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Derinkuyu underground city, Ilhara Valley + Selime Monastery

Friday 28th May

view over Goreme
We spent pretty much the whole of the day — from 9.15am to 6.30pm — on a day tour. The first stop on this was at a panorama point looking over Goreme, but the major stops were the Derinkuyu underground city, the Ilhara Valley and the Selime Monastery.

Derinkuyu church
I took a few photos in the underground city, but quite apart from any light problems it's hard to capture any feel for its size and layout. It goes down nine stories and they reckon 5000 people may have sheltered in it, for periods of up to two months. Some of the levels date to Hittite times, but it hasn't been used since the Seljuk Turks arrived, since they and then the Ottomans were powerful enough to maintain security and civil order.

There are a few staircases where people can come down or up but not both, and we had to wait five minutes while several large tour groups came down before we could get out. Claustrophobics will probably want to pass on the underground city tour.

The Ilhara valley is a fault with a pretty little river running down it, and with rock-cut churches along its sides. We only walked a short length of it - maybe 3.5km - and only looked at one of the churches. This was the first time we got rained on while outdoors, and of course we hadn't brought umbrellas or rain jackets. But it never got very heavy.

the Ilhara Valley
frescoes in Ilhara rock-cut church

After lunch in Belisirma village, half-way along the valley, we were driven to the Selime monastery at the other end. This was used by the Seljuks as a caravanserai and much of it has been eroded, but there's still a fascinating range of rooms one can clamber in and around, and fantastic views across the valley.

Selime village
Selime landscape
Selime Monastery, eroded
some of my fellow tourists

Hasan Dag and Melendiz Dag
On the way back to Goreme we had views of the twin snow-clad peaks of Hasan and Melendiz mountains. And near the end came the inevitable stop at a jewelry shop.

For dinner we ate in a posh restaurant — Goreme is not cheap — and tried the tetli kebap, which is a kind of claypot beef stew. On the way back to the hotel we stumbled over a music festival, with a group playing traditional Turkish music.

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