We took a bus from Ankara on the day of the Turkish referendum (April 16 2017), south to Göreme in the heart of Cappadocia.  My wife had wanted to visit Cappadocia for a long time, many saints revered in Georgia like St Nino and St George had come from that region. In both directions our bus was stopped at police/army checkpoints so the authorities could check everyone’s ID.


Heading out of Ankara on the bus

The bus stopped at Nevşehir, where we took a smaller shuttle bus to Göreme. The Göreme National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. After we had found a hotel (a cave hotel) and booked a tour for the following day. We headed out to the Göreme Open Air Museum.

The churches and other dwellings in the rocks are reminiscent of  Vardzia Cave City in Georgia . Entrance to the Museum was 30 TL with an extra 10 TL if you wished to visit the “Dark Church”. The Dark Church has the best examples of seccos (like frescoes but painted on dry rather than wet plaster): multicoloured angels cover the pillars and vaulted ceilings, along with scenes such as the birth of Jesus, with an ox and ass poking their noses into the manger. As the church’s name suggests, the lack of light has preserved the representations, which still look fresh and vivid after a millennium.


Volcanic eruptions created this surreal moonscape: the lava flows formed tuff rock, which wind and rain sculpted into sinuous valleys with curvy cliff faces and pointy fairy chimneys.

Capadoccia means “the land of beautiful horses”, there were certainly a few about but we didn’t go for a ride. There were some other interesting fauna: birds like the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), for example.

After the sights of the Göreme Open Air Museum, we had a meal in a cafe in Göreme  and retired to our cave hotel (Coco Cave Hotel). On the second day we took a tour with Insider travel, there were three tours to choose from we chose the “Green Tour”.

geen-nevsehir-mapOur tour began with a stop at The Göreme panorama with a view over the area, before a visit to the local onyx factory. Here we had a demonstration of how onyx is shaped and also a chance to peruse some local jewellery. The sultanite jewellery was impressive as it changed colour according to the light from brown to red to green (Its gemological name is diaspore. It contains traces of chromium, iron, manganese and titanium.).


At the Onyx workshop

Then it was a long ride to the Ihlara valley, where we had a 4 km hike along the valley to work up an appetite for our lunch taken at a restaurant along the river. It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes.

We just visited one church along the route, Agacalti Kilise (the Church under the Tree).


walking the Ihlara Valley

At the end of the walk was the Selime Monastery, an impressive cluster of buildings carved out of the rocks.


Selime Monastery

Then it was back into the bus to the impressive Underground City of Kaymakli, discovered in 1964. It is believed to have housed thousands of people from the 6th to 9th Centuries. Five of the eight levels are open to visitors.


Here our guide, Alli,  decided it would be fun to film a video clip for the “Mannequin Challenge”, we had to freeze in interesting positions while he filmed us, I was impressed by the results (here is the link): Mannequin Challenge inside Kaymakli Underground City

Our final stop was for some Turkish Delights of a sweet nature, a chance to try some local specialities, as well as loukum there were dried fruit, nuts and dried apricot kernels.


Turkish Delights

A room at the Coco Cave Hotel cost 100TL a night and the Green Tour with Insider Travel  was 100TL per person. Cappadocia is an amazing place.

A trip to Turkey in January

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Ataturk, Turkish flags and a minaret in the far background, typical images of Turkey.  If you have been following my blog, you may have noticed a week of inactivity, I had a week’s break in Turkey. I love Turkey, I have now been there 7 times and there is still plenty that I haven’t seen.

Now living in Georgia, it is easy to visit Turkey, as we are neighbours. I have made seven trips out of Georgia with my Georgian wife, three times to UK, once to France and now three times to Turkey.

This time we visited Selçuk, Ephesus and Kuşadası on the Aegean Coast. The journey for us was long, 24 hours each way. On a tight budget, we had opted to take a bus overland from Tbilisi to Trabzon and then a domestic flight from Trabzon to Izmir and finally a train journey to Selçuk.

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Here I am just getting off the Pegasus Boeing 737 at Trabzon Airport. An international flight from Tbilisi to Izmir via Istanbul would have been possible but would have cost maybe three times as much as the bus and a domestic flight.

We chose Ephesus for:

  1. its history -some of the most amazing ruins from Greek and Roman times
  2. the weather – in January it is not hot but at around 15 C in the day , ten degrees warmer than Tbilisi
  3. Turkish hospitality, the Turks we have met have been very friendly and hospitable
  4. religious pilgrimage: the House of Mary (mother of Jesus) and the tomb of the gospel writer St John are at Ephesus

We chose to stay in  Selçuk because it was very close to Ephesus and we found a very reasonably priced hotel/hostel: Artemis Hotel. The staff were friendly and the accommodation fine. Many of the other guests were from the far east: Japan, Korea and Singapore.

Ephesus is one of the greatest ruined cities in the western world.

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The Library of Celsus (behind us), built in the second century by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila and damaged by a combination of the Goths and then an earthquake is the highlight of a trip to Ephesus, the architecture is similar to Petra (but bigger stresses our guide, Turgut).

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The House of Mary. According to the Bible, the crucified Jesus asked St John the Evangelist to look after his mother (John 19:26). It is thought that John brought Mary with him to Ephesus in AD 37 and she spent the last years of her life in this modest stone house. The Roman Catholic Church has never pronounced on the authenticity of the house, for lack of scientifically acceptable evidence. The church has however been declared a holy place and has been visited by a few popes, most recently by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

Mary is also revered by Muslims with several passages in the Holy Qu’ran related to her.

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The Amphitheatre at Ephesus was carved out during the Hellenistic period and later renovated by the Romans. It had a capacity of 25 000.

My wife Khato took to the stage for a much smaller audience (around 30 Korean tourists) and sang a traditional Georgian song, to demonstrate the great acousitcs of the arena. She was rewarded with a round of applause from said tourists.

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Kuşadası. The resort of  Kuşadası is a short 5 TL  Dolmus (Turkish minibus) ride from  Selçuk. In January we weren’t prepared to venture into the sea, although we noticed a couple of brave souls swimming. It was nice to walk along the beach and watch the waves lapping on the shore.

Unfortunately all holidays must end and we were all too soon returning.

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The Turkish-Georgian border at around 1am.