Monday, June 9 (Cappadocia) – On day two in Cappadocia, Tali and I thought we would rent a car and drive to a couple of the sites we wanted to see. (Note: this is after our 3:40AM wake up for the hot air balloon trip, which ended at 7:00AM and is written about in a post of its own!) But when the car arrived in the morning, we realized something pretttty important: neither of us knows how to drive stick! We stood there hopelessly for a few minutes and were then presented with another idea. For 50 more Turkish lire (about $25) we could have a private driver for the day. Done!
Rafet, our personal driver, arrived moments later. Having been in the tourism industry for years, he was very familiar with the roads and with the sites we had in mind – as well as a few more that he recommended.
We started at the Derinkuyu Underground City, the largest of 36 underground cities in Cappadocia that were built in the 8th - 7th centuries BC. Derinkuyu goes down 85 meters and could hold thousands of people, livestock and food! The belief is that the underground cities were used as temporary homes or used for protection, but they weren't for permanent housing. I was a bit nervous about going up to eight stories underground and navigate around tunnels, because I’m not a fan of small spaces. But I went anyway and as we walked in, we soon realized we were next to an English-speaking tour so we secretly tagged along. It was really interesting to see how these people lived, and simple things like where they cooked or poured wine. But to be completely honest, while walking down what seemed to be an endless staircase where you have to duck to not hit the ceiling, I started panicking from claustrophobia and turned around. I crawled back up the steps and finally found a landing to catch my breath… as well as a Greek woman who was in the same condition as I was! We made it to the top together, through more tiny tunnels and waited for our partners at the top. WTF?! I was able to fly in a hot air balloon but not go through a tunnel??
When Tali emerged from the underground city, I was over my traumatic experience and we continued along to the Ihlara Valley for a hike. The Ihlara Valley is a 16km stretch of gorge that is famous for its rich history. If you look up while walking through the gorge, you will notice tons of what look like windows and doors cut out of the rock. These were created during the Byzantine empire as dwellings and churches.
Our hike led us to Belisirma, a restaurant where I had one of the best meals I had in Turkey. We sat on the floor of a bridge that was hovering just a few inches from a stream. It was very relaxing and the fresh fish we ate was delicious! The restaurant was definitely touristy because the tourists are generally the ones hiking in the valley, but it didn’t take away from the food or atmosphere at all.
After the hike and lunch we were pretty tired and started heading back towards Goreme. We made one stop along the way at a winery where we tasted and then purchased some local white wine that we enjoyed later in the evening.
Another great day in Cappadocia!