Sunday, 30 September 2012

Turkish Delight - Cappadocia

Cappadocia? This was another place in Turkey I'd never actually heard of before getting there. Although strictly speaking it is a region rather than a place.

The reason for the region - the volcano dominates the view.

It was formed by volcanic rook which cooled and has eroded into the most weird and wonderful rock formations.

 The rock is very soft so the local inhabitants ( early Christians from Roman times)  burrowed into it to make their homes. Once the rock surface is exposed to air it hardens to make a strong durable "house". Some of which are still lived in today and we were lucky enough to be able to visit one such home. Many have been now been extended by adding various brick and stone additions since the area is now protected from further tunnelling.

We stayed in Göreme which is the main town of the region. We decided to forgo the delights of the hot air balloon trip over the region but did enjoy an authentic Turkish bath in the local Hamam. An experience in itself.

 No escape from the tourist shops - here was one of the more imaginative displays from the view point above Göreme.

Of course a fairyland  landscape needs a castle. This was also carved from the rock and it was a stiff climb up. On the top were graves cut into the rock. No one seems to know much about them or how the burial practises evolved, A lot of them were very small so were just the bones interred?

Cappadocia is famous also for its "fairy chimneys" These are really strange formations. The "necks" are eroding faster than the caps leading to these groups of rock. I'm not sure I'd describe them myself as chimneys.....

The final surprise Cappadocia had in store for us was its underground cities. The early Christians were frequently attacked and to protect themselves they hollowed out huge cities UNDER the ground. The one we visited was truly amazing. It went down 7 or so levels and would have housed up to 10,000 people and their animals. Ventilation was taken care of by shafts and inside the entry tunnels could be sealed by stone boulders if necessary.

Some of the tunnels  required you to bend low but in most of them I could walk comfortably upright and I'm 5 10. The inhabitants even hollowed themselves out a church deep underground and water was supplied from a well. There was much nervous laughter when a coin was dropped down and thoughts of  Gandalf and Frodo's adventures in the Mines of Moria came to mind. Despite listening hard we heard no drum beats... They had store rooms, stalls for their animals and even a graveyard down here.

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