Gamirasu Cave Hotel
Nestled within one of the many moonscape valleys of Cappadocia lies a secluded retreat center of authentic cave dwellings, the Gamirasu Cave Hotel. Here, amidst fertile volcanic soil in the prime agricultural heartland of fruit orchards and vineyards, the 25-room establishment features simple but well-appointed rooms along with offering impeccable service.
Passing through the tiny village of Ayvali, just a few kilometers from the larger tourist centers of Urgup and Goreme, our van descended the last narrow street before crossing a bridge to bring us to the front door of the hotel. We were immediately offered the legendary Turkish hospitality of a refreshing beverage before being led to our room. Our dwelling was a former stable, now enhanced charmingly with marble floors, giant colorful carpets and several backlit niches replete with urns, trays, pitchers, vases, and a statue of a reclining nude. We passed through a hand-carved, ten-panel wooden door finding a built-in stone fireplace immediately to the right of the entrance. Along the wall within a giant arch hung a pair of woolen saddle bags, the kind you might throw across a camel. Giant pillows lay underneath, while across from them was a colorful divan. Beside it, a desk and adjoining mirror, crafted also by hand. A half dozen niches graced the curved stone wall as we descended deeper into our cave home. One could tell these had been used as mangers for the animals once housed here. Now, backlit and decorated, the niches made our room feel more like a cozy museum or a quiet hideaway for a wealthy pasha.
Our king-size bed was draped with a Turkish woven cover that glittered with sequins both large and small. Overhead was a canopy of fine mesh, hemmed with golden thread. Beside the bed was a CD player and several disks of Turkish traditional music. I pushed the play button and the cave was filled with the sound of a soothing folk tune. The bathroom featured a jetted tub along with a separate shower. Below the shower head was a bowl that could be filled with warm water for a Turkish-style bath. A pair of monogrammed terry-cloth robes and slippers awaited us for use afterwards.
Outside was a lovely garden area with trees and arbors offering shade and a cool retreat from summertime heat. Up a flight of stairs was a broad terrace from which one could view the dozens of cave dwellings that looked down upon this little valley. Higher up on the ridge I could make out the apricot trees. Apples and walnuts also grew in nearby orchards. The hotel restaurant features locally grown organic produce, including eggplant, peppers, beans, and several fruits. Vegetarian meals are prepared on request.
Up another flight of stairs one can visit the tiny orthodox church that was once part of this monastic retreat. Here in Cappadocia are found some 2,000 cave churches, many with original fresco art. The Gamirasu church has some remaining fragments of fresco along the sides and top of the altar area. The church and monastery date back to the 11th century.
The Gamirasu Cave Hotel is a place to escape the hustle of crowds and bustle of tourism at the end of the day. It offers a place for a spiritual retreat, where no televisions and worldly temptations beckon. Here you can take a quiet stroll through town, peek your head into caves, hear the sounds of roosters crowing and make friends with the hotelís Turkish sheep dog, Yogi. Relax with a glass of Turkish tea and listen to the breezes as the trees sway in the balmy afternoon air and wonder at the ingenuity and determination of peoples from long ago who inhabited these splendid cave dwellings.