The majority of travellers visit this incredibly interesting and beautiful region of Turkey in the sunny months, but we decided to spend a week in January in Cappadocia as independent travellers, seeing the area in the snow. It is well worth the trip. We spent a week in the region and feel that it merits a return visit in spring or the autumn.
We flew to Istanbul and changed for Kayseri, the local airport. The first flakes were falling as we stepped off the plane. Three quarters of an hour later we were in Urgup, having been driven through the region to our destination, the Selcuk Evi Hotel. The welcome was warm, the food excellent and the rooms both pretty and very comfortable. Highly recommended. We were spoilt rotten.
The snow by the following day was pretty deep, around three inches had fallen overnight. We were offered guided trips around the area by the hotel management at a cost of approx. 125.00 Euros for the four of us including lunch, but due to the weather conditions it was advised that we waited for the snow to ease a little, so we spent a very pleasant day wandering around Urgup, investigating the local shops, haggling over souvenirs (much less expensive in winter!) and visiting the very friendly bunch at the local tourist information centre. Lunch was a local Pide (Turkish version of a pizza, about the shape and size of a small canoe!) at a local bakery where the most fantastic array of local breads and pastries was baked and sold straight from the oven. Our experience of local Turkish café food has always been good and the welcome always warm and friendly.
Having located the local bus station and being nothing daunted by the snow, the next day was spent skidding around on the local buses visiting the sights. Goreme open Air Museum is well worth a visit to see the amazing geological formations referred to as the “fairy chimneys”, which house the most beautifully decorated churches. The area was inhabited by Christians up to some 100 years ago until the pull of proper doors, walls, central heating and modern sanitation, among other things, tempted the population to decamp. The Dark Church, in particular, is well worth a visit. Look out for the grumpy looking horses that must have been the speciality of one of the local artists of the day.
We continued to use the local transport, which is clearly marked with destinations and route, to travel to other local attractions such as Uchisar Castle and Avanos. The former is a rock formation used as a defensive castle several hundred years ago, it is easy to climb and provides one with remarkable views of the countryside. Avanos is a local town where one can visit local potteries and haggle over ceramic goodies. In the summer one can take boat trips up the Red River, which personally I would prefer to the standard balloon trips which are pretty pricy and one has to get up for at sparrow yawn!
Locally in Urgup try the hamam in the town centre for a warm up on the marble slab, a good scrub down and a massage in a cloud of soapy bubbles for a few lira. Take your swimming costume with you if you don’t like slobbing about in what appears to be a smallish tablecloth to cover the pink bits! The Turasan vineyard produces some pleasant wines and is worth a visit as well. Local restaurants and shops are friendly places with good food and company. One shop owner spent an hour playing a variety of beautiful handmade instruments; a cup of coffee before us as he entertained us. What did we buy? Nothing. He wasn’t bothered at all as he just enjoyed the pleasure of it, just as did we.
So – Cappadocia is well worth the trip. It is not yet up to par for anyone with mobility disabilities; not the place for wheelchairs or walking sticks. If you go then be adventurous and use local transport. Most people speak enough English to help and direct if your Turkish is not up to par. You might not see as much of the area as you do on an organised trip, but you see so much more of the sights you do visit at your own pace, in your own time and for a few lira and not a lot of Euros! Furthermore you are not towed into the ceramic or other shops that an organised tour has on its list so you are free to browse at your leisure and haggle over prices, subject to nobody’s timetable but your own.
Try it – and have fun. We did, and we shall be going back for more but not until we have been to Troy and Pergamum.