I first visited the Goreme Open Air Museum of Cappadocia in 2010 and my write-up was neither kind nor full of praise. I accused the guidebook of incorrect information and my exact words to describe the historical UNESCO World Heritage site were…
“Goreme Open Air Museum is 13 cave churches that all look the same. Throw in the Cappadocia tour guide that screams at you, the overpriced entrance fee, the vile coffee, the mile-long toilet queue, seven coaches of selfish tourists and it will certainly be a day that you will remember for the rest of your life.”
While writing that article, I did question whether I’d simply picked a bad day to visit because it seemed one thing after the other went wrong. For that reason, it was constantly on my mind that perhaps I should give it another chance and in June of this year, I did.
Arriving at the Goreme Open Air Museum
I couldn’t believe it because as soon as we walked through the gates, bad luck once again descended on me. It started raining heavily but I didn’t have an umbrella. Then, the memory card on my camera ran out of space because I had already spent four days exploring other areas of Cappadocia but I didn’t want to delete any of those photos. At this point, I was positively sure that I must be Satan reincarnated.
Remember, Goreme Open Air museum contains some of the earliest churches in history. This area was one of the first to embrace Christianity and the Cappadocia fathers can take a huge amount of credit for spreading the word throughout the rest of the world. However it seemed that each time, I attempted to visit this holy place, bad things started happening to me. Pardon me for feeling persecuted!
That is when my tour guide came to the rescue. He lent me his umbrella and ran back to the souvenir shop to buy me a new SD card. Some would say he was an enthusiastic guide easy to please, while others would say the look on my face and profanity coming out of my mouth suggested I was about to have a hysterical fit in public.
Anyway, the lighthearted attitude of the guide made me think that perhaps I was being a little dramatic so braving the showers, we made our way from church to church.
On this occasion, I didn’t let the large amount of inconsiderate and aimlessly wandering tourists ruin my mood. Instead I waited patiently for my turn to view the interior frescoes of each church some of which date from the 3rd and 4th century BC.
I was extremely disappointed that you are still not allowed to take videos or photos of the interior frescoes even though most modern cameras can avoid use of a flash that over time, damages the frescoes. The entrance fee has now risen from 15 lira to 25 lira and I paid another 10 lira to see another church within the grounds. Hey, this is inflation and sites like this need maintaining so it is worth paying.
There is still only one ladies toilet, despite the hundreds of people who visit it every day and the coffee served by the onsite restaurant, is still overpriced but the taste has massively improved. Which leads me to wonder if perhaps I was harsh in my first write-up of the site?
Goreme Open Air Museum is and always will be a massive tourist trap subjected to the pitfalls of huge queues, overpricing, stupid tourists who don’t look where they are going and tour guides with an overinflated ego (apart from my guide, he was cool.) However, the historical importance of the cave churches and the restoration work of the interior frescoes beat all of those hands down.
I’m ashamed that on my first visit, I didn’t appreciate this fact. I am kicking myself for not using a tour guide then because maybe I would have fully comprehended that this area was a fully functioning community of monks and Christian believers who were persecuted for their beliefs.
So readers, please ignore everything I wrote previously about the Goreme Open Air Museum. It rightly so, should be the first place that you visit in Cappadocia. Use a tour guide if you are interested in historical knowledge and facts. Also visit early in the morning or last thing at night to beat the queues. Just please, I repeat please, do not play Ottoman dress-up in the souvenir shop, no matter how much they beg you to do it. That really is just tacky tourism.