Day 16: Goreme, horses, churches and valley views.

Today was a day off the bikes so the blog will be brief. We started the day riding in a different way – on horses. The word “Cappadocia” means “land of beautiful horses” in Persian, and hence it seemed an appropriate place to trade 2 wheels for 4 legs.

For those who think riding a horse must be much like riding a bike, let me assure you they are totally different riding experiences for 3 reasons. First, the good bit. There are no pedals to turn when riding a horse and the horse puts in most of the effort (although 3 hours in this type of saddle still left us exhausted). Secondly, the more dubious part. Horses have a mind of their own which is independent of the rider and the horse makes its own decisions whether to respond to commands – which bikes do not (even though it sometimes seems that way). Thirdly, the scary part. Horses are much bigger than bicycles, much scarier when they start to move at anything other than walking speed and there is far more potential to do serious harm to one’s self (or so it seems perched on top of the animal).


  
But despite these potential drawbacks, our mounts were placid and mostly well behaved. We really enjoyed our ride over the hills above the town of Avenos. Our guide was the multi-lingual Enda, who also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of local bids, flowers and trees. We saw lizards, a hare, all manner of birds and some fantastic views. It was a real change and might just be something we want to repeat back home.


 In the late afternoon sun we went to the Goreme Museum, which is an area outside the village of rock churches and monastic settlements. These were similar to other Cappadocian monastic ruins but were excellently presented with good signage. Some of the frescos were amazing – telling the story of the passion and death of Jesus and his resurrection in pictures across the walls of these ancient churches. The frescos came from a time when few could read and religious ideas were communicated orally and by pictures on church walls. The dark church in particular was memorable – but apologies for the lack of pictures because these were not allowed.

  
We then strolled through the Rose Valley and managed to avoid slipping down any crevasse type formations in the rock as we took pictures. There is a reason that some photographers never make it back from these rock formations and we were determined not to join them by slipping as we searched for the perfect angle for a photo. So the photos may not be great but we live to snap again.

On the way back we came across the sign to this pansion – not where we were staying but it seemed to promise more than the usual accommodation.

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In the evening we met and had dinner with a lovely Turkish/Australian family from Melbourne. Umit, Nihal and their boys live in Australia but originate from Turkish Northern Cyprus and all speak fluent Turkish.

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They were funny, informed and excellent company. We hope to see them (or any of them) if they make it to London.

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