We were visiting Istanbul for a total of four days and when I found that I could just about squeeze two nights in Cappadocia and experience living in a cave, against all my better judgement, I decided to go for it. I do not like my holidays to be too rushed but I just could not resist this unique diversion.
All bookings had already been done in the UK and we flew from Istanbul to the Kayseri airport. It was around an hour’s journey from the airport to the caves where we were to spend the night. Closer to Cappadocia, the transformation in the landscape was amazing. Numerous caves where people lived – dotted the greyish-white hills and mountains. Unusual conical shaped geological formations in the mountains, popularly known as fairy chimneys made my daughter gasp out loud.
Our host led us to our very own cave. It smelt a little of concrete but other than that was fully equipped and not unlike staying in a good hotel with a bed and fully equipped toilet in place. My daughter was super excited to be staying in a cave and we spent the next few minutes exploring every nook and corner. Our host lived in the cave above us. When he got to know that I wanted to experience an authentic Turkish coffee, he invited us to his home for a cuppa. The strong brew did not disappoint and I could get used to this – I thought. Turkish hospitality reminded me of Indian hospitality – extremely friendly folks who gladly open their houses for you.
There was just one part of the Turkish culture, which I had difficulty getting used to. Cats are considered auspicious by the Turkish and they will not shoo them away come what may. It is not unusual to find cats coolly loitering around in homes and even restaurants. I am not a cat person at all and when one climbed up on a nearby table at the largely empty restaurant that we were dining in, I hastily shooed it away, not daring to look around at the disapproving glances that I was sure would be thrown my way.
After a satisfying night, spent sleeping in a cave (ahem!) our next visit, early morning, was to the Goreme open air museum. Goreme is a small place and our host kindly offered to drop us to the museum. The museum consists of lots of caves and fairy chimneys that can be wandered around in. My daughter was all of seven years old and she loved going in and out from one cave to another. Some caves are decorated with frescoes and there was also a small church built into the rocks.
Our next visit was to an underground city. There are a total of 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and we visited the Kaymakli underground city. These underground cities were believed to be created by the Christians that were escaping the Arab invaders. They used these cities to store food and to sleep in. We decided to hire a guide, as we really did not fancy getting lost underground. The city is built 8 floors under the ground but only 4 are accessible to the public. There are numerous tunnels, some of them very low and narrow, which twist their way around the city. Some amount of flexibility is required since some tunnels require you to bend and walk. Throughout the hour long tour, I did not let go of my daughter’s hand and sometimes had to struggle to keep claustrophobia at bay.
Having said that, the tunnels have been planned around ventilation shafts and so there are some areas that positively feel fresh and airy. Our visit was on a quiet day when there were not too many people around and this helps as well. The tunnels are well lit and we managed to see the storage rooms, winery, kitchens, bedrooms, stables and even a chapel – all of them meticulously planned. It was amazing to think that people actually lived in these tunnels several years back and they seemed to have thought of everything. It was surprising to find out that the tunnels were extremely clean – no damp, no insects and no bats anywhere. This was definitely an interesting highlight of our visit to Cappadocia and I would definitely recommend this – as long as you can stop your mind playing games with you in those deep, narrow tunnels.