Travel with me #116 : Ürgüp, Pigeon Valley and the Sultan Cave hotel!
Dear Steemit Friends:
Today we will explore more of the Cappadocia region of Turkey on the Central Anatolian Plateau. This beautiful area of the world is a mix of ancient human history and the dramatic landscapes that the natural world has to offer. Able to maintain all of its rustic and historical charm, despite thousands of tourists visiting each year, Cappadocia has more to offer in the way of unique landscapes that any other place I have visited in the world. Are other places more dramatic? Perhaps. But there are very few that rival this place for pure magical strange-ness.
I start my journey today in the wonderful town of Ürgüp which is located near the cave churches of Goreme where we visited together before. To see more of that, check out my post HERE. Of the 34,000 people or so that live in the disctict, 18,000 of them live in Ürgüp making it a sizeable settlement. The town is famous for being the centre of the wine production and trade in Cappadocia with 60% of the wines from the region coming from the Turasan Winery in the town.
Ürgüp is famous for its conical shape, resembling a miniature volcano. That is very fitting since the rock formations found around Cappadocia were formed millions of years ago by three volcanoes named, Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz Dağları. Fortunately, Ürgüp isn't a volcano and its same simply comes from the unique geology of the region caused by its volcanic past. Beautifully, the buildings and cave dwellings of the town rise up the slopes of the mountain side, many being carved straight into the rock.
In many places you stay in the town nearest to the natural attraction that you want to visit. Then you travel from the rather boring town to the place of natural wonder before returning to normality. In Cappadocia the towns are the natural wonders. Built into the very bones of the land are the living, working and socialising areas. So even as I was leaving for my day of adventures, I couldn't help but look back at the beauty I had just left behind.
Discovering Pasabag or Monks Valley
This remarkable valley is full of beautiful fairy chimneys but with very unique shapes! The fairy chimneys rise up from what is now a vineyard and the name Pasabag literally means, Pacha's vineyard. the word 'Pacha' means General, as in a General in the military. It is also sometimes named Monks Valley, probably because many monks and hermits carved their small homes in the rock here in centuries past.
My guide spent quite a long time convincing me that these looked most like mushrooms... but I have to say I think they may look more like something else! I don't think I can say what, in such tasteful company such as yourselves. However, the formations of Pasabag were truly impressive regardless of what you think they look like. Extremely tall, the tops of them look like round pyramids just balanced on top. Apparently there were even some hermits that carved their little living quarters right into those top caps that barely even look attached! I'd be scared about my room toppling off the top of the pillar!
I thought the pillar in the foreground right looked like a man wearing a wizards hat! There really were some amazing shapes that I had never seen before. Still kind of like the typical fairy chimneys that I had started to become desensitised too, they almost looked like the towers on a French chateau with the slate tiled roofs on top. So either wizards or chateaus, what do you think?
Walking through the huge pillars of rock made me realise how very big they were and made my small self feel even smaller than normal. Some of the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia felt quite delicate and looked almost fragile, but the pillars here in the Monks Valley felt very imposing. My neck started to ache from so many hours just staring upwards at them!
Behind me you can see some of the vineyard in which Monks Valley stands. Archaeologists believe that wine making in the region has been going on for at least 7,000 years, but the Hittite people are probably responsible for developing the bulk of the industry in the area between 1800BC and 1400BC. Even during the reign of the Ottoman empire, who largely suppressed the drinking of alcohol, wine making continued in the region led by Christian and Jewish settlers.
After the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 there was much encouragements made to the wine industry in the country and by the 1940s the industry was thriving. There are many award winning wines from the indigenous grapes of the region the best of which are reportedly Narince and Emir for white win and Bogazkere and Okuzgozu for reds. Their popularity is spreading world wide with many experts ranking the wines produced here very highly.
The beautiful village in Pigeon Valley
We saw some beautiful views together of Pigeon Valley in one of my previous posts but I never got up close and personal with the area. Today I was delighted that I would be visiting a little village nestled just inside the famous Pigeon Valley where I was going to get to get a real taste for the local people and their customs. Goreme and Ürgüp are well developed tourists destinations and though they've been very faithful to their routes and history, staying well preserved despite thousands of tourists, they are nothing compared to the village I was about to visit in terms of experiencing authentic daily life of local people.
It was a long way to find this isolated village and it took quite some time to hike through the valley to the hidden village. My excitement kept me going, however, knowing that I was about to experience more of the local life than most got to experience when visiting the area. I was told that this little village was home to farmers whose goal was to be self sustainable by growing all of the food they eat and rearing their own cattle.
Finally, after a treacherous hike down the valley in the blistering hot, I reached my destination. With no official name, this little group of buildings I have called a village was more a small community of farmers. Mostly run by middle aged women, they had created a beautiful area nestled into the side of the valley where they had planted and grew many different fruit trees and had live stock roaming free.
The shade of the fruit trees was most welcome after such a long trek but I knew this was going to be really worth it. I was welcomed graciously by a woman who introduced herself as Elif. I will tell you now that not a single person I met here spoke a word of English so we communicated by use of our tone, facial expressions and gestures! I felt so welcomed and was astounded by the generosity of the people here, who were genuinely excited to be able to show off their community to visitors.
As you can see the compound had such a variety of different produce and animals all in one place. There were grapes for eating and for wine, donkeys for transportation and labour (though this one was just a baby) and chickens and ducks too for eggs and meat.
As you can see the ducks and chickens were completely free range and loved the shade of the trees down in the cute valley where the farms were situated. They ran around all of the pots, baskets and carts used for the manufacture and storage of food.
I thought I would just be here to see the area but the women of the community embraced me with open arms and were genuinely excited to be able to show off where they lived and their industry. They wanted to show me how they lived and how they lived off the land. As you can see here, another bubbly lady wanted to show off the lavender that they produced to make essential oils and other gifts to trade and sell.
I wasn't expecting to eat here but they started bustling around me laying out food and invited me to join them. The food was of course the freshest I'd ever tasted with all of the products on the table having been grown by the women of the community, as far as I could understand from our gesturing.
It was the funniest meal I've ever had as we tried to communicate with each other, leading to many laughs at the different mimes we were giving each other. Never have I found a group of people so full of joy. This simple life gives them everything they need and their care free attitudes are testament to the good lives they lead here, showing you don't need technology or 'things' to be happy. You just need friends, a good home and good food.
After my beautiful meal the Turkish man you saw me with with the donkey offered to give me and another two tourists who had found their way to the farm, a ride back home. I was so grateful to accept because the trek down really had been arduous, though extremely worth it. I had loved every minute of my stay here and it was fascinating to see the lives of local people as they would have been lived here for centuries. Living in the caves and valleys and living off the land, with some minimal trade.
Overlooking Goreme at the Sultan Cave Suites
One of the premiere hotels in Goreme town, the Sultan Cave Suites are situated in stepped back terraces overlooking the beauty of the town and the surrounding areas. The hotel has 30 rooms and combines original features and cave architecture into modern, luxurious rooms that even the most seasoned traveller would marvel at. Of course, the inside of rooms are just part of the story because outside your room there are also dozens of little terraces spread all over the hotel for you to sit and enjoy the view and the atmosphere of Goreme.
I am so excited to re-discover the beauty of this room with you all. Honestly I was enchanted. A mix between the ancient cave dwellings found all over the region, and the feel of a historical french chateau, it just oozes luxury. Never have I seen such a perfect marrying of rustic charm and plush, soft furnishings.
There was a fireplace built into the original cave walls and ornate Turkish design mantel piece framing it. I have to say that it was very hot when I visited Cappadocia so the idea of a fire sounded absolutely terrible at that point, but I could imagine cozying up in here on the velvety red chairs and reading a book during the winter, when the region actually gets quite cold, even seeing snow.
Through a solid, rustic wood door was the bathroom complete with antique looking fixtures and fittings, but all of the modern conveniences of hair dryers and heated towel rails! Not large, this room was one of the original rooms from an ancient cave dwelling that was re-designed to fit the hotel room's requirements while still maintaining the original bare stone walls.
My absolutely huge bed was nestled into this lovely stone archway making the large room still feel cosy and snug. Every little feature was thought about from the small dressing table with fold out seat to the little original alcove features for ornaments and artefacts.
Enjoying the rooftop view from Sultan Caves Suites
The rooms are completely beautiful at Sultan Caves Suites but the real selling point that draws people from all over the world are its rooftop terraces. Overlooking Goreme and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, you can't help but feel in another world as you sit on the traditional Turkish low benches and relax.
Watching the sun set over the town I had time to reflect on my day and I was blown away once again by Turkey and its people. Seeing the majesty of Monks Valley and then seeing the humble lives that the true local people lead here, so full of love and life and welcoming, I felt that the people here are right for this land. Their honesty and unique character is so at home in this land of rocks that are so beautiful and diverse.
And so we come to the end of another adventure. My favourite part was definitely going to visit the real local village farm and being able to send time with the inhabitants of this region who have been here for centuries. It puts the cave dwellings and stone houses of the ancient past into perspective because people still live here and live that lifestyle. They farm and live off the land and live at one with the rocks and beauty of the spires and valleys around Cappadocia. Elif was so kind and welcoming as were all of the other women in the community and I can't tell you how special I felt to be so accepted by these people - what a special experience that I will never have again.
I remember when I first came here, I was so wide eyed and couldn't close my mouth because I was constantly in shock about what I was seeing. Over some time you start to become used to the crazy, different, unique fairy tale landscapes. But seeing the love that the local people have for their land and seeing how they still value and appreciate it every single day brought into focus for me that you cannot take anything for granted. Where you live, where you travel, where you eat, every moment is important and these beautiful simple people have brought that back in to focus for me once again.
Thank you so much for joining me in this tour of Monks Valley, the local village in Pigeon Valley and around Sultan Caves Suites. I can't wait so share more exploration with you in the future so if you want to see more, please follow my blog here and vote for this post! I always love talking to you all, you know me I can't resist, so please do let me know your favourite part of the area we explored together today so we can talk about it!
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