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CAPPADOCIA / Ortahisar

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Ortahisar, which means middle fortress in Turkish, can be reached by turning right at the 15th km on the Nevşehir - Ürgüp road, and then continuing for one more kilometer. After turning right you will notice doors on the rock surface on both sides. These doors are the best example of cool-air storages in Cappadocia. In these natural air-contitioned rooms, lemons and oranges from the Mediterranean region, apples from Nigde, local potatoes, quinces and onions are stored. Green lemons slowly turn yellow in these store-rooms.

Ortahisar is famous for its friendly inhabitants, picturesque stone houses both old and new, narrow streets and lovely churches as well as the castle-like rock formation after which the town is named. The natural fortress, 90 m high, a prominant landmark in the region, honeycombed with caves and tunnels, camouflaged by nature without the slightest indication of human presence inside, has partly crumbled away, revealing some of its interior. Today it has been restored and the peak is accessible by staircase. It offers a magnificent panorama over the fairy chimneys of Hallaçdere and Mt. Erciyes. An underground passage links it to İshak Kale (sometimes known as İsa Kale, the Fortress of Christ), which rises at a distance of about 350 m. From the foot of the castle the town descends right into a deep ravine.

If you follow the street close to the main fortress, you can visit Ali Reis Church with Christ on the main dome, situated in a private. If you keep on the main street down south you can have take in the Balkan Deresi up to the Balkan Churches.

Some churches in the vicinity of Ortahisar have been opened recently. Keep right for 2 km when after leaving Ürgüp towards Mustafapaşa, after 1 km you will see the yellow signs for Sarıca and Kepez Churches. Another kilometer will take you to Pançarlık Church which has very fine frescoes on its ceiling.

The Hallaçdere monastic complex 1 km northeast of Ortahisar is one of the best examples of the courtyard monasteries. It has vestibule, a kitchen, a large tomb chamber, five rooms of different sizes and a church with an inscribed-cross plan with four columns. The animal-head decoration on some of the column capitals and the sculpture of a human figure on the wall of one of the rooms are unique in Cappadocia. The ground level inside the complex is more than one meter below that of the courtyard level because of the silting.

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