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.