•  <span>GAMIRASU </span> <br/ > Uniquely Cappadocian !
    GAMIRASU
    Uniquely Cappadocian !
  •  <span>GAMIRASU </span> <br/ > Uniquely Cappadocian !
    GAMIRASU
    Uniquely Cappadocian !
  •  <span>GAMIRASU </span> <br/ > Uniquely Cappadocian !
    GAMIRASU
    Uniquely Cappadocian !

PRESS

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

TOTAL darkness. It’s a term that’s often used but as I lie in bed I realise that I’ve never been in a room where the darkness has been so absolute before. The air feels different too, with a quality I can’t quite put my finger on but I know that comes from being surrounded by solid rock.

 

When I dreamt of sleeping in a cave hotel in Cappadocia, I looked forward to the novelty but hadn’t realised how different it would feel. Between the darkness and the slightly eerie total silence, there was no mistaking my cave for your average hotel room even after I blew out my bedside candle.

 

One of 40 private cave rooms in a hotel made up of seven former cave houses, my room in the rock at the Yunak Evleri hotel dates back to the fifth or sixth century but has some modern comforts. The kettle to make tea is a welcome addition but I leave the TV off, unplugging it so that the standby light doesn’t ruin the darkness.

 

The bathrooms may be marble and the floors tiled but the rest of the cave is all raw surfaces, with niches for candles carved into the rock walls.

With its fairy chimneys and underground cities, Cappadocia has long fascinated archaeologists, geologists, historians and travellers. The first travel book about the area was published in 1712 by Paul Lucas, a French emissary of Louis XIV who was amazed by what he found in Ürgüp and Avanos on his first visit in 1705. More than 300 years later people continue to travel to this plateau in the middle of Turkey to be enthralled by the alien landscape and the history to be found under the rocks.

 

The strange cones, pinnacles and chimneys were created after ash from volcanic eruptions solidified into rock before wind and water sculpted the unusual formations. Thousands of years ago humans followed nature’s lead and started carving chambers and tunnels into the soft rock.

 

While the chimneys may rise 40m into the sky, the cities below the surface reach as far as eight storeys underground. There are more than 200 underground towns and cities in Cappadocia; the best known, under the Citadel of Kaymakli, opened to visitors in 1964. Four of the eight underground floors are open to the public and people can explore the stables, storage rooms, wineries and kitchens which archaeologists believe were part of an underground network that could be a temporary home for up to 3500 people.

 

It’s believed the largest underground city could house up to 20,000 people, but as well designed as they were these honeycombed networks of caves were not permanent residences, but instead somewhere to hide with livestock and supplies in time of danger.

Rather than join the crowds at Kaymakli, our guide takes us to an underground city that is yet to be opened to the public, allowing us to be the only ones squeezing through the tunnels and walking down staircases carved into rock.

 

During the early days of istianity, Cappadocia was a religious refuge for istians fleeing persecution. More than 200 rock-hewn churches can be found in the area, and while decoration was kept to a minimum during the iconoclastic period, beautiful Byzantine murals started appearing from about 900-1200 AD.

 

Cappadocia’s most famous attraction, the Goreme Open Air Museum is home to more than 10 cave churches, including one of the oldest known in the region, the Tokali Church. Here, the frescoes narrating the life of ist are some of the best in the area.

 

After taking in tales of Cappadocia’s istian history by day, at night we witness another important religion. The Mevlevi Order, or Whirling Dervishes are a branch of the Sufi tradition. Their Sema Ritual was inspired by Rumi, or Mevlana as he is known in Turkey, in the 13th century, and some Dervishes allow people to watch them taking part in formal ceremonies.

After dinner at the Gamirasu Cave Hotel we walk out to a viewing platform, take our seats in the cool crisp air and place blankets over our laps. Across a small gully four Dervishes appear, the musicians start and the hypnotic ceremony begins.

 

Earlier our guide had explained that although tourists may be watching, this is a sacred ritual, not a show, and at no time should we applaud. When the music stops the silence around the ceremony heightens the experience and I’m thankful that no clapping will shatter the feeling that has come over me. The dervishes may have been the ones doing the meditational dance, but my spirit has also been moved.

 

Having heard throughout our travels in Turkey that the best ceramics are found in Cappadocia, there is no leaving until we visit one of the family-run potteries in Avanos. The town is situated on the Kizilirmak (Red) river, which provides the red pottery clay that has been producing sought-after ceramics for hundreds of years. We watch enthralled as potters transform a lump of clay into a traditional Hittite wine jug in Venessa Seramik’s pottery workshop. Incredible colours and intricate designs are everywhere, and while there are many bargains to be had we also find ourselves debating whether we should spend hundreds of dollars on a single dish or tile. In the end, I stick to a collection of the more budget friendly but beautiful bowls and ceramic coasters.

After returning home, I realise I didn’t need a piece by a master craftsman. My humble treasures lift my spirits and become friendly reminders of the nights I slept in a cave and felt the magic among the rocks.

 

The writer travelled as a guest of Trafalgar.

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