Fleur sees us off in the traditional Turkish way by throwing water (and container!) at us in the camper van as we leave Kas. They say that this guarantees we will return.

14km from Kas, on the road to Demre we stop to take photos of some abandoned rural buildings. An old man comes over and sits down to watch with an expression of bewilderment as to why we should be interested in these ruins! There are 6 houses and 2 water cisterns. They were once the homes of Greeks who were forced back to Greece as part of the population exchange. Turkish people didn’t want to move into them due to the rural belief that it is very bad luck to move into the home of a non-believer or infidel and that the house will be cursed. Further up the road we notice another abandoned water cistern, this time long and narrow.

Near Yavu we notice many Lycian tombs cut into the mountainside very high above us. We then reach Myra, which is Turkey’s most famous site for Lycian tombs carved out of the rock face and has some of the country’s best examples. Unfortunately this means that there are loads of tourists. This is the first time we have had to share a Lycian site with anyone … and we don’t like it! It’s also the first time that we have paid to enter a site, which again we don’t like! There is also a Greco-Roman amphitheatre and several theatrical masks carved out of stone, some of which are quite freaky, as they have had their eyes gouged out.

Later in Antalya we buy a new tyre and get it fitted. The mechanics are really friendly and we end up drinking copious amounts of oregano çay (Turkish tea) and using their wifi. We spend the night down a tiny country lane at Gençlerkoyu. That night a man living nearby comes to investigate us, he is very friendly and offers us çay and a bed for the night but we decline as it’s our first night back in la Trumfa!

The next morning our neighbour’s wife comes by to offer us çay and is joined by a toothless old man. They’re very insistent but we’re keen top get on the road for Konya. The scenery is spectacular and gets more and more mountainous. Soon there is snow either side of the road.

In the distance we see the village of Buyukalan, which is camouflaged as all the houses are made from the same rocks as the mountainside. There are loads of abandoned houses, many of which have nearly fallen down as they are made of layers of stones, separated by wood and with no cement to hold them in place. They include beautifully carved banisters and details. A beekeeper invites Julia over a wall to take photos of him and doesn’t seem to understand that she is interested in photos of him with his face covered and wearing his full beekeeper’s suit!

Gokyurt

Just south of Konya we leave the main road to visit Gokyurt, which is like a mini Cappadocia. There are 2 main areas of interest. The first is by the village where there are large rock formations made from soft volcanic tufa that is easily eroded and carved. There are many cave houses, small chapels, water cisterns, tombs and a well preserved church. St. Paul was said to have stayed here.

The second site is nearby and runs along the length of a gorge. It also has rocks formed from the same tufa and houses multi-storey cave dwellings. Some of the rooms are quite large and linked to each other both laterally and vertically via holes and stairways. Many have lines of holes in their exterior walls where beams of wood would have been inserted to support roofs for extra rooms not made from stone. A number of these cave homes have found a new use as stables for animals and to store hay. Geppe has a siesta lying in one such hay store and wakes to find a mouse running across him!

We get a bit of a scare when a car full of young lads follow us out of the village and when we stop they stop too and all of them get out of the car and come over. Luckily it all turns out fine as they only wanted to say hello. They do however continue to follow us for quite a while more, clearly they are intrigued to find ‘aliens’ on their patch!.

We continue our journey to Konya (founded 4,000 years ago by the Hittites), known as Turkey’s Bible belt and home to the whirling dervishes. We visit it’s commercial area and buy some fish before driving 8km to Sille where we camp the night.

Sille

We awake to sleet and freezing temperatures. Finally the weather clears and we climb the hill to the abandoned cave houses that look over the village. They are said to be very old and once housed a Christian community. Many have several inter-connecting rooms, which are often on different levels. There is evidence that some once had extensions made from stone rather than wood this time. Inside one cave there is a church, which has several arches, an altar and tombs. One of the cave houses has lots of bones outside so we go over to investigate only to have a very fierce looking dog launch itself in our direction. Luckily it is on a chain but it gives us a major scare!

We climb up the steep cliff above the caves to discover more ruined buildings some of which are half cave and half stone structures. The setting is very dramatic with a backdrop of jagged mountains and a freezing wind to match.

Back in the village we find more abandoned buildings to photograph and then dive in to the Sille Konak restaurant, (which has been recommended to us by Tricia) for a delicious lunch of ‘dugun’ (yoghurt soup normally served at weddings) and Sille chicken kebab specials.

Çatalhoyük

We drive to Çatalhoyük where a large mound rises above the very flat Konya plain and is where the remains of the largest known Neolithic settlement on this planet have been unearthed. Up to 8,000 people lived here at its peak around 9,000 years ago. It was originally discovered by James Mellart (British) in 1961 and has 13 levels of settlements in places. There are no streets so people would have traversed the town via ladders, roofs and holes in each building’s roof. Skeletons have been found in the floors of many of the houses as they buried their dead within their homes and when there was no more room or the buildings were getting worn out then they built new ones out of mud on top and filled the old levels in. It is believed that men and women were totally equal in society and that there was no hierarchy, leaders etc. There is no evidence of religious ceremonies nor are there signs of war. It is thought that they lived here peacefully for around 1400 years from 6000BC. It is not clear why the site was abandoned and its population dispersed. Archaeologists still come here each year from around the world to excavate this fascinating site.

We drive to nearby Kayali and set up camp in the middle of nowhere on the vast flat plains. We rise early to drive to Cappadocia across the huge plains bordered by snowy mountains. We pass abandoned mud houses with straw and mud roofs that are light grey in colour due to the colour of the local soil. There is very little rain in this area so the mud does not easily get washed away. The nearby modern houses are of the same design. The roads are wonderful…traffic and pothole free and the petrol is nearly half a lira cheaper too! We stop to refill and are given a free çay.

04/03/2010 – 11/03/2010 Cappadocia

Cappadocia has a unique out of this world landscape with rock formations full of cave houses, fairy chimneys and underground cities. These have been made possible due to volcanic activity millions of years ago. 3 main volcanoes once formed a triangle around Cappadocia and covered the area in lava and very thick layers of ash. This ash formed soft volcanic tufa that is easily eroded and carved. The surface of Cappadocia is estimated to be eroded by 2cm every year by the wind and rain. Where the lava has formed hard rock the surrounding area is eroded leaving this rock standing high e.g. in the towns of Urgup, Ortahisar and Uçhisar. Sometimes there is tufa under the hard rock and so fairy chimneys are formed with lumps of rock standing on top of them like hats.

The area’s erosion explains why you often see cave houses high up on cliffs that appear totally inaccessible but would in fact have been at ground level many hundreds or thousands of years ago. You can see directly into many of the interior rooms as the exterior walls have collapsed or been eroded away.

The cave houses also get eroded from the inside to the outside because when they get dirty or blackened from fires and ovens this layer is rubbed back to reveal a fresh surface and the old surface is swept away. Many of the windows have a light colour surround to them, which is lime that was used to keep the interior room dust free, hygienic and light.

Early Christians that were being persecuted elsewhere sought refuge in the area safe in the knowledge that in times of peril they could escape to the many underground cities and tunnels that they built in the tufa. They built many monasteries, churches and houses and Christianity flourished here from the 4th to 11th centuries. People have lived in Cappadocia’s cave houses for thousands of years and still do. Many of the once abandoned cave houses are now used to store animal feed and farm machinery whilst others are used to house livestock. There is also a popular trend to turn them into boutique hotels.

04/03/2010 Derinkiuyu Underground City

Midday we arrive at Derinkiuyu in Cappadocia and we are immediately surrounded by kids wanting to practice their English as we’re taking photos of some abandoned buildings. We continue to the village’s underground city.

4,000 years ago the Hitties originally made and used the first level caves in this underground city. They were used to store food, animals and wine (the constant underground temperature being perfect for wine). Then the Romans came and built 4 more levels followed by the Byzantines who added 2 more. In the 6th and 7th centuries Arabs and Persians were intent on eradicating Christianity. When it was known that such attacks were imminent Byzantine Christians would escape down secret tunnels leading to a vast network of tunnels and rooms. Huge, thick, round stone doors were rolled across doorways to protect the levels below. Derinkuyu was connected to the underground town at Kaymakli by 10km of tunnels. Derinkuyu supported 10,000 people and Kaymakli supported 3,000.

The underground city contains churches, baptism pools, confessionaries, stables, living areas, meeting rooms, granaries, schools, kitchens, and ventilation shafts. The better off families lived nearer to the surface where the air was cleaner and poorer families lower down. 37 cities have so far been found but it is estimated that another 100 or so exist but excavations have stopped as all that has been found in these cities are pottery pieces and bones and it is thought that all other items were taken to the surface once the fear of attacks had passed. You are unable to visit large areas of the underground city in Derinkuyu as it is still used by the above ground town of Derinkuyu and many of the tunnels and rooms come up inside the town’s houses.

Tilkoy

On the drive to Soganli Valley we stop at Tilkoy to photograph an abandoned, ruined church with 10 arches still intact. We notice some caves nearby and discover 2 ancient churches within them, complete with altars and comprised of several chambers.