Cappadocia's landscape is magical, carved by the elements into fantastical shapes which are not only beautiful but perfect for creating rock-cut towns such as Zelve.
We wanted to stay in a cave hotel while in Cappadocia, an area well-known for its rock-cut towns and churches, and after a good deal of research we chose the Serinn House in Ürgüp.
It was a wonderful place to stay, only five individually furnished rooms, with rock walls, very welcoming and with great breakfasts - we loved it.
Erren, the owner, upgraded us to one of her best rooms which happened to be free as we were staying more than three days, which was really nice of her.
It was quite late when we arrived so we couldn't see much of the surroundings but on the following sunny morning we had our first breakfast on the terrace. The food was wonderful: yoghurts and cereals of course, but also lots of fresh fruit including figs, freshly made pancakes and sesame bread, both stuffed with curd-cheese, more fresh bread and home-made jams, eggs if we wanted - a real feast. And excellent coffee!
From nearby we had a very good view of the hot air balloons taking off one morning - one or two coming right over Serinn House.
We didn't explore Ürgüp very much but we had some very good meals there.
We went on spec to Ziggy's one evening but they were fully booked - a common occurrence - so we reserved a table for the following evening. It's a very pleasant first floor room, bright and buzzing with happy diners. The food was excellent right through three courses and we left very contented to walk back to Serinn House.
As had happened on a previous evening we were passed by the man from Serinn House who stopped to give us a lift - we began to think he was coming out especially to give us a lift back! Just another example of the friendliness we found here.
Another evening we ate at Kardesler's, a very simple family-run café/restaurant in the centre of the town. The beef tandir was wonderful, cooked and served in its iron pot it was so hot when it arrived it looked alive!
On our last day we had lunch at Han Ciragan, a very old inn where we sat on the large first floor terrace to eat. We had an excellent selection of cheeses served with walnuts and dried fruit then a lamb stew with damsons, again served sizzling in an iron pot - excellent.
The fantastic topography of this region was shaped by weather and water erosion of the soft tufa rocks left over from volcanic activity in antiquity. Where harder rocks protected the tufa, tall pillars were left behind. Cave systems were created, exploited by early man and extended as the population grew and settled, providing shelter and a place of safety during times of trouble.
Lying between Istanbul - once Constantinople - and Syria it has been invaded many times over the last 3000 years. Persians, Macedonians under Alexander the Great, Arabs, Seljuk Turks and more have all passed this way and ruled to a greater or lesser extent the people of Cappadocia.
Now we are left with magical landscapes and friendly people - an enticing combination.
Just north of Goreme is the area of Pasabag with some of the most impressive and beautiful rock formations.
The best view is from a nearby plateau with well-marked footpaths, though they are quite steep, reached by foot from the parking lot. There are some great rock formations up there too.
As well as the fantastical landscape there are also cave rooms in some of the rocks.
Unlike the religious complex of Goreme Open Air Museum, Zelve is more of a settlement, built into the cliffs of three steep valleys which meet up here south-east of Pasabag.
There is a map available at the entrance to take with you and helpful information boards along the route.
There is much more domestic usage in evidence here, and more variety. Along with churches there is a mosque, winery, stables, a grinding mill for the production of cracked wheat and cells connected by tunnels.
Few frescoes remain in the churches - this is not the place to come to see good examples of these.
In the winery no part of the grape went to waste. While the fermented grape juice, without any additives, was used by the religious community, the crushed grapes were boiled to make molasses.
Zelve is spread over a much bigger area and has far fewer visitors than the Goreme Open Air Museum. We saw only a few others while we were there, consequently there were no queues!
The landscape is very attractive, too, with Fairy Chimneys, and a good long walk up the valleys to see the different caves was very enjoyable, though we didn't make it into the third valley where the mosque and stables can be seen. Could be classed as a decent hike with lots of interest on the way!
The largest of the three churches that we saw, at the far end of the central, long valley, has some very impressive columns
Just north of Urgup ia another fantastical landscape in the Devrent Valley, also known as Imagination Valley and the Pink Valley.
We caught it as the sun was going down with a beautiful soft light on the weirdly-shaped rocks and a threatening sky.