I got up at 4:00am and in the cold darkness just before dawn, walked up the ridge behind the pension to watch the sunrise. It was an overcast morning and a few spots of misty rain were falling as I stood on the ridgetop with the sounds of awakening birds and animals echoing up from the valley. At 4:20 the mournful sound of the Muzzins1 began to ring out from the mosques of Göreme and in the clear, still air even the calls from the nearby town of Urgip, 9km away, were audible.
The sunrise never happened so I went back down to the pension and went back to bed for 2½ hours.We had breakfast on the terrace of the pension then headed off down the hill to the village and from there we walked 1km out of town past small fields of grain and vegetables in amongst clusters of strangely shaped pinnacles to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This small, abandoned village contains the greatest concentration of cave dwellings in Cappadocia. The churches, convents , houses and monasteries are all hewn out of the soft volcanic rock called tufa (or tuff) which was spewed from the huge volcanic peak of Erciyes Daği, which lies about 100 kilometres from Göreme, around 150 million years ago.
The dwellings are the legacy of Cappadocian Christianity from the Byzantine Empire and were built by monks between the 4th and 10th centuries. The monks inhabited the village until the formation of modern Turkey in the 1920s. The churches are decorated with frescoes, many of them in remarkably good condition.
We spent 2 hours exploring the area then clambered down into the valley below the museum and walked out to the road through a quiet and peaceful orchard. We crossed the road and walked up into the head of a tiny valley where many cave dwellings were visible in the surrounding pinnacles amongst neatly tilled fields. There were no tourists here and we sat at the top of a small hill watching a half a dozen men, women and children working at their farm plots. Mark and Kath joined us and a short while later another American, a girl called Kelly came and sat with us too.
The 5 of us walked down past the farmers and the children gave us some fruit to eat. It wasn’t ripe but we pretended to eat and enjoy it. We wandered down the valley towards a strangely-eroded cliff then tried to follow a gully leading up into a maze of gullies. Eventually, we were stopped by a sheer cliff so we turned back and returned to Göreme.
In the evening, we had a meal at the pension followed by some plinky-plink Turkish music. Kelly came up for a beer with us then Linda and I walked her back to her pension, stopping for a glass of çay on the way.
1 Muzzins call the faithful to prayer five times per day in the Muslim world.