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Everyone loves spring. Tenerife, the largest of the seven Canary Islands, is known worldwide as Island of Eternal Spring. Located 150 km from Africa, the island offers spring and summer temperatures all year round.

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On our day trip from Sorrento, in Southern Italy, we checked out Cassino War Cemeteries.  The Cemetery is the second largest Second World War Two cemetery in Italy.  More than 4,200 Commonwealth graves are located here, of which 200 are unknown, and 855 are Canadian. 

We wandered silently through the massive graveyard, snapping photo after photo of headstones of Canadian soldiers, saddened that so many had died before their 25th birthday.

Before our tour group moved on to Abbey of Montecassino we grabbed a photo of the Cassino Memorial with the names of 192 Canadians inscribed on the 15-foot high slabs of green marble.  It was an impressive monument to witness, I took a moment to reflect on how the Battle of Monte Cassino had changed history, before boarding the tour bus.

The Battle of Monte Cassino is considered one of the most important battles of World War Two.  In next week’s blog I’ll talk about the history of Abbey of Montecassino

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We enjoyed a half-day tour of Goreme Open Air Museum; our private tour also included entrance fees and entrance to one the best churches in this stone complex, Dark Church.  We toured this enormously popular sight after three pm, long after the many coach tours had departed.

This unique museum has been a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984 and is the most visited sight in the region.  A tour of this sight is the best way to learn about the history of this area.

Standing at the entrance to the complex our guide explained that during the 4th century the Cappadocia region became known as the “Land of the Three Saints”, because these three remarkable priests, known collectively as The Cappadocians, contributed a great deal to the Christian doctrine and to the Eastern Orthodox, in particular.

There are over 10 churches in this open air museum.  If you don’t book a tour the best way to explore each cave church is to follow the well marked pathways, counter clockwise.  Our guide pointed our the sign posts, explaining that each church has been given a modern Turkish name, assigned by the local village.

The cave’s interiors are painted with beautiful frescoes, the Byzantine murals are from the 900-1200AD.  Many are still in remarkable condition, but nearly all the eyes in the painted figures have gouged out by superstitious locals afraid of the Evil Eye.  Only the frescoes in the Dark Church are unmarked; the walls were protected by pigeon markings.

If you are short on time, remember, the best churches to visit in the complex are the Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise in Turkish), the Apple Church (Elmali Kilise), and the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise).

Our private tour included a guided tour of the Dark Church; so named for the little light that penetrates the interior.  The church was used a pigeon house back in the 1950’s and it took nearly 14 years to scrape off the pigeon poop and restore the beautiful frescoes.  The murals are now considered the best-preserved frescoes in Cappadocia.  Above, I have uploaded several photos we took of the interior of the Dark Church.

 

 

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There are 36 underground cities in the Cappadocia region.  The underground city in Derinkuyu are the deepest, and Kaymakli Underground City is known to be the largest.

Kaymakli Underground City was first opened to tourists in 1964.  It consists of eight floors below ground, but only four levels are open to the public.  We paid an entrance fee of 10 Turkish Lira, and hired a guide for 35 Turkish Lira more, per adult. 

Our guide, Shakri, was a retired school teacher and spoke excellent English.  In his quiet, respectful, tone he explained that in the 1960’s, his family had lived in a cave house near the underground city.  The government had suddenly moved them to alternative accommodation so that the city could be developed for tourism.  I could only imagine what he must be feeling as he guided our group through the tunnel on that cool May morning.

Archaeologists believe that the upper layers were first carved out by the Hittites in about 2000BC.

Our guide’s soft voice echoed as he explained that Kaymakli Underground City is the most complex below ground city in the region.  He explained that, over the years, they have found everything from living space, stables, communal kitchens, to a church and graveyard as well.

We moved carefully through the chilly tunnels.  Our guide stopped to talk, only in rooms where we our small group could stand and listen in semi comfort.  His torch lite the dark corners of many storage rooms.

Shakri explained that even though the whole city has not been completely opened, many are certain that Kaymakli is one of the largest underground settlements in the Cappadocia region.

Archaeologists believe that the large number of storage areas, and earth ware jars support the belief that as many as 3500 residents, at one time, sought safety in this ancient cave cities.

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The view from the terrace at Kelebek Cave Hotel is one more reason to extend your stay in Goreme.   

On our first night, we discovered the most delightful small patio for two.  Completely relaxed, we sat with a glass of wine, and watched the sun set. 

 Located in the heart of the historic village of Goreme, the tops of the fairy chimney rooms at Kelebek Cave Hotel once served at simple chapels for local hermits.

 Today, this authentic cave hotel, offers 36 cave or fairy chimney rooms.  We paid 55 Euros for a standard room, that included a private bath. 

 Guests can also a meal at the restaurant, drinks on the bar, a dip in the pool, and a visit to the traditional Hammam.  I paid a reasonable 30 Euros for a soap massage after our memorable hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia valley.

 My favorite moment was relaxing over breakfast on huge fluffy, Turkish pillows on the sunny dinning room patio.

 Mr. Ali Yavuz the genial owner manager, who speaks excellent English, also runs an on-site tour company called Turkish Heritage Travel. 

 The company offers two different full day tours.  After a included buffet breakfast, the tours depart from the hotel at 9:30am, and return at 17:00.  Lunch is included and their is a discount on the tour price when paying cash. 

 The tour company offered us half price on airport transfers when we pre-booked both of their tours. 

 

Imagination ValleyOur twenty fifth anniversary was special, and I wanted to spend it somewhere unforgettable.  Once I started my research, I quickly realized that the Cappadocia region in Turkey is like nowhere else in the world!

The region can best be described as an outdoor sculpture park carved by Mother Nature, and the fairy chimneys spread out around the area, illustrate her sense of humour.

Through the ages, the Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Rome, The Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and Turkey have all governed the region in Central Anatolia.

Visitors can now enjoy a great nights sleep in a cave hotel; during the day they can wander through unique areas like Imagination Valley where large boulders have been eroded by nature into animal shapes.

Beneath these ancient rock formations are masses of sprawling tunnels were locals sought refuges to escape attackers.  The region is known to have over a hundred underground cities but only a few are open to the public.  Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are the most popular and can be viewed with most group tours.  Later in the month, I will blog about Kaymakli Underground City in the detail.

Goreme Open Air Museum is only fifteen minutes from the village of Goreme.  The sights best captures the history of the place in a rock hewn multi-storey complex.  Each section contains a church with the most beautiful frescoes this area has on offer.  The entrance fee is only 15 Turkish Lira, per adults, there are multiple language signs on display.

The Open Air Museum is just one mile from our hotel, Kelebek Cave Hotel.  It offers cave and fairy rooms, a restaurant and bar, a pool, laundry service, and a traditional Turkish Place.  The boutique hotel runs a separate excursion company, called Heritage Tours, from the same premises.

The region is known to be the best place, in the world, to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.  There are numerous companies to choose from.  Our early air balloon tour Kapadokya Balloons was thrilling and safe.  In the evening, don’t miss the Whirlish Dervish Ceramony.
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Located on the grounds of the historic 14th century Gatwick Manor, where the remains of the moat can still be seen, this Premiere Inn is just two miles from Gatwick Airport.  The tranquil setting, including a meandering stream, is the best way to start a restful holiday.

The staff’s friendly welcome, made up for the main reception’s dated appearance.  Our double room was a good size, the beds very comfortable, and allowed us to sleep well after a international flight.

We passed on the great breakfast buffet offered at the hotel Olde World Pub, and wandered past the peaceful creek, quaking ducks, and restful garden areas to catch the bus back to the airport.

The coach that runs between the airport and hotel runs every twenty minutes.  The place met all my travelling needs, and I wouldn’t stay anywhere else when I’m catching an early morning flight from Gatwick Airport.

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