Cappadocia ZelveA strong contender for favourite place status, the Zelve monastery complex is situated about 10 km out from Goreme on the Avanos road. Lacking the elaborate frescoes of Goreme and other sites there's still plenty here to see. The series of valleys can provide you with a couple of hours walking, climbing and crawling about and in addition to the marked highlights (the Fish and Grape churches) there are innumerable rooms and passages to look at.
Zelve was inhabited until quite recently but you can almost see the place crumbling before your very eyes. There's probably an element of risk involved in exploring too enthusiastically but a guide should be able to balance the thrill of stumbling through pitch black tunnels by torchlight with an element of safety.
It's probably a good idea to make the most of the place while there's still something to see. There seems little chance of a restoration scheme along the lines of that in place at Goreme and even if tourists were to stop visiting today natural erosion processes do their damage every winter.
Zelve was the name of a village which was inhabited until the 1950s in the Zelve Valley. The population of this settlement was moved further away to Yeni Zelve, and Zelve itself was made an open air museum because of the danger of collapse. The museum of Zelve consists of three canyons intersecting at the entrance of the museum. The first canyon on the right is entered through a pathway between the first two canyons passing by the Geyikli Kilise (the Church of the Deer) with paintings of a cross, fish and deer. Figures of fish are frequently used in churches of Cappadocia symbolizing the faithful who were called pisciculi and who became members of the church by being baptized in the piscina (fishpond in L). The acrostic of the Greek word for fish formed the phrase, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. A cross in a circle with fish on both sides symbolized the faithful people who believed in Jesus Christ.
In the first canyon on the left there is a mosque which was converted from a church. Towards the end of the canyon, two rock faces are honeycombed with caves of dwellings, dovecotes, a monastery, storage rooms, chapels and tunnels leading to the second canyon. It is recommended that visitors not climb up these caves or pass through the tunnels.
A dwelling room with storage bins and stone wheels used for grinding grain and the Uzumlu Kilise (the Church of the Grapes) can be found in the third canyon. Grape juice here represents the blood of Christ.