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ORTAHİSAR

Cappadocia's "Middle Castle"                       Population 3,500

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Market day: Sunday

It may be in the heart of Cappadocia but in Ortahisar time still seems to move at snail’s pace, and there are more cold storage units for citrus fruits than stalls selling Made-in-Cappadocia ash-trays.

Here the “castle” sits in a dip so that it’s less conspicuous from a distance than Uçhisar, the "Outer Castle". In 2013 it reopened to the public after several years of restoration aimed at making it safe. 

Around town

Ortahisar boasts a small privately owned museum housed in the main square. This is equipped with dioramas which illustrate different aspects of traditional life in Cappadocia: men hacking caves out of the rock, women weaving carpets on looms set up in their homes, a young woman serving coffee to watchful potential in-laws, and people gathering at the well and tying rags to the tree beside it in the hope that their wishes will come true.DSC00960

Ortahisar’s superficial newness conceals a lovely old village of stone houses which lurk behind impressive gateways in the back streets.

Turn down Hacı Teleğraf Caddesi and you will find many fine examples, including one especially imposing house which bestrides the sort of arched street (abbaras) more familiar in Mardin.

The road wends its way downhill and then veers left; in gaps between the houses on the right-hand side of the road you will catch glimpses of the beautiful Balkan Deresi (Valley) which is studded with pigeon-houses cut into a solid wall of rock. One or two simple rock-cut churches keep a low profile inside private houses here, and there are more out in the valley, although you will need the help of a guide to find them.

DSC00926.000You won’t need a guide to find the Hallaç Manastırı (Wool Fluffer’s Monastery, otherwise known as the Hospital Monastery), which is signposted on the left as you come into Ortahisar from the junction with the Nevşehir-Ürgüp road.

It takes a walk of no more than a km to find this monastery, and although the walk starts unpromisingly because of the litter abandoned in the fields, it gradually picks up until suddenly you find yourself alone amid the vineyards looking towards another giant slice of rock pitted with pigeon-houses.

Here, you will find yourself in a natural courtyard reminiscent of those at the Açık Saray at nearby Gülşehir. The crosses, pilasters, and arcades of horseshoe-shaped arches adorning the façade hint that this must once have been an important settlement, an impression that will be confirmed when you step inside the church and spot its lofty rock-cut columns.

In the 10th or 11th century, these were decorated with paintings which betray an almost child-like simplicity; the only sign of anything grander is a panel of virtually indecipherable fresco still adorning the apse.

There are two other sizeable chambers, one of them a basilica lined with more rock-cut columns, the other a square room whose dome has caved in.

Long after the monks were gone the locals returned to carve pigeon-houses into the rock. These are decorated with fine geometric patterns in blue and green. It’s a mystery why so few people visit a place so beautiful.DSC00920

Sleeping

Ortahisar Evi. Tel: 0384-343 3862

Hezen Hotel

Transport info

There are hourly dolmuşes to Ortahisar from Nevşehir and half-hourly dolmuşes from Ürgüp.

Day trip destinations

Göreme

İbrahimpaşa

Nevşehir

Ürgüp

Events Calendar

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