Our first day in Cappadocia. We slept in, then got ourselves aquainted with town by getting some breakfast. A lovely town, small, full functional, but not offensively touristy. (They know you can't get away) Also, it turned out that the tourist season was only just getting started, so they were mostly still excited to see us after "A boring winter" in the words of one young man we met.
Got ourselves aquainted with the North Star lounge as well, where some of our party chilled for a lot of the day, good food, nargile, chess and backgammon and comfy couches.
However, I was a man with a mission. I headed off to Göreme Open Air Museum. Just out of town, this is a small fenced off area, housing a couple of dozen of churches, chapels and living quarters cut out of the eroded cones of volcanic tuff that cover the landscape.
I'm not going to try and give any real background here. Cappadocia as a whole has an incredibly rich history, but basically, the churches here at the Göreme museum are from Byzantine greeks, (and other christians) dating from the earliest years of christianity through to the thirteenth century.
Looking back now, it really was glaringly obvious that the tourists hadn't really arrived yet, but at the time it still felt touristy. I guess just because we could see all the infrastructure, and all the shops were open. Just not all that busy.
It's a great museum. The frescoes are simply stunning, particularly in the Dark Church. It's got reasonable signage, though as usual, I would have liked more. It has extremely odd photography rules. There's pictosigns that look like an SLR with a flash on top and a cross through them. I can understand that. And in the Dark Church, where you have to pay an extra 5ytl, I even asked specifically about my tripod and camera, and was told it was all fine, just no flash. But it's not exactly a museum policy. I got told, "no cameras", "no flash", "no tripod" "sure, it's all fine"
This would play out repeatedly throughout Turkey. I think it's just that with a tripod I'm "professional" and I'm meant to have a permit or something. Whatever. I never used my flash. Flashes can and do damage fine paintings. That's a lot more than can be said of many of the generic tourists who even after being told "no flash" couldn't quite work out how to turn the flash off on their cameras.
But I digress. Mostly because, well, there's not much more to say. The complex is extremely impressive. The amount of time and effort that went into the construction and decoration is astounding. And to build so many churches all right beside each other is downright strange. Seeing things obviously being extended over time was also very interesting. The wishes of the builders for "real" churches is also apparent, in that the entire place is an attempt to convert the insides of rock pillars into masonry built western churches and cathedrals. Right down to the marking of blocks onto the walls. Certainly no "the faith is enough, the place is not so important" ideology around here.
After leaving the museum, I wandered off into the valley with a british couple of a while, exploring the cherry orchards, and climbing around and into various churches and things. You could spend weeks there, exploring them all. Because you can never tell from the outside what they're like inside. Found one place I got climb up three levels. Sort of like climbing around anasazi ruins in the southwest USA, only without a billion people saying, "everything's precious" "don't touch a damn thing, ever" "preservation through stasis"
Back into town and collapsed into a comfy couch at the North Star to have a smoke and a drink.
Then more adventure! Ben, Jared, Matt and I got bored of wondering where the others were and decided to drive up to Üçhisar Castle. This is a high point in the local surrounds, and of course, has been carved out, and used to be a local castle. Good views over the surrounding areas. Though allegedly, the castle itself gets better sunset light than what you can see from the top :)
Then dinner, which we shared with some girls staying in the next room at the hotel, a couple of bottles of local wine (it's been a renowned wine making area since roman times, very drinkable table wines) and then back to the North Star. This time we even started pulling the instruments off the wall. It's always fun to have musicians in the group. Matt was especially excellent, wowing us all with skills on the Saz, even though he'd never even seen one before, and none of the guys at the cafe could play it either.
Finally, bed, tomorrow we were going for a drive around the area