This is copied from the longer trip report in the Istanbul forum, which also has detailed travel info, as I moved around Turkey.
I stayed in the Kelebek hotel for 4 nights (see my review for details) and it was a good choice for the outdoor areas were very comfy, and there were plenty of people who enjoyed a chat, sharing their experiences.
I explored Goreme found St Joseph’s church (the opposite direction to the Open air museum out of town) and saw the chimneys in the rosy sunset. The following morning I was too tired to get up at 5am to watch the sky full of balloons, with some skimming the hotel but saw the stragglers by 7am.
I took one of the tours organised by Heritage Travel – Undiscovered Cappadocia. The tours are restricted to 12 so each stop was easy to navigate and very interesting. We visited a Greek town now called Mustafapasa, and the guide was very good on the historical background of the population transfer. Americans on the tour could not quite believe that property owners could be moved out under military guard without recompense, but that was the kind of solution favoured not just in Turkey/Greece in 1923, but in India in 1947.
Next stop was Soganli valley where we saw a monastery and other hidden churches on the route.
The sun was beating down and we had a nice lunch after our walk. I enjoyed the lentil soup and gosleme. The meat stew was quite dry but a strong beef flavour which was very good. There were many choices of dessert but I was full.
We went to Deriynku, an underground cave city. We had to wait for the last group to clear the tunnel before entering as some people do need to climb back up immediately if they are in distress. Our guide was keen for us to move quickly so we would get to the 5th level underground – after that there is a one way system in place, and you won’t meet someone coming against you in the dark. It was not difficult to imagine how 5th century BC rebels felt crawling in the dark to safety, and even when we got to the 7th level there was cool air circulating. Amazing engineering, or as someone said, what didn’t work was buried under the rockfall. The caves were developed making them deeper during the iconoclast war (dispute?) in 7th century AD. The top level had kitchens and places for making wine (in times of peace) and lower levels were for storage of food, animals and people. The carved rooms were small, the halls linking them could be very high and the tunnels were strategically low. This would put an attacker on the defensive. I shuffled through one unlit tunnel to the burial chamber and can imagine how strong you would need to be to drag a corpse in with you – unless they had wheeled trolleys. They used complicated levers to close doors and isolate their attackers. They had hundreds of air holes accessing the hillside, so that enemies who knew they were in there could not easily block or smoke them out. The wine press was very well designed also, allowing gravity to spill the juice into the containers below.
In the lowest level there is a “school” where the rock has been carved into podium (for lecturer) and lower seats for the students. There are no designs on the walls, no paintings in Deriynku. It is not just that the tufa stone would have been a poor base for painting. I saw churches in the Open Air Museum which had simple designs painted onto bare tufa. Why not paint their walls when they would be stuck there for months or longer?
We next visited Sobessos. There was little information on site and this particular site was not within our guide’s expertise. The excavation is ongoing. So far a church, cemetery, and a roman bath has been uncovered. A farmer who owned the land discovered the site accidentally when he was digging a well. He found the mosaic designs and the government bought his land for excavation. The mosaics were in excellent condition with beautiful designs and colours. The mosaics are formed of colourful stones. The patterns are geometrical with swastika, meander and cross shapes with the forms of hair braid. The cross shapes are also reminiscent of four leaved clover.
We did so much that day and it was due to the excellent organisation of the trip and the lack of ceramics or carpetshop stops. I do recommend the tours organised by Heritage travel even though they are not cheap – when your time is short you can see a lot of varied and interesting things.
I did have a carpet demonstration though in Goreme. It was a comparison of tribal carpets by nomadic and village women in central Turkey. The patterns were amazing, very vivid with strong artistic flourish. They were all completed about forty years ago, as the lifestyle is dying out. The wool was goat or camelhair, and was spun by the women and dyed for their work. They carried a loom wide enough for the carpet width, and as high as they could work comfortably, so waist to shoulder height. Hence they could see only a third of the pattern at a time. These carpets may be for their bridal portion, or to decorate their home. The designs of nomads are far more open to influences of what the women have seen than village carpet design, which follow very specific designs identifying the village.
I met a lovely woman, Ayesha who showed me her lace making at home. She put my hair in the beaded muslin scarf I bought from her, and Turkish women (who all wore the scarf in that town) addressed me. When I was out and about with my camera, women chatting together would see us coming and would readjust their scarves. It was hot and a tight scarf was a burden, so I was sorry to have that reaction, but they were keen to share their apricots and interested in having their photo taken. Goreme has had tourists since the sixties, so these women are well used to us, yet not jaded.
I managed to get on a balloon flight, which was a little of a letdown as we had problems getting aloft, and missed the sunrise and the benefit of rising air. Heritage did give us a 50% discount though for which I applaud them, as it was a safe and professional flight.
Cappadocia was amazing, and I really like the hotel too, but recommend that if you stay there you get a suite. The cave rooms are a bit dank and airless – Turks think we are funny to pay to live in a cave – that is free as once you annexe your chimney.