Walking through a Beautiful Canyon, the village of Ortahisar and Kızılçukur Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey
On our last day in Cappadocia, we took it easy.
We walked from Goreme to the town of Ortahisar.
Along the way, we stopped at a cave church and enjoyed the beautiful landscapes of this area.
Ortahisar is a small town with a fair amount of tourist services, like guest houses, cafes and a few shops, but at this time of the year there were very few tourists around.
In the center of town, farmers were selling olive oil, cheese, olives, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, parsnips, cabbages, onions, honey and pomegranate syrup, as well as sacks of potatoes from the trunks of their cars.
Men in heavy coats were enjoying the sunshine, playing board games in an outdoor cafe covered with grape vines that had already shed their leaves for the winter.
The dried fruit sellers were happy to hand over plates full of dried fruits and nuts for us to taste, encouraging us to take more.
The streets are wide and the road is not asphalt, but cobblestone.
All around, the hills are filled with air shafts, venting the vast underground ancient city that lies below the village.
The place has the feeling of a relaxed small place where everyone knows one another.
A local bakery displayed a selection of great smelling, freshly baked breads.
We bought a warm flat bread for a little more than three Turkish lira (about 15 cents), and ate it right there and then.
Everywhere we walked, people welcomed us, asking where we were from.
As if ignorant to the political tension that our current president is spreading like wildfire all across the world, we answer unashamedly, “We are from America.”
Their response is always positive.
Some said, “Welcome, American people! Welcome! Why NO American people come? Tell your friends and family they are welcome here!”
Often the people who have asked us where we were from, told us that they had grown up in Boston or Philly, or lived somewhere else in the USA for years.
By the old Ortahisar castle, built into an ancient rock, we sat at an outdoor cafe in the sun.
We spread a blanket over our laps and ordered some hot mulberry tea and çay.
We ate stuffed peppers and eggplants, which were vegetarian and absolutely delicious, and a big salad.
On our walk back to Göreme, I decided to take an alternative path and walk through the valleys, among the many rock tombs.
Some of the narrow tubular rocks are actually ancient tombs.
They were carved into hollow above ground graves and in them were placed the body of the departed along with the things they loved most.
A friendly local dog adopted us and ran ahead of us to show us the way.
He had had his ear tagged.
I have seen that most of the stray dogs in Turkey have tags on their ears, as a sign that they have been vaccinated for rabies and monitored.
All of them had friendly dispositions, and were very loving towards me.
It was getting late, and the path, although stunningly beautiful, was meandering up and down the hills, with nobody in sight.
I knew we were walking in the direction of Göreme, but the town was not yet in sight.
We had only an hour before sunset, and we needed to speed up our pace.
Then we reached the opening of a very narrow canyon.
The walls of the canyon were tall, towering into the sky on both sides.
The dog was barking and unwilling to go farther.
We made our way down the small wooden ladder that was placed there, and I turned to help the doggy down to continue walking with us, but he was afraid and refused to continue.
We had to let him remain where he was, as we needed to get to the outskirts of town before complete darkness fell over the landscape.
I told him to turn around and go back, and we continued through the narrow canyon.
The canyon dropped precipitously down, and a much longer wooden ladder had been placed to help hikers get down the sheer rocks.
It was sturdy, except for one leg that had been washed out by the recent rains.
I went down slowly and when I was down, I placed a rock under the rickety leg before Jules climbed down.
A word of advice: If you hike in a remote part of nature, always help maintain the path by removing obstacles, if you can.
Now we realized why the dog knew intuitively that he should not go further down the canyon.
We would have not been able to carry him down this steep and long vertical ladder.
He was a big and heavy dog.
It would have been a serious mission, and I was glad he had not agreed to come along.
The area was full of ancient caves.
There were also arches to direct the ancient river that is now dry, and water reservoirs to collect drinking water.
There were caves for living, and tombs carved into the rocks.
It was stunning and I felt so blessed to be walking in this canyon, ignoring Jules’ look of concern that we would not make it out of the valley by darkness and that we would have to sleep here in the freezing cold.
I felt exhilaration and a heightened sense of being, as we walked alone through the valley.
When we left the canyon, we climbed up into the hills to see if we could spot a path to walk towards Göreme, as the path we were walking on was leading north, towards Rose Valley.
On top of the hill, we came upon a cave occupied by local people.
I waved at the men playing a knife game in the sand.
They had drawn a star in the sand and were throwing a knife into it.
If the knife stuck in the ground, it was a winning move.
If it fell flat, it was a losing move.
They waved back and invited us to play with them.
I said that we had no time and that we were trying to get to Göreme before dark.
They pointed to our left and said there was a path off the cliffs to our left.
We exited the valley right before sunset.
In no time, we were laying on the bean bags at One Way cafe in the center of Göreme, lolling away the time until dinner.
For dinner, we went to the Pidė House restaurant to eat Turkish Pidė.
Pidė is like a small pizza, and at this place, they make it from scratch.
They roll the dough to order and bake it in the wood-fired oven.
We have tried many of the restaurants in the week we have spent in Göreme, and we enjoyed every meal we had.
The food is simple, almost peasant food, but if you eat the food they know how to make, it is bound to be tasty and fresh.
Next we fly south, to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, bordering the Greek islands across the sea.
We plan to walk the Lycian Way for ten days.
It is an ancient walk through a very historic part of the world.
It was once a Lycian Teritorry, and some of their fine architecture is still visible in the landscape.
My only concern is with walking through the rocky, mountainous terrain in the rain.
The other day while hiking through the beautiful “White Valley” into “Love Valley,” we came upon a girl hiking alone, walking in the opposite direction.
Since she was the only other hiker we saw all day, we started a conversation.
She was from Scotland, traveling alone in Turkey.
She told us that she had just spent a month hiking the Lycian Way.
We bonded momentarily, talking about our starting point on the trail, and how it was to walk the Lycian Way.
She said that she had camped out, and occasionally had stayed in guesthouses, but that she was unsure if we would enjoy the strenuous walk in this season.
She said that the rocks would be muddy and possibly slippery….
I wish we could have talked more and asked her more questions, but both of us had a long way to go to finish our hikes before sunset.
So… I am very excited to be walking the Lycian Way, but also a bit scared about what is coming….
Please wish us luck…
From Cappadocia, sending you love and blessings for a wonderful day,