Travel with me #108 : Museum Hotel in Uçhisar, Cappadocia!
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Today we will explore the beautiful Museum Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey. This area of Turkey is located in the Central Anatolian Region, the second largest region in the country of Turkey.
Today we will explore the beautiful Museum Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey. This area of Turkey is located in the Central Anatolian Region, the second largest region in the country of Turkey. Cappadocia is most famous for its ancient cave dwellings and unique fairy chimney rock formations.
In times long past the region has been a safe haven for different groups of people, many fleeing persecution for their race, religion or beliefs. Because of this, the cave dwellings of the region made perfect sense for those living in the area as excellent hiding places.
In addition, the climate is one of extremes. Cappadocia sees deep snow for the duration of the winter months and then temperatures in excess of thirty degrees centigrade in the summer. The cave dwellings offered the inhabitants of the region a perfect way to survive the different temperatures throughout the year. During the hot summer months, the caves remain cool and provide shelter from the sun and the heat. The cave dwellings remain a very similar temperature inside year around so when the snow comes, the caves then feel warm and protect their inhabitants from the freezing temperatures.
Museum Hotel Cappadocia, as you will discover with me today, is built around many of these early cave dwellings. Many of the rooms are renovated ancient cave dwellings which helps you get in touch with the history of the region. Very appropriate for a hotel called Museum Hotel.
Museum Hotel Cappadocia
With thirty rooms and suites, Museum Hotel first began its renovation to become what you know today in 1998, becoming one of the first luxury hotels in Cappadocia. It is part of the world renowned Relais & Châteaux group of hotels. Founder Mr. Ömer Tosun, is an avid collector of antiques. He wanted to dress the hotel with beautiful examples of antiques and art work that you could fully appreciate and experience by spending time in the hotel.
After four years the hotel was officially opened in 2002 and its reputation has grown and grown. It's not surprising because as you'll see today, staying in the hotel is a unique and luxury experience. The hotel is made up of many caves and stone houses that are thousands of years old. The stone houses that make up the hotel's reception area and restaurant date back to the Seljuk period from around 900 years ago.
The caves and houses that make up the rest of the hotel would have been used for everything from accommodation and kitchens to stables and store rooms and would have been used by the Hittites, Persians, Romans, Seljuks and Ottoman peoples. So, not only is the hotel full of hundreds of priceless antiques, the very building and rooms are antiques too!
Upon arrival I was greeted kindly by the staff in the beautiful reception area with hot towels and welcome snacks on beautiful, antique looking platters. I knew then that this hotel really was a museum. As I looked all around me, I saw examples of astounding art everywhere - even on in the carpets beneath my feet. Every single wall was covered with various pieces of fabric, trinkets and antiques. I knew I was in for a special stay in a very special place.
Moving further in to the hotel, I discovered rooms full of display cases. Each case was packed full of art and antiques, many of which were completely priceless. In fact, a lot of the pieces of history in the hotel are looked after and loaned by a real museum from the local area. Normally, when you visit a museum, you have to leave before closing time! But not in this hotel, because I will get to stay in the Museum Hotel this night and enjoy the art for even longer.
Museum Hotel has a stunning location on the outskirts of Nevşehir, the capital of the Central Anatolia Region. The views of the surrounding area are quite spectacular. I have to say it was very difficult to choose whether I wanted to be inside or out. As soon as I went outside I was captured by the beautiful views, the quiet and secluded location and the atmosphere of the area. But after a while I started to miss exploring the trinkets and antiques to be found inside every room and corridor of the hotel. It was such a difficult choice of where to spend my time. I tried to experience everything.
The hotel is a complex of many different stone houses and ancient cave dwellings. It's a bit of a labyrinth as many different residences have been brought together to form the rooms of the hotel. Sometimes you had to go up stairs, down stairs or through alleyways to make your way around the hotel. Because of this it really felt like you were a bit lost in this magical hotel. I loved it so much that I didn't really mind being lost! There was so much to see that I was happy just wandering around and enjoying the atmosphere.
The Museum Hotel perches on the side of a hill, which means it has many amazing views. There are plenty of outdoor terraces to go and sit and enjoy the panorama in front of your eyes. It's all very relaxing just to explore the different outdoor areas and it was always possible for me to find a little nook to spend alone to enjoy the quiet and admire the scenery.
As you can see these little terraces hug the outside of the hotel, offering guests lots of lovely places to enjoy the views. And what views they are. There's not many places you could sit and enjoy a drink at sunset with this kind of landscape stretched out in front of you. You feel like you are hovering above the valley below you and the mountains stretching up on the horizon were spectacular.
The Swimming Pool
Out on one of the terraces was the swimming pool. Surrounded by rustic feeling stone, this modern convenience blends perfectly with the antiquity of the surrounding buildings and scenery. It had been a hot day in Cappadocia and as soon as I found the pool on my explorations, I knew I had to get ready to have a swim as soon as possible!
Having a swimming pool, surrounded by ancient buildings, is quite surreal. Having a pool surrounded by ancient buildings that also had such a view, was very special.
Slightly different to some of the other areas of Cappadocia that I visited, the rocks of the mountains here were a little more white than the oranges of other areas. The crisp white rock, contrasted against the rich green trees and plants, made this landscape very interesting. The sky was the most crystal blue and the pool felt like it was mirroring that beautiful blue sky , surrounded by white stone that was mined from the local area.
As you can see I just couldn't wait to get in the water. In the season I visited Cappadocia, it was quite hot so a refreshing dip in the pool was just what I needed after a long day. You sometimes get hotels that have the swimming pool in the middle of all of the hotel buildings, or just wherever they could find space. Museum Hotel wanted to make a statement with their swimming pool, so you'd feel part of the environment while swimming. They cleverly created an infinity pool so you feel like you could swim straight out into the horizon.
The white stones of the pool were almost identical to the rock you could see in the mountains before you. Because of that you felt like you were fully immersed in the landscape, physically and visually. This was just what I needed to relax before going to further explore my room and get ready for dinner in the hotel restaurant.
My Cave Room
The corridor leading to my room was once again lined with art work and it was easy to forget that I was walking to my bedroom for the night. I thought perhaps I had got lost and had wandered in to a museum and wouldn't in fact find a bedroom at the end of the corridor.
Everything was beautifully displayed and well lit. Many of the corridors and rooms in Museum Hotel are original ancient caves and stone structures so there aren't always windows. That could make the place feel claustrophobic but the hotel has lovely lighting to make it feel bright and airy while spotlighting the art work and antiques.
Styled with authentic feeling soft furnishings, and brightly lit, my room was a refurbished ancient cave dwelling. You could see all of the rough stone on the walls of the natural rock and I felt a little bit like I'd gone back in time. With all of the antiques around the hotel and the snug little cave bedroom, it felt like a bit of a fairytale dream.
One thing I've noticed often in Cappadocia is that the people who used to inhabit these caves used to make themselves little recesses in the walls for storage. I loved these little touches and the hotel had used them to display antiques and house unique lights.
The attention to detail is really amazing. Everything from the lighting brackets, to the dressings on the little shelves and alcoves to be found in the original cave structure, felt like pieces of history. I have to say the hotel really does earn its name of Museum.
Venturing further in to my room I found the bathroom which was modern and bright. I thought it was so amazing that they'd been able to make a luxury bathroom out of this old cave which could have once been a stable or a store room! The quality of the finish was really high, and suited the hotel's luxury status. Imagine having a shower in a cave!
Much to my surprise, there was an adjoining room to my bedroom - a little snugly sitting room! Complete with authentic looking seating, and a not so authentic TV, this was a real luxury addition to the room. Who would have thought you could have suite of caves as your hotel bedroom.
Dinner in Lil'a Restaurant
Heading out from my room for dinner, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of twinkling lights coming on in the valley below me as the sun set. The rocks that were white in the day now bounce the orange and reds of the sunset from their faces and looked stunning. The flowing wave like patterns in the rock are seen more strongly as the sunset throws their shapes in to shadow.
The landscape of Cappadocia was formed millions of years ago when this region was dominated by three active volcanoes called Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz Dağları. These volcanoes covered the area in ash and other volcanic substances. Over the next thirty million years, this rock has been worn away by the harsh weather of the central plateau to leave these amazing rock formations. To think that millions of years have passed and now I stand here staring out at the majesty created by nature. What a lovely sight.
Lil'a Restaurant in the Museum Hotel is famous for its Turkish cuisine and prides itself on serving almost forgotten traditional dishes from the Anatolian region and Cappadocia itself. Their head Chef Çağrı Erdoğan is considered one of the most successful chefs of recent times in Turkey. With the Relais & Châteaux brand to uphold the quality of service is high and the setting is quite opulent. With much more of a French feel to the dining area with its huge fireplace and rich velvety curtains and table clothes, you feel like you could be in a French castle, albeit with some extra touches to remind you that you are in fact in Turkey.
Cappadocian food is richly diverse. Because this region has seen many different peoples come and go, from very different cultural backgrounds, the food has many different influences. The food culture is in fact very unique because of this and Museum Hotel does its best to help its guests explore all aspects of the region's history - including the food! Not only do you feel like you are staying in a place that is unique in this world, the food reflects this too and though many of the flavours are recognisable, the experience and tastes are wholly unique to the area.
Chef Çağrı Erdoğan quit his office job to become a chef, the place where his passion really lay. In 2013 he became the head of the first research and testing kitchen in Turkey called 'Alancha'. He spent much of his energy researching Anatolian ingredients and culinary culture.
He promotes Turkish food around the world in different events located in places like Italy, Spain and Greece, hoping to bring the food of Cappadocia to these other proud and distinct culinary nations. He brings this wealth of knowledge to Lil'a Restaurant for me to enjoy and takes great pains to get all of the ingredients from the hotel's 500-acres of organic farm land and from local bazaars and farmers.
The food was really quite unique. Flavours both delicate and bold, it was all presented rustically, in keeping with its heritage. The presentation was kept simple because the taste of the food did all of the talking. Your taste buds told you all you needed to know about this food - that it was fresh, local, different and of a time and place you couldn't quite place in your mind.
I had not tasted flavour combinations quite like this and I really was able to take my time over each dish because there was a lot of variety of different dishes, without overwhelming you with too much food. I absolutely loved Lil'a Restaurant for its mix of French fine dining, rustic historical food and its modern twists.
Winding my way out of the restaurant, the night had truly descended on the hotel and I was once again struck by the beautifully lit corridors of the place. You can see the labyrinth of the different rooms and corridors as they show off their ancient heritage. The rough cut walls in some places and the exposed brick work from other times in history are all shown off beautifully by the tasteful lighting. I got a bit lost actually and on my way back to my room I popped out on to a terrace by accident, to the beautiful sights that you will now see!
My pool by night light
As I made my way back to my room I accidentally came back outside to find myself next to the swimming pool once again. I felt like I was in a fairy-tale. During the day, you are encouraged to look out from the pool upon the view, but at night your eye is drawn back to the hotel. The architecture, lighting and antique vases and urns make you feel like perhaps you're in a fantasy mix between Italy and Egypt. A place and time you cannot quite place. I think I must let my photos do the talking here because I am actually a little bit breathless just looking at them and remembering the atmosphere of happily stumbling across the beautiful terrace area at night.
I was intrigued by the archways I could see from down by the pool. There were a couple of people walking around up in those archways and I thought that the view down to the pool must be lovely from up there. As I made my way through a couple more corridors and up some stairs, I found myself up in one of those archways. I was delighted to find a little area for relaxing with a drink.
Breakfast in an ancient cave dwelling
After a very late night exploring the hotel's corridors, archways and terraces by starlight, I was up a little late for breakfast which was held in one of the many ancient cave dwellings that make up Museum Hotel. Before I went to get my food I wanted to go and properly explore the restaurant in the morning light - last night I was a little bit too occupied with how beautiful the food was and I didn't think I gave my surrounding the proper attention.
In the day light I started to notice many more features of the room that I had missed the night before. Each wall was adorned with stunning art work, many set in frames or alcoves in the stone. There was even an antique dress in a display case which I thought looked very regal. The more I looked around, the more surreal it was. I felt like it really was a museum more than a dining room and I spent quite a bit of time before I even went down to eat my breakfast just looking around at the different exhibits. It's quite strange to eat your food with glass cabinets full of antiques next to you I have to say!
Breakfast was served down in one of the ancient cave dwellings, and the breakfast itself was served on top of display cabinets that displayed many ancient artefacts found in the caves! I almost didn't notice them at first, because I was enticed by the food. I would describe the breakfast at Museum Hotel to be Turkish Continental.
There were a lot of fresh fruits and baked goods, but there were also loads of nuts, olives and cheeses too. The flat breads served were typical of the region and there was even an area of the dining area that had a woman in somewhat traditional dress making foods in a traditional style.
I was fascinated by the parallels to a more traditional continental breakfast and the beautiful Turkish foods that were mixed in with them. I thought this was a really interesting and different breakfast that I was really looking forwards to enjoying, once I'd managed to make a decision on what I actually wanted! And then I noticed the food was served on top of museum display cabinets.
I forgot all of the food very quickly because I realised that each 'table' with food on was in fact a display case full of ancient artefacts and pottery. What is this amazing idea! Where just moments before I had been wandering from 'table' to table looking at the food, I now started wandering between display cases and completely forgot the food. There were little pots, serving implements, hair pins and many many more things that I couldn't identify. What a unique experience to be actually having your breakfast in a museum!
I decided I would go and enjoy one display case and look at all of the antiques, and then I would choose some food from on top of the cabinet. I then went to the next case to enjoy those antiques displayed there, and then get some food from that cabinet. I did this until my plate was full to bursting and I had a really lovely time even just picking the dishes I wanted to eat and I hadn't even started eating yet!
And so my stay ends
I had a wonderful stay in Museum Hotel Cappadocia, with its majestic views, rustic atmosphere and luxury amenities. I found it very difficult to leave so I took some time just after check out to finally explore this beautiful setting and the landscape around it.
I wandered a long the many out door terraces of the hotel to look down at the gardens and the views of the many rock formations that spread out in the valley below the hotel. The mix between the greenery and colour of the gardens with the white and yellow of the ancient rocks is really beautiful.
As I stood to admire the view I felt a little sad that I would be leaving this special place and its wonderful atmosphere. I felt like this boutique little hotel had quickly become like a home even though it was for only one night that I was able to stay. Perhaps it was its mix of rustic gardens, homely but tasty food and its beautifully furnished rooms and corridors that made it feel so relaxing so quickly. Perhaps it was the antiques that you found everywhere, many of which tell the story of Cappadocia and its long habitation. There was beautiful art, yes, but also hundreds of items from the daily lives of the people who once lived here. I think that is what makes you feel so welcome here.
Goodbye Museum Hotel Cappadocia. My favourite part was definitely the beautiful pool by night but hand in hand with that was the terraces and corridors that made you feel like you were lost both in a maze and time itself. Each twist and turn was a joy because it revealed either a new view of the stunning landscape of the Anatolian Plateau or some beautiful little trinkets and antiques in display cases and on the walls.
There are not many places in the world where you can stay the night in a museum. There are even less where the museum itself is also a living history of the area and its people, being situated inside ancient caves and stone dwellings. The whole experience was magical and still lost non of its luxury for all of the history and rustic charm.
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