Also in Nevşehir, through the Deviant valley (also known as the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys) one finds the Zelve Open Air Museum.
Zelve is a Byzantine-era monastery that was carved into the rock, and was one of the last abandoned monastic settlements in Cappadocia. Inhabited until 1952, when people were finally forced to evacuate the sandstone caves, when the risk of erosion became too dangerous.
In pre-iconoclastic times, Christians moved to Zelve to hide during the Persian and Arab invasions.
Today it is a truly beautiful site to wander and contemplate the lives of those that made this otherworldly dwelling.
A short and pleasant walk, about 1.5 km, southeast of Göreme town lies the “Open Air Museum”, which is Cappadocia’s principal attraction; for good reason! The Göreme Open Air Museum is a monastic complex of medieval cave churches, carved out by Orthodox monks, and embellished with Byzantine frescoes dating from 900-1200 AD.
We recommended that you follow the path in the set order, to better take advantage of the museums organization. Don’t let Open Air become “Free Form” – until after you have done the circuit – then wander freely 🙂
There are over 10 cave churches, along with rectories, dwellings, and a religious school. A convent with six stories of tunnels, of tunnels, corridors, stairways and chambers is an architectural and historical marvel.
While there, it is worth visiting is the Buckle Church Just outside the museum exit on the right; it isthe largest of the cave churches at Göreme – restored in the 1960s. The frescoes give a comprehensive account of the life of Christ – from the Annunciation, through the Baptism and Miracles, ending with the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension.
Elmalı Kilise, or Church with the Apple (below), dates from the 11th century and has well preserved frescoes of biblical scenes and portraits of saints. The name, thought to derive from a red orb held by St. Michael the Archangel, is depicted in a fresco near the entrance.
Karanlık Kilise, or Dark Church (below), is named aptly named for the lack of light that penetrates the interior. It was subsequently used as a pigeon house until the 1950s; It took 14 years to scrape the pigeon feces from the walls! After that it was extensively restored by UNESCO to reveal vividly colorful frescoes of New Testament scenes with the the painting of Christ Pantocrator on the dome dominating.
These are considered the best-preserved frescoes in all of Cappadocia as the absence of light has preserved the colors which are still vivid and beautiful.
above right side The Betrayal of Judas
Chapel of St. Catherine 11th century The frescoes depict: a Deesis (in the apse)
Azize Barbara Kilisesi (below) The Church of Saint Barbara late 11th century dedicated to their patron saint Barbara was an Egyptian martyr who was imprisoned by her father in order to protect her from the influences of Christianity. Barbara nevertheless found a way to practice her faith and her father tortured and killed her. The church is distinguished by simple geometric designs and Maltese crosses painted in red directly onto the stone.
Bulgur Çorbası – bulgur, tomato, onion soup – so simple sounding, yet so good!
When you find yourself in Turkey – you may be a bit confused with just how helpful and friendly the people are. Especially if you come from a “me-first” kind of city like New York 🙂
It took us a bit to really realize that the people were trying to be helpful and not put us through a ruse!! With that …
We went with Çem, the son of the Mustaffa owner of the Aydinli Cave House, to their second cousins restaurant Dibek Traditional Cook – which turns out to be one of the top local spot Göreme. It’s one of the places we would have passed by without glancing twice – as it is in a 450 Year old stable; and not much to look at from the outside. But like all good things in life, it’s what’s on the side that matters!
Dibek specializes in slow-cooked Testi Kebabı; a complete meal cooked in a sealed terra-cotta pot. The pot is served in its ceramic entirety, then broken at the table. For this specific dish, you need to make a reservation as it takes about 3 hours to be prepared! So worth it!!! There are a meat and vegetarian options, we chose the mushrooms, eggplant with tomato, pepper, patato, and garlic … my mouth is watering as I type this!
Other local specialties included:
Kurufasulye – oven cooked white beans in tomatoe and chili pepper sauce, topped with chopped tomatoes and green peppers sided with a perfect cucumber- onion salad.
Mantı – a surviving Ottoman recipe consisting of handmade pasta filled with meat or cheese and crushed chickpeas. Then steamed, and served topped with a yogurt garlic sauce and sprinkled with sumac.
Cacık – a perfect condiment of cucumbers and garlic mixed with yogurt, dressed with olive oil and mint.
We kept our dinner for the last evening in Cappadocia, and regret it a little. Dibek Traditional Cook is hands down THE BEST restaurant we went to during our entire excursion – and we shoud’ve had dinner there every evening!!
Aydinli Cave Hotel is a small, family-run hotel with Mustafa Demirci being the head of the family and his super charming son Cem
charming rooftop terracewith a panoramic view of Goreme
If there were a 6th Star for service, I would gladly award it to the Aydinli Cave House Hotel!
All businesses start from the top down -> and here we are starting with a home that has been occupied by the same family for over 500 years! Generations of love fill the Aydinli Cave Hotel with their joy and passion and you can feel it reverberating from the walls and the family that receives you.
From the father, Mr. Mustafa Demirci, and his son Çem (pronounced Chem) you learn the warmth of the beautiful town of Göreme. To visit the place is to meet it’s people. And there is no better window into this world then from them.
The town you know already is the most beautiful of those in Cappadocia – and having travelled around, we believe the smart move is to stay in Göreme. The experience you have there will depend on with whom and where you stay. It is for this reason I recommend the Aydinli Cave House Hotel.
Çem was always looking out for us and making sure we were headed in the right direction, while Mustafa took an day to show us around some special places and to pick lovely Rocket from his own garden!