The girls we'd met at dinner last night had highly recommended visiting the Ihlara Valley, and Derinkuyu, both of which had been on our list of things to do, so we got up bright and early and took off in the bus. First stop, the underground village of Derinkuyu. We had some fun in this town trying to follow the signs. The thing with an underground village is that you can hide one anywhere. There's no big obvious building that you're visiting or anything.
We were early, apparently we'd beaten the days tour busses. Which was good, because it meant there was a lot less people. But it also meant that we were subjected to the full force of the locals plying their wares. Derinkuyu was the only place in Turkey where I really got fed up with salesmen. Everywhere else people would ply their trade, but that would be that. Here we got followed, had kids sent after us repeatedly trying to get us to buy the same thing. And it wasn't even something nice. Anyway.
The above ground portion of the town really is pretty dismal. It's dirty and drab and is just splotched down in the middle of a big field. But the underground village is really neat. It's thought that it was originally excavated by the Hittites, 1900-1200 BC but later enlarged by other groups, notably the local christian communities.
There's apparently about 40 or so of these under ground cities known, and some of are apparently big enough to hold 30,000 people for up to six months. Apparently the locals would normally live above ground, (it's easier!) but when threatened by marauders coming out of the middle east (apparently this was often enough) they would retreat underground.
Derinkuyu is one of these places, and it's huge. We went down about 8 levels, to 55m below groud, all naturally ventilated. There's a church, a wine press, a school, and all sorts of rooms and passageways. They have huge millwheels that were apparently used as seals between levels if people broke into upper levels. One thing I found strange is that the walls were completely undecorated. Not even rudimentary etchings.
What we saw was a big area, apparently you can only visit about a quarter of what's been excavated, and they's probably more that hasn't been excavated yet. Jesse and I crawled past a millstone into an unlit area, and walked away for a while by the light of my headlight. We found more huge areas, but it quickly became obvious that we could very easily get lost in here, with only one light. Big. Lots of work digging this place out by hand.
More driving across the fields, beautiful snow capped volcanoes dominating the skyline, and then we were suddenly at Ihlara. You just suddenly arrive at a gorge cut into the landscape, with red cliffs above a quiet green valley with a river running through it. Neat!
We parked the car, headed down the steps into the valley, and went for a walk. Like Göreme, there's rock cut churchs with frescoes here, cut into the side of the cliffs, rather than the erosion cones around Göreme.
Quite a bit of vandalism here, and garbage everywhere. Rivers have a nasty habit of collecting garbage at the best of times, but there really was a lot of junk in this valley.
Still lovely, cherry trees, blue skies, ancient art, and a bit of exercise.
Jared, Matt and I walked all the way down to the next village, then managed to lose Matt. I think he heard the rumours about girls skinny dipping in a bend in the river and took off. Jared and I were trying to find the Chapel of St George, and wondered all over the hillside, poking our heads into a multitude of churches and rooms, big, small, but all undecorated. Then we finally found the chapel we were looking for. We should have just followed the signs :)
A quite nice chapel, extremely well decorated, but lots of graffiti. (in greek!) This was definitely the nicest chapel we saw in the Ihlara Valley, but there were plenty more we didn't look at at all.
By now Jared and I were getting tired, and pretty sure that the rest of the crew would be getting grumpy (we had both backpacks) so we headed on back up stream. We needn't have bothered, they were all playing in the river, and exploring the other direction :)
Jared, Matt and I had been impressed by a nice little restaraunt by the rivers edge down at the next village, so we drove everyone around and had a rather different meal. We had a passing tour guide go through the menu and prices with us, then he bid us good day and left with his own group! Still tasty, and yet more Efes beer. We saw a different brewery down by Antalya, but we only ever saw the one beer actually available.
More cross country driving, this time taking some random shortcuts across some heavily potholed roads, and through some towns that we couldn't even find on our maps. Still, we managed to see some crazy installation art, and a pair of Storks in a nest above the town.
Now for the fun part...
I don't have any pictures of this, but we went to a "Turkish night" for dinner that night. This was a fixed price meal, with "all you can eat, all you can drink, dancing, entertainment, music" It was great! We might not have gotten all you can eat, but we certainly got all you can drink. Beer, Wine and Raki. More dancing and music than I think any of us expected. (whenever we thought they were finished, yet another outfit, yet another musical style, and yet another dance would come on stage to amuse us)
Some of them required crowd participation, at one stage a huge conga line took everyone out back for a big bonfire and some more dancing.
Finally, after a night of traditional turkish music, the lights went down, the disco ball got lit up, the black lights turned on, and to the tune of Axel F, an open elevator started coming down out of the ceiling. This was the entrence for the belly dancer! (it quite promptly went back to turkish music, so I have no idea what the point of playing Axel F was, other than to sound rather out of place!)
Ben got called up for a dance with the belly dancer, who even dressed him up in bells and jangly things. Ben was excited :)
We came home, and I went off for an evening meeting the locals. Most of whom I had promptly forgotten by the time I met them all again the next night. Lovely chaps :)