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Mysterious Cappadocia

September 9, 2012

From Bodrum, we ventured into Cappadocia, a region of central Turkey that we had not visited for many years. A remarkable area, it is best known for its surreal rock formations, which create one of the most distinctive landscapes on earth.

Ten million years ago, huge volcanic eruptions covered central Anatolia in tons of ash and lava. Over the eons, this was compressed to form an exceptionally soft and porous tufa. Rain and wind gradually eroded the tufa to create tall conical towers, since dubbed "fairy chimneys." Because the rock could so easily be carved out, early Christians and hermits journeyed to Cappadocia to construct shelters and monasteries. The most striking examples of their labors are the cave churches of Göreme — a UNESCO World Heritage site — that contain spectacular and well-preserved Byzantine frescoes. Many of the most complex and colorful frescoes are to be found in the so-called Dark Church, which has recently been restored.

We made our base in the town of Ürgüp, at a small hotel called Selçuklu Evi. Just off one of the town's plazas, this charming property is fashioned from five old houses built around a peaceful garden. Although rather small, our appealing suite had a sitting alcove ringed with windows, a comfortable bed and a marble shower of adequate size. Breezes during the day kept the room comfortable, but we were grateful for the air-conditioning at night. To our surprise, the in-room Wi-Fi proved fairly reliable.

The hotel's restaurant is excellent, a specialty being pot kebabs, or meat dishes cooked in a sealed clay vessel whose top is broken off just before the meal is served. On another occasion, we dined at Ziggy Café, a short walk away. Despite the unlikely name, Ziggy is housed in a fine stone building with an attractive interior and a terrace with a tent-like roof. We opted for an assortment of mezze that included a spicy red lentil dip; tangy soft cheese infused with herbs; a sampling of pastirma, slices of sun-dried beef coated with a paste of garlic, fenugreek seeds and salt; and börek, little pastries filled with cheese, minced meat and spinach. This feast was served with crisp, flavorful bread and a bottle of good local wine.

Overall, Selçuklu Evi is an appealing and well-located hotel. The owner's relentless efforts to sign me up for a hot air balloon trip were annoying, as was his hard sell on an affiliated carpet shop. But this is a comfortable place to stay, even if not quite up to my normal demanding standards.

Romantic Suite, $205; Sultan Suite, $430. Yunak Mahallesi P.K. 55, Ürgüp. Tel. (90) 384-341-7460. selcukluevi.com

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who they are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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