Goreme and the Open Air Museum

Goreme and the Open Air Museum

Goreme is a settlement of some 2,000 locals, many of whom still live in homes carved out of the fairy chimneys.
Before you enter the open air museum itself, you will see tombs cut into the stone, dating from the pre-Christian period and the Orta Mahalle Church. At the exit of the village of Avcilar there are two churches on private land known by their owners’ names, the Yusuf Koc and Durmus Kadir Churches. The El Nazar (Evil Eye) and Sakli (Hidden) Church are also in the vicinity. As you enter the museum you first see the Church of the Virgin Mary. In the area of the museum there are many smaller or larger churches, dining rooms for clergymen, grave rooms and cellars. However, not all may be open at the time of your visit. This due to the constant requirements of restoration. (The Museum is open between 08.00-17.00 everyday.

Tel: (0384) 271 2167). While visiting the museum you trace the architecture of the churches from the 7th to the 12th centuries. You can follow the local style in frescoes and icons under the different architectures of flat roofs, saddle roofs, churches with one or three apses or cross-shaped churches. Some of the frescoes are in good condition but many of them have been damaged and the explanation of a guide may be needed to add to the richness of what you see. If we say that the numbers of the monasteries in the museum area is countless we would not be exaggerating. Here we will only cover some of the most important ones. At the entrance the very first to be seen is the Girls’ Monastery (Nun’s Convent), of four stories carved into the lock. The Elmali (Apple) Church is craved into a mound on the south cliff. Your enter then the church of Saint Barbara opposite the Elmali Church. The Yilanli (Snake) Church, dedicated to St. Onuphoris, takes its name from the images of the apostles fighting and defeating a dragon. The best of the frescoes in the museum are in the Karanlik (Dark) Church. A good guide will help you understand the tale of the frescoes, which tell of the life of Jesus Christ. The frescoes of the Carikli (Sandal) Church are in good condition and have been well restored. After visiting the largest church in the region, the Tokali (Buckle) Church, one should see Kiliclar (Swords) Valley. It is very moving with its white tufa stone tunnel in the valley, the fairy chimneys that have water running inside them and the strangely shaped stones and churches.

What do we owe to doves?

Of the huge flocks of the doves that lived here in the past, so numerous that when they took wing it was as if a cloud had appeared, leaving Cappadocia in shadow, only a few remain. The region has been famed for its wines for more than thousand years, and, in the dry soil, the manure of doves was a popular form of fertiliser. The locals used to carve special dove cotes for the birds, either near to the churches or even as part of them, leaving holes to let the doves in. At certain times of the year, the locals would collect the manure to spread around their vines. The doves thus contributed to the culture of wines.

The Kizilcukur (Red Hole) Valley

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The sites between Goreme and Cavusin are full of dreamlike scenery. It is more pleasant if you start walking from the end of the village of Cavusin, as long as the weather is fine. The stream bed you are walking in is known as Gulludere (Rose Streamlet). In the sides of the valley you can see the carved cells the monks would retreat to. There are 12 churches carved into the stone of Gulludere and Kizilcukur, clustered around the Church of John the Baptist, believed to be the first Christian settlement in the area. Especially at sunset, Kizilcukur puts on a display of striking colours. As you watch the sun going down, the colours change. Close your eyes and wait for a while. When you open them up again you will see another colour.

Çavuşin

Two km from Goreme, as you are approaching Avanos, Cavusin comes into view. The village was established in its current location after an earthquake in the 1950s. You can see traces of former settlement in the rocks. One of the oldest and most important churches of the region, the Vaftizci Yahya Church (Church of John the Baptist) is here. The Buyuk Guvercinlik (Big Dove Place) Church you see when you enter the village from the direction of Avanos was built in the name of Emperor Nicefor Fokas in the Byzantine era. Today you can enter the church by climbing a metal staircase, built to replace the originals that have long since been destroyed. The frescoes in Buyuk Guvercinlik are in good condition.

The Keşişler (monk) Valley

When you pass Cavusin and progress towards Avanos, the area you go through is like a small museum where you can trace the formation of fairy chimneys. There are fairy chimneys that have just begun their formation, those that have completed it and others that are decaying and eroding away. Since the area is irrigated farmland, most of the fairy chimneys are in cultivated fields. You should pay attention not to damage the wheat crop while walking around. The three headed fairy chimney in the centre used to be the cell for a j well respected local monk, Simeon, who was later declared a saint.

The Zelve Open Air Museum

Zelve was an old Greek village. Under the 1924 population exchange agreement the villager migrated to Greece. They were replaced by Turks who came from Greece. Once upon a time, Zelve Valley was a settlement with houses on the two hills of the valley, but was completely evacuated in 1952. Today, like Goreme, it is an open-air museum. You have to pay a small entry fee to visit it. In the museum area there are 15 churches – the Uzumlu (Grape) and the Geyikli (Deer) Churches being among the largest, all of which are unadorned. The churches, carved into the cliff faces are spread through the first and second valleys.

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