Been here and done it in the past, but it never cease to amaze me. I never get to see things twice or at least in similar way that I have seen it before. It’s always a different sight or a different insight. I know that this trip would be a distinct experience from the previous ones, that’s for certain. A couple days – or even a week – of stay isn’t enough to satiate one’s curiosity or for a visitor to say that he or she has seen the place. This region of Turkey has so much sights to marvel at.
It was our second morning in the town of Goreme. I let my friend join the group tour – called Green Tour – I have done it long time ago with a group of mostly Asian tourists so I decided to stay. Though I’m determined to not waste the time at the pansiyon so I thought about going to that castle I haven’t had the chance seeing up-close as the tour I took before run out of time so we were not able to get up to the citadel. I remember one of the tourists in our group that time fascinatingly telling me story of how breath-taking the view on top of the castle. Looking at the google map during breakfast, the village of Uchisar looks like a fisherman’s net thrown on an ocean of rugged terrain that it gave my feet an unbearable itch to get there not tomorrow but today. I know that Ageel would be drooling in envy when he gets to see the photos but I don’t have any itinerary the whole day so Uchisar it is! I have heard of minibuses that ply the Goreme – Uchisar route but I think it’s not too many and I have not seen any that day, in any case I intend to do a DIY hike. That was the plan.
The sun was immaculately bright when I went out of my accommodation onto the main street of Goreme. I took a full breakfast so my energy was high. I started a leisure walk along the main highway (Adnan Menderes Caddesi), a little off the Otogar or the bus terminal.
On the left side of the highway is a cluster of charming tall pointed cave lodgings called Cave Hotel Saksagan, one of the authentic ones but reasonably priced I heard. Elis Hammam (Turkish bath house) is on the right side, a relaxing spa experience in the traditional Turkish soak-and-wash massage, a good idea after an exhausting day I guess. I did visit some neighborhood Turkish bath houses in Istanbul and it was an invigorating experience one should not miss, the neighborhood frequented by locals – not the touristic – ones are less expensive though not that luxurious in terms of facilities, nonetheless, the masseurs were excellent.
|Hamam or Turkish bath house just along the highway.|
|One of the cave hotels, the Cave Hotel Saksagan.|
Right at the bend below the highway turning at the connecting longer and wider highway of Goreme-Uchisar Yolu is the Goreme Panorama Park should one want to take a hike around the park onto Uchisar, though it might take longer compared to walking along the highway but probably more rewarding in a way as you get to be closer to rock formations and who knows, you might as well find some interesting rock-cut churches and caves.
|Goreme Panorama Park.|
|White valleys just off the highway with Uchisar Castle in the distance.|
I was starting to feel the heat as the morning progress while walking along the highway where very few vehicles were passing that day. About 10 minutes along the two-kilometer length of the straight highway there was a sign board on the left side and a footpath leading to the Goreme Panorama. Although I’ve seen it before, I did a stopover. I had my old Nikon D60 with me, I know it’s been with me for quite some time but I still love this camera, I am not a professional photographer so it still serve me well.
At the edge of the hill are couple of souvenir shops selling trinkets and souvenir stuff, and feeling a bit of exhaustion probably caused by the tension of yesterday’s hike at the Zemi Valley, I ordered a bottle of coke at the mini store and relax for a while at one of the benches marveling at the view of the white valleys glistening from the bright sunlight and the fairy chimneys with the town of Goreme in the far left distance.
I can’t help but feel blessed to behold nature – the sights, the sound of the winds blowing through the valley whispering something beautiful. Contemplating while admiring the view, it occurred to me how natural catastrophe can be punitive at some point in history but in the end it create works of natural wonders, it’s like reinventing itself. It’s the law of nature, I guess. Take the picturesque panorama, fascinating and mysteriously peculiar rock structures around this region for example, the fairy chimneys, pyramid rocks, lofty pointed cones and mounds of white and brownish hills were all a result of constant erosion caused by tools of nature (air and rain) from the hardened lava and ash deposits, which in turn are by-product of several volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago that may have devastated the area and perhaps claimed the lives of local inhabitants, animals and crops.
I have got to reach the castle before mid-noon so I continued walking back to the main highway. Few minutes on the left side just beyond the blue rectangular metal sign board that says “Uchisar”, I spotted some plots of red ripe tomatoes a little down the road, plucked some before continuing my hike, not that I was hungry but they are starting to rot, they might as well serve their existential purpose.
|The highway with Uchisar Castle on the left distance.|
A vivid sight of the castle looming on top of the village from the sign board made me walk faster though I was starting to sweat. The highway split on a two-way fork with the triangular patch of green grass in the middle, I took the left side road sloping up onto the first clusters of houses on both sides of the roads. The village isn’t as popular as the town of Goreme but for tourists information, I found several quaint accommodations in the village surrounding the citadel, I never inquired but perhaps staying around this place cost a bit more due to the panorama view it afford. There were some blocks of ruined houses on the left side of the road going up or maybe under construction though it seemed they were there for ages creating a somewhat vintage ambiance complementing the existing ancient citadel.
|Hotels cascading on the village hills.|
|Old ruined houses around the village.|
|Nuts and dried fruits on sale at the vast plaza below the castle.|
Walking up the winding road and reaching the plaza right below the castle itself is a cluster of parasols selling various Cappadocian produce such nuts, dried fruits and sweets. Entry to the castle is TL5.
Going up inside is through several chambers carved out of the giant rock each connected by stairs, tunnels and passages, some are low others are high ceilinged. Erosions at the edges of the soft rock made it impossible to reach some of the cave rooms. Access to the various chambers up to the summit is through roughly carved stairways and the surrounding view gets prettier as I get to the peak.
|Passages inside and onto the summit of the castle.|
|View of the left side of the town below from the castle's peak.|
|View of the right side of the town below from the castle's peak.|
The citadel is the highest point in the whole of Cappadocia region, soaring approximately 60 meters in height from its base on top of the hill. The terrace on its summit provide a splendid view of the adjacent neighborhood, the winding highways, rolling hills, plateau, the red roofed houses of the village below, literally the whole area and even a good view of Mount Erciyes in the horizon especially this bright noon time. Several local tourists ascend the stop where the largely red Turkish flag is proudly undulating through the winds, they stayed there to capture the beautiful spans of the surrounding area. I did too.
Ascending the castle, I thought of going back to Goreme but I know this just can’t all be it. I’ve seen the castle in and out, but I surmise I did not walk all the way from Goreme only for that huge piece of wonder no matter how impressive it was, beside it is still early in the afternoon and taking into account the countless unexpected surprises I came across around Cappadocia or the whole country in general in my previous trips, so I decided to stay and might as well use the ample time to do some walking around the village – and sure glad I did.
|At the side of the castle.|
|The valley below the castle.|
|Facade of the castle.|
I walked down the ramp to the left side facing the castle square and there it was, revealing its beauty – not only the striking view of the castle above the sloping valley but the collections of old troglodyte cave dwellings, hewn with big square windows (perhaps verandas of rooms) and small pigeon holes around its facade with its conical tips all pointing to the blue skies above. Some of them with a piece of big rock suspended balancing on its narrow pointed apex like a piece of rubber eraser stuck on the tip of a sharpened pencil.
There is an old man living in one of the cave houses, perhaps someone maintaining the area. Pretty multi-coloured flowers and shrubs lining around his small courtyard.
|One of the troglodyte dwelling near below the castle.|
|Ancient dwellings below the castle.|
|The author with Uchisar castle on the backdrop.|
After roaming around the valley, I sat at one of the local restaurant not far from the castle and had lunch before finally hiking down (again) back to the town of Goreme.
I thought in the beginning that the town of Goreme is not really that far from Uchisar, perhaps a couple of kilometers, but it turned out to be almost 5 kilometers walk including the ascend. If not for the sweltering heat of the sun, the level of difficulty in doing a DIY hike from Goreme to Uchisar is not really foreboding. But if I chanced upon the minibus, I could’ve taken it on my way back. On second thought, maybe not, after all it’s gonna be another preparation for a longer and probably more strenuous hike in the following day from Goreme to Cavusin with my friend who did the convenient group tour this day.
I left the village of Uchisar, walked back leisurely imbibing the air of blissfulness from the amount of photos I have taken, the sights I have seen and the history I have soaked up on.