After the underground city you would think we had had our fill of caves for one day, but you’d be wrong. The next stop on our tour of Anatolia was the incredible Ilhara Valley- a long canyon with vertical cliff walls into which over 60 churches had been patiently excavated by Byzantine monks, and the occasional hermit, in the 11th to the 13th century. The best thing about it was that most of the churches still contained the original frescos which were painted there nearly a thousand years ago! We spent an hour or two climbing up into the more impressive looking edifices, and then stopped for a refreshing cold Efes beer at the small restaurant at the end of the valley. Beer in Turkey, by the way, is an exceedingly rare treat, at least outside of Istanbul- and as such it tasted even better than it would have otherwise.
The day was flying by though, so we didn’t stay long at the riverside restaurant- we retraced our path back up the valley and then jumped in the car to go find our next destination- the Selime Monastery. This was one of my favorite sights because it felt a lot more, hmmm, maybe “complicated” is the word. By that I mean it was big, and built into the side of a huge hill, but with tunnels and corridors leading every which way. But because every so often you found yourself out on a ledge, or looking out a window, it was much easier to keep your bearings, and at the same time realize the scale of the complex, than down in the dark confines of the underground city. Whoever built this place had it figured out- all the comforts of cave living, but with a view!