HIKING THE RED AND ROSE VALLEYS
One of the tourist attractions of Cappadocia is the many opportunities for hiking through the valleys of the region. If hiking is your favorite holiday activity, the internet has plenty of in depth info to help you navigate the trails of Cappadocia. Our third day in the region was devoted to a walk through the Red and Rose Valley; it was about four and a half kilometres long, ending at the curious town of Cavusin. Along the way there are stone trail-signs so there’s always plenty of info to keep you heading in the right direction. Our first sign of the morning told us that the exit to the Meskendir Trail was 776 metres ahead and as we were heading towards Cavusin, we would turn left and walk for 4537 metres. The Red and Rose Valleys join up along the way and continually provide the sights that remind us we are ‘no longer in Kansas’. It could be the many pigeon lofts high up in the rocky slopes of the valley. It could be the astonishing views of the landscapes as you walk over the valley ridges. It could be the dry river-bed walking where half the time you suspect you are tunneling through the valley.
As mentioned above, high up on the sides of the valley, the walls are catacombed by pigeon lofts where the local farmers’ purpose is to attract the pigeons, get them to settle down and provide the manure that is so important for fertilising the local soil and growing food. We noticed that some of these farmers were artists as well so they decorated the entrances of the pigeon lofts with curiously attractive designs. Whether these diagrams are effective in attracting pigeons we will never know; perhaps the artist just wanted to confuse the tourists.
The next sign we encountered told us that we had walked half a kilometre, we were nearly at the Café at Tuvalet and it was only 4 kilometres to Cavusin. Very little of the walk was spent at the top of the valleys but when we were, the vistas were very special. Much of our hike was spent at the bottom of the valley and a large part of that time was spent walking through natural tunnels that the river had carved out of the rock walls of the valley
There were certainly spots in these two valleys where monks spirited themselves away in places so high that coming down in search of food was not an option. Gifted supplies had to be drawn up by rope. This question also applied to the pigeon lofts where it seemed that the farmers had to climb by rickety wooden ladders, ropes or carved steps in the rock face to collect the guano and drop off more pigeon food. There were a number of churches carved out of tall rock cones in the valleys. The designers of these church made it a lot easier for pilgrims to access these holy places than reaching a pigeon loft. However the Church in the image below provided no steps, only shallow gouged holes that only the most athletic of pilgrims could climb up through the doorway.
As we hiked out of Rose Valley and headed towards Cavusin, we came across a stall selling drinks for thirsty hikers. For the first time in my life, I was offered a glass of pomegranate juice; I had never eaten a pomegranate before so this was a life changing experience. Ever since, if I come across pomegranates in Australian markets, I am immediately taken back to my time in Cappadocia and the time we finished our walk through Rose Valley and arrived at Cavusin The image to the left shows a deteriorating sign on the edge of town promoting Hotel Green’s camping sites and the Yegil restaurant. Looking beyond the sign rose the stone hill that was riddled with caverns that was another abandoned town to remind us of past tragic history of the Ottoman Empire.
Cavasun is a tale really of two cities. There is the ancient crumbling ruins of the cave houses of the Greek citizens who were moved out of the country in the aftermath of World War 1. Then there is the town built around this ruined monument to an absent people. Turkey was on the wrong side of the victors of World War 1 and not only lost territory in the Balkans before 1914, the Versailles Peace Treaty awarded large tracts of the Turkish coastal zone to Greece. The government of Greece immediately invaded Turkey to take over administration of their new territories but failed to notice that their old allies were not going to back them up. They hadn’t recognised that the world was sick of fighting and the Greek army was forced back out of Turkey. To make matters worse, Greek speaking citizens were seen as undermining Turkish nationhood and this triggered the movement to force such people out of the country to a land their ancestors had left more than 2000 years ago.
Ordinary Turkish citizens are left with these huge memorials of empty housing that have loomed over their town ever since. While these cave houses were lived in by many people for another 40 years, changing times and earthquakes have meant the old cave houses are no longer as attractive in the new millennium, unless such folks are very wealthy and are happy to spend a lot of their money updating their quirky holiday house.
If we had not been exhausted by our long walk earlier in the day, we would have been able to take the narrow path up the hill and visit a fifth century cave church, dedicated to John the Baptist. The image on the right above shows some of the carvings in an entrance room to this ancient place of worship.