Cappadocia is in the Anatolia central region of Turkey. Other names for it include Görem and Nevşehir. This area has a varied history, having belonged to several powers throughout history, beginning with the Hittites, and including Persians, Greeks, and currently Turkish. Byzantine artwork covers the structures. Residents of Cappadocia claim that it is Bedrock, the home of the Flintstones in the cartoon. Homes and most other buildings are carved out of the rock, large boulders, hillsides, mountainsides, conical rocks, and “fairy chimneys.” Everyone we had talked to raved about Cappadocia, but I was not set on going there. A couple months before we went, I learned that Sports Illustrated shot their swimsuit edition photos there, and Ghost Rider was filmed there as well. That spiked my interest. What would draw them to Cappadocia? As a last minute decision, we booked a trip with a group of people and hoped it would be worth it.
The Cappadocia region is not just a few of these fairy chimneys, as I had expected. It extends across 17 square kilometers. These photos are just a very small representation of the immensity of this amazing region of interesting rock formations. These conical, pointy, strange and varied rock formations were caused by volcanic activity in the area. Once ash solidified and the softer materials blew away, these amazing structures were left. This remaining material is called duff. It is soft enough to carve into and dig out homes and whatever other spaces you need.
Göreme Open Air Museum is amazing. Here you find all sorts of buildings-an ancient city covered in byzantine crosses and other artwork. Churches, homes, restaurants, and more cover the area.
Below is a built-in (of course) table and bench seating. One end of the table has a painting of the Lord’s Supper, while the other has a cross. Again, I am surprised by all the colors that remain on these painted buildings.
A church (you can climb up and inside it):
The funnel system of catacombs underground connect much of the region and was used as a hide-out for Christians during times of persecution. This photo is a weak representation of the underground area we were allowed to tour. There were several underground cities in the Cappadocia region. Among the large common areas that were used as markets, church, and stables were scattered tunnels (many of which were blocked off to us), staircases, storehouses, and wineries, and more. This system of caves descends far into the ground (8 stories) and there are several tunnels and small platforms next to the staircase that have varying functions. Climbing down the narrowing staircase underground is a little haunting-and not for the claustrophobic. As we got further away from the major gathering areas, the tunnels became narrower. This was one of the built-in safety features of the catacomb system. If the hideaways were pursued underground, armed men could not follow in these narrower tunnels because of the bulkiness of their armor or possibly weapons. At various points, large boulders were placed next to the entrances of the tunnels. If the catacombs were invaded, these stones could close off the entrances to the tunnels and the people could escape through the system of tunnels. It was a very interesting experience to sit in these caves and feel the historical weight in the coolness of the underground.
This is a zoomed in view from our restaurant as we looked out over a giant gorge covered in buildings cut into the rock.
Funny little stands were everywhere.
These chimney houses are still used today. Shops, restaurants, hotels, and homes are cut directly into the rock. Electricity is run through them, they obviously have functioning kitchens, and some even have satellite dishes attached. Of course, most of them are connected by the underground tunnels as well. Our hotel was one of these cave hotels, and was individualized with a giant stone mantelpiece as the headboard with cutouts in the side for trinkets. We also visited one of the chimney homes, which was amazing. We all got a glass of apple chai cooked on a wood stove next to the tunnel to go underground. We went up to the top of the chimney, using a simple wood ladder, each floor getting smaller. Although we did not see all of the sites in Cappadocia, what we saw was impressive. If we were to go back, a hot air balloon ride over the region would be at the top of our list. This is a very popular tourist thing to do, and I think it would be worth it!
Cappadocia did NOT disappoint. It is unlike anyplace I have ever been. Even looking at the photographs, it is just impossible to communicate the amazing-ness of this area. If you can’t go, you definitely need to see more photos of this place.