us a room in Göreme. Discretion got the better of him. A classy place does that.

En route via Zelve Valley, where the Fairy Chimneys grow … or, rather, they weather away.

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Plants not too welcome here.  But it’s enchanting, and more accessible than, say, Bryce Canyon, Utah.

At the inevitable bazaar, busy with tour bus business, friendly girls struck up a conversation …

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A roadway wound through the formations …

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The caps are of basalt. They are fated to fall off as erosion progresses.

Arrived in Göreme and searched for a hotel recommended in one of our guides. A sign pointed up a steep hill virtually to the top, where a plain stretched away. The place was full; the clerk suggested we try the neighbouring hotel. Thusway we found the Sultan Cave Suites. Friendly staff, including a young woman from China who was always ready to answer our questions and make conversation. An excellent reception room, spacious — about 20 by 30 feet, with large windows looking out over the village. Groupings of four armchairs and coffee tables. Inviting. The cave room nearby — just across and down a few stairs — was nothing to write home about, but adequate for the two nights, and cozy, for a third the rate at Kayakapı. Overall, my favorite lodging in Turkey; a place with soul.

The hotel has a restaurant down a flight. Ate there the second night … excellent! An American living in Ankara said it is the best in Göreme. At another table was a single Chinese man, well dressed, sporty, looked about to be 30. And a young English family with two very young children, making a grand tour. The Chinese man said he also has a young family. He takes three trips every year — one with his family, one to explore and one to dive. This was his exploratory trip. We all chatted away between our tables; no-one else there at that early hour. Service with a great flourish.

On the steep hill down to the village:

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The village is mostly at the bottom of a bowl, as we saw when we drove up a steep hill to a lookout:

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In the village a pleasant coffee spot:

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Espresso and honey over ice cream. The best. “No bullshit.” Can’t remember the guy’s name — super friendly. The Chinese woman at the hotel worked here previously.

We visited the curiously named Göreme Open Air Museum, the heart of the National Park, with a spectacular cave church, St. Barbara, for which one paid extra …

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The entranceways were packed with tourists in tours. But in the dim cool inside it was quiet. We encountered this group of charming girls and took each others’ pictures …

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Nearby Buckle Church has amazing medieval frescoes — but no photos allowed (of course folks were snapping away as soon as the guard got enveloped in the crowd) — here’s the write-up:

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The second night we were awakened by conversation on the deck outside our door. It was 3 am. A loud voice, drunk-sounding, full of emotion — anger? It soon became apparent that a tragedy had unfolded while we slept. The co-owner of the hotel was killed in a car crash in some distant place.

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