Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Road Trip!

Our original 9th century cave room in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey. Maria said that she felt like she was sleeping in a cave!

9th to 13 century cave houses in Goreme, Turkey. The people must have been good climbers!

Over 40 balloons take off every morning to drift over the landscape in Goreme, Turkey. Hearing the roar of the gas burners in this remote area at sunrise sounds like an orchestra!

These cave drawings are from the Hittites (1,800 - 1,200 BC) and located about 100 feet in the air in the very isolated part of the Zimi valley. They are painted outside the entrance to a cave dwelling. Steve found them while he was running of course!

Sunrise and balloons along Steve's running trail in Goreme, Turkey. The spires are also called hoodoos.

A school at the underground city of Derinkuyu. This is dated to around 200 BC.

This is the same school and where the teacher stood. The teachers must have been a lot shorter back then!

The entrance to the underground city of Ozonak.

A church in one of the ancient caves. You can still see the paint on the ceiling above the columns. This is amazing that they could carve these out of the volcanic ash.

Another church in a cave with the paint preserved.

Road Trip Details

We cleaned, polished and got Aspen ship-shape for the past 12 days. Now it is time for more exploring!

Since we still have a rental car we decided to drive to Cappadocia in Turkey. This is the area known for the Fairy Towers and underground cities.

It only took us 10.5 hours to drive 567 miles amongst the Turkish drivers. That is quite a challenge! The roads can be very nice or incredibly rough. You just never know what to expect, no matter what the color the roads are on the map.

Yes, we used our trusty Google Maps again and they worked really well, especially when our little blue dot would shoot off onto the wrong road as usual. In every larger city it seems that the roads go crazy and no matter how careful we are we always spend at least 30 minutes driving around in circles trying to find our way out of town!

We did arrive in Goreme before dark and got a room at the Stone House Cave Hotel. We were really living in an ancient cave! The cave dates from the Hittites from 1800 - 1200 BC but luckily it now has electricity and wifi. These caves are carved into what are called Fairy Chimneys (Hoodoos is another name for them). These are rock pinnacles made out of volcanic ash set in a badlands landscape. The entire area is now a national park but there are still small villages inside the park. Nonetheless the scenery is spectacular!

Early every morning no less than 40 hot air balloons rise into the clear blue sky and float over the magical landscape below. Dozens of tourists hang from each balloon while waving at us on the ground below as they snap pictures of the sights. I thought one basket was going to hit me as I was running on the rimrock.

Then there are the vast underground cities. These underground cities were carved out of this same rock and housed up to 50,000 people in them. They were believed to be constructed initially in the 8th century BC. They had numerous levels that went down to 300 feet underground with churches, schools, animal stalls, wine cellars, living quarters, kitchens, tombs and everything a city would have.

The underground cites were used during the 5th and 10th centuries AD by Christians who were hiding from the Persians and the Arabic armies who were trying to kill them. The people had to live underground for several months while successfully hiding. So far 37 underground cities have been opened in this area with at least another 75 or so that are still being explored.

We went underground in 2 of them: the largest one called Derinkuyu that housed 50,000 people and Ozonak which was a lot smaller. The larger one is the biggest tourist attraction for an underground city and the crowds, even in this off season, were excessive! The passages are extremely small and narrow and anyone with claustrophobia should not venture underground.

It seems that Maria suddenly developed a case of claustrophobia when she got trapped in a very narrow and confining tunnel with 30 of her now closest friends. Captain Steve would have taken control of the situation, of course, but since he didn't speak Turkish it would have not done any good. Our Turkish guide tried for 5 long minutes to get half the people to go in the proper direction so that the other half could exit the tunnel. It seems that there are no one-way passages in the underground cities!

The attached picture shows a school in the underground city.

It was quite an experience slithering and nearly crawling through these cities, trying to comprehend what early people had to endure to survive.

Now we will drive further east, heading to Sanliurfa - home to the oldest temple ever found on Earth! It is located about 60 miles north of the Syrian border so that should be interesting.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

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