Do you like caves? Do you think caves are awesome? Do you wish you could live in a cave, sneaking around through dimly-lit corridors and holing up in cozy yet cool chambers like an ant or a hamster?
Then I implore you to visit Cappadocia, the world’s largest kingdom of caves, wander around for a few days, and tell me how you feel about caves after that. Caves are awesome, and when we arrived we gazed slack-jawed from the side of the road at an immensely intricate, almost alien landscape that is just so full of caves it would be impossible to count them all. In every crevice of every valley it seems like someone thought to set up house, with windows and doors of all sizes making the creamy mountains look like a dalmatian’s coat. But after a while their magnificence gets exhausting, and like jaded American backpackers on their way home from a tour of Europe’s old capitals, we got bored of looking at them after a while.
Göreme national park is the centre of this madness, the cave capital if you will. But over three days we drove 40 or 50 kilometres in different directions and still got eyefulls of caves around many corners. A lot of the caves are actually still in use, usually by farmers who use them as storage rooms or to hold animals, but also as houses, workshops, and garages. And for the tourists there are cave hotels everywhere. At the budget end this usually means a cold, damp room where bits of stone from the ceiling fall on you while you’re on the toilet, and for the high rollers there are Flinstone-esque rooms covered in furs and local textiles with jacuzzis embedded in the rock floors (apparently).
We of course tried to go camping in a cave, but unfortunately waited until our last day in Cappadocia because I came down with the good ol’ traveller’s stomach bug (don’t drink the tap water in Anatolia). Night falls around 7pm now in these parts, and we unfortunately waited until the last rays of daylight before searching in earnest for somewhere to sleep. Flashlights in hand, we ended up wandering around some hills in “Monastery Valley” outside of a small but very historic town called Güzelyurt.
Dog barking echoed from the hills around us as we climbed around into the different available caves to see which one would be good for the night. I found one that was a good size, with good ventilation but still ample coverage from the oncoming thunderstorm. Unfortunately, it was a church. Three disembodied heads, presumably portraits of some religious figures, were etched into the domed back wall. In the floor were four carved pits–excavated burials.
We found some okay-ish caves elsewhere, but by then it was pitch black and we couldn’t find any firewood. So instead we headed back up into the town and found a pensiyon for cheap with the most awesomely hilarious room we could have asked for. Not a cave exactly, but by then we were pretty sick of them anyway.