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Fairy Chimney day in Goreme

(written by Dave)

Today was all about Goreme fairy chimneys and the Goreme open air museum.  We started with another great brekkie in our hotel, followed by moving our gear to our new room.  We are no longer in the honeymoon suite but the new room is more than adequate.

The open air museum is only about 2k from the hotel but it was getting hot even at 10:00 as we headed that way.  Stopping for coffee as we crossed Goreme did nothing to keep the heat down but Ali, the owner and barista was trained in Melbourne so it was too good an offer to pass up.  The coffee was great.

By the time we arrived at the museum, there were at least 30 tour buses.  I have a photo but got bored counting buses when I reached 30.  This didn’t seem like ideal conditions to visit the museum but we decided to give it a go.  We forked out our 15 lira each and headed inside.  We made a pit-stop on the way past the gift shop where Nancy waited for 20 minutes in a queue of some 15 woman, for the use of one toilet.  This was not a good sign for the museum but onward we went.  We should have known better.

The museum is focused on the 3rd and 4th century churches built into various fairy chimneys.  By the end of the 2nd century, Christianity had made its way to Cappadocia.  They used the caves for worship and for general living.  The Romans were still around and they didn’t think much of the Christians so the fairy chimneys and various underground cites made for excellent places to hide out and get on with life.  There are reportedly nicely preserved frescos in a number of the churches but honestly, you have to be nuts (or very pious) to fight your way through the hoards of visitors at the museum when we were there if you want to see them.  We waited for one church, behind a highly commanding, yet unofficial Dutch guide.  It was almost a mob scene as various folks behind us took offence to the unofficial guide blocking the path.  This was all we needed to see.  We walked about a bit but from then on, we stayed outside most churches.  It’s not like you had any time to contemplate what you were looking at because inside meant a real scrum just to hold your spot.  The real kicker was when hundreds of purple shirted Avon sales folks descended the gate and start making their way towards us.  We saw signs for bus 8, 3 and 1.  Do the math and you’ll know why we headed for the exits.

If this sounds like a less than favorable view of the open air museum, it is not entirely intended.  To be completely fair, we should have gone much earlier in the day (easy for us as we are staying in Goreme), or perhaps come to Goreme in winter when the tour buses are less frequent.  It is said to be a nice place but it doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the crowds that are here now.  Either that or we are just out of practice for standing in a queue.

We are not here in Goreme during peak season though it is still very busy.  We didn’t know it when heading here but it is Golden Week in Japan.  The Japanese economy may be struggling but the Japanese people are still great travelers – give them a week off and they hit the road.  Our hotel had 10 Japanese staying here when we checked in.  The Aussies are out in force as well.  Last night at dinner, we had a table of them on both sides of us (Aussies come to Turkey in April for ANZAC day).

Upon exiting the museum, if you head due north, there are several canyons filled with more chimneys, caves and rounded bits of rock.  We decided to head there for some fresh air, and to recover from the museum.  Outside the museum, wandering through the curvy landscape, one fairy chimney after another, was exactly what we needed.  For starters, there were very few people.  Second, the fairy chimney landscape is magical to look at.  There are plenty of footpaths but they can be a little slippery.  The decomposed chimneys pretty much turn into sand and any path that is not flat becomes pretty slippery – sandy ball bearings on top of slippery rocks.  We wandered for at least a couple hours and could have gone further had we not started to get hot and tired.  Scattered amongst the chimneys are various disused caves.  You can duck in and out of the caves at your leisure, no ticket or entrance fee required.  We had packed a lunch and when one cave passage way lead to an outside dead-end overlook, with a nice grassy view area that was all the invitation we needed to stop and get stuck into our lunch.  It had to be one of our best lunch spots of the trip.  There are at least another half dozen canyons full of chimneys to explore if we had the time.  We’ve read about people spending weeks here a- and it is easy to see how.

We had hoped that the museum would give us a bit more information on the formation of the chimneys but it was really just focused on the churches.  I did manage to read a good chunk of a book that they had in the bookshop while Nancy was in the queue for the ladies.  So, here’s what I can report about the chimneys and the area in general.

The area has taken some 60 million to form.  It was originally basalt rock that was covered with volcanic debris.   Over time the wind, rain and groundwater eroded the tufa volcanic layer, exposing the harder basalt.  The curvy edges and the mushroom like tops are made of the softer tufa material but they stay in place as the erosion forces are subtle.  Eventually, these bits will disappear as well but for now, geologically speaking, they are here for us to enjoy.  Come back in another 60 million years and it may very well be one giant sandy desert.   The different colours come from the different minerals found in the rock.  For example, the pink color of the stone in the rose canyon is caused by a slight increase in iron oxide in this area.

You may notice little cubby holes in some of the fairy chimneys in the pictures.  The early inhabitants of this valley raised pigeons in the fairy chimneys and collected the guano to use and sell as fertilizer – it was apparently a thriving business for many years.  There is apparently a fledgling attempt to try to get the practice restarted and we did see a few pigeons wandering about I suspect it’s cheaper to buy a bag of chemicals now than to rely on the old ways.

Nancy was woken this morning by a hot air balloon blasting it’s’ jet above our room.  That got me up and as a result, you get more balloon pictures today.  Tomorrow we are being picked up at 4:50AM so that we can have our own balloon experience.  We are thinking of hitting the bars tonight and just not going to bed (just kidding, staying up past 9PM is a real struggle for us).  Perhaps a nap will be in order tomorrow and perhaps a few more balloon photos in the post as well.

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4 responses to “Fairy Chimney day in Goreme

  1. Just want you to know that John IS reading your blog and he makes comments but only to me. How lame is that? (He says I comment enough for the both of us.)

    • Our stats list you as the number one commentor – so John may be onto something. Of course we appreciate you being part of our blog, however many comments you make!

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  2. I realize that i know nothing about Turkey – What a trip….you should certainly write a book when you return to the real life – you should become tour guides.

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