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December 2nd 2013
Published: December 2nd 2013
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We got up in the morning to visit the open air museum of Göreme. It is a Unesco site. This region of Turkey is geologically spectacular. The land has a deep layer of volcanic ash from three now inactive volcanos. The ash is cover with layers of basalt lava flow. The result is a fairy tale. Great rivers washed away land to form valleys, but left behind spires and columns and cones of basalt capped soft rock. People over the centuries, carved homes and many churches into the walls of the canyons and into he spires and cones themselves. The open air museum is a small religious (Christian) village carved from the stone and capped with basalt. There are 8 or more churches and other buildings for living. The churches have domes and carved pillars all planned and chiselled from the rock. The churches were painted originally with images of saints then cleared completely when idol worship was banned and them some were painted again in the 17th century. At the openings of many caves, there are small openings dug in row after row on the walls. These are the pigeon roosts. The land here is so poor that they collect guano to enrich the soil. There are pigeons everywhere.

We left this incredible site to have lunch in a restaurant cave cut into the stone. The meal was a set menu of appetizers (spicy tomatoes, salsa, breads and a savoury pâté), clay pot stew (you have to break the pot) with beef, chicken or veggies, and baklava for dessert. Then we went for a hike along rose valley, where we were hiking amongst the columns of rock and visited the largest church carved in the rock yet. It was like being in an alien landscape. The day wasn't over yet. We headed out after the hike to a local family's house, where we were served a home cooked meal. It was delicious with lentil soup, stuffed eggplants, salad from there garden and baklava. We asked about local customs and talked about the education system. University is free but the entrance requirements are so stiff it's hard to get in to the too few spots and your results determine what subjects you can study. We sat on cushions on the floor with table tops raised just a few inches. We leaned back against rug covered walls with rounded bellies at the end of the meal while we chatted. It was a day filled to the brim.

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