CAPPADOCIA: It is Deceptively Hard to get Lost Here (Or Possibly I am a Homing Pigeon)

This is a bit of a bad picture of Göreme.
This is a bit of a bad picture of Göreme.

Kayseri airport is virtually empty when you arrive. There is one member of staff sitting amongst the impressively large collection of suitcases in the lost property office, and three security guards checking tickets at the door.

“How are we getting to the hostel?” Your friend asks. You both make your way to the front of the airport  and watch as everyone around you gets into taxis.

This is a bit of a bad picture of Göreme.
This is a bit of a bad picture of Göreme.

“I don’t know actually. We could do the princess thing I suppose.”

“What’s that?”

“Wait for someone to help us.”

Sure enough, a man comes along after only a few minutes.

“Göreme? Minibus?”

“Ne kadar?”

“Yirmi Besh.”

You take a moment to work out what that number is in English.

“Yeah all right,” you say. You sling your bags into the back of the minibus and spend the rest of the journey in a mild state of anxiety. The driver chats animatedly on his phone while the minibus roars past dead farmland and the upturned wreckage of past accidents- but fortunately it was not your day to die, and you arrive safely at your hostel an hour later.

An angry Cappadocian turtle
An angry Cappadocian turtle

The next morning you set off with a map that is both incorrectly scaled and scribbled on by the owner of your hostel. Detailed topographic maps are only available to the army in Turkey so you’re just going to have to manage. Also in your bag is a mobile phone with enough credit to give you about 2 minutes of conversation and several packets of Turkish biscuits.

In terms of navigational aids, you had been taught how to find north using the hands of a watch a few years ago. Unfortunately, the only watch you had was a digital one, and you also couldn’t actually remember what you had been taught.

Despite these potential setbacks, you fail to get even the slightest bit lost.

Turkey April 2014 087
Kiliçlar Vadisi. Kinda fleshy.

You find the Open Air Museum by mistake and explore the cave houses for a while (the church may be worth seeing, but there are plenty of well-preserved caves just a few hundred metres from the museum entrance).

Then you make your way down into Kiliçlar Vadisi (or Swords Valley), which you hope will lead you back in the direction of Göreme. A group of Turkish boys leap between the rocks 30 feet above you. Their laughter echoes a long way into the valley.

Church Murals, with eyes scratched out by Greek-Turkish Exiles
Church Murals, with eyes scratched out by Greek-Turkish Exiles, Ihlara Valley
Selime Monastery
Selime Monastery
Open Air Museum Cappadocia
View from one of the rock houses opposite the Open Air Museum
Selime Monastery
Kitchen in the Selime Monastery

You pop up in a very convenient spot at the end of the valley. Göreme village is across the highway to your left, and the Rose Valley is on your right.

“How did we manage that?”

“No idea.” Your friend responds, equally mystified.


  1. Very disheartening to see the desecration of historic landmarks, particularly along religious lines. Saw too much of that too in Turkey, some acts dating from 100 years ago. But this isn’t just a problem in Turkey–Mosul just had 1,800 year old churches and ancient Shiite shrines destroyed. Well, good to show us how things look. Thanks.

    • I always feel a huge pang of guilt going to the British Museum- it’s full of looted artifacts that should have been returned long ago. I also didn’t miss the placards in Istanbul’s Topkapi palace explaining how the religious relics had to be “protected from the British”… or the sign at the entrance to the ancient city of Xanthos telling visitors that the tombs and buildings are replicas and the originals are now sitting in the British Museum.

      Egypt and Syria have both lost innumerable precious objects and artworks too since the uprisings. It isn’t comparable to the human loss, but it’s still a great shame. And the situation in Iraq is terrible all-round- even Al-Qaeda have denounced ISIS, and Iran and the US are considering joining forces against them.. and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.

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