Güzelyurt

Without question, the sleepy village of Güzelyurt was my favorite stop of our trip so far.  Some of the townsfolk still live in the caves that are dug into the rocky cliffs which define the landscape of Cappadoccia.  Tourism is a foreign concept, maybe even unwanted by some, though everyone was very friendly to us.  The rocky cliffs are patterned with holes leading to rooms, homes, rock ovens for bread, and even churches.  Hidden amongst these holes are entrances to an underground city, which stretches for kilometers underground.  It was used throughout history when the village felt threatened or was under attack.  The entire population would descend and could live underground for months without surfacing.  Little “moon holes” provided light.

Steve and I explored part of the underground city below Güselyurt.  Sometimes we had to precariously lower ourselves down big holes to get to the next room below.  What an incredible feat of engineering! 

Güselyurt sits on a hill with a view of an imposing volcano.  Eons ago, an eruption carved out the Ilhara valley, a 14 km geological wonder that now connects two even-sleepier villages, Selirme and Ilhara village, near Güzelyurt.  We decided to test our endurance and walk the entire length of the valley.  First we had to get to Selirme.  There were no direct buses so we hopped on a dolmus enroute to a larger city and asked to get off at the junction with the road that led to Selirme.  It was a little disconcerting to be abandoned at a barren intersection, but it’s hard to get lost on a plateau with one north-south and one east-west road.  We strolled along 2-3 km until we found the entance to the valley.  We fueled up on trout fresh caught from the valley stream, village grown vegetables, and homemade yogurt.  Then we headed in.

The valley was everything we hoped and so much more.  The moonscaped cliffs that rose up on either side were awe inspiring.  We saw people living in the cliff holes, shepherds herding their goats and sheep, people riding on donkeys, kids fishing with homemade nets.  An occasional family picnicked on the stream.  We saw Turkish cowboys urging their cows up the steep cliffs and old women bent over small gardens.  It was in the valley cliffs that we followed signs up the steep slope to unmarked holes that opened up into beautiful one-room churches.  Some still had visible frescoes of Jesus and the disciples dating to the Byzantine era.

Needlesstosay, by the end of the day we were quite fatigued, but every step was more than worth it.

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