Even though at times it felt like we were hiking on another planet without a soul in sight, it was inevitable that we would run into someone selling çay— after all, even the volcanoes in Turkey have a çaycı. This man had something even better: fresh pressed pomegranate juice, and a cave church.
The Haçlı Kilise is home to some fine 9th Century frescoes and a large cross carved into its stone ceiling. Unfortunately, like many of the early Christian frescoes across Turkey, the faces within reach have been scratched out, though you can still make out some sideways glances and stern expressions.
Actually, this was one of the better preserved churches outside of the Göreme Open Air Museum, and the artists' choice to use a malachite green for parts of the background made it quite special.
On our loop back to where we left our car, an unassuming pointed rock with a rickety wooden foot bridge promised something interesting inside. There was a green mashallah in Arabic script with simple botanical patterns decorating the pigeons' entrances to the cave.
Carved straight out of the rock itself, the Kolonlu Kilise is truly impressive. That high vaulted ceiling supported by all those columns... I am still at a loss for words.
Here I felt I had been swallowed by a whale, its ribs expanding and contracting above my head: