The famous Rockformations of Cappadocia
In central Turkey, the wondrous district of Cappadocia (often misspelled as Cappedocia or Capedocia) is located. Here, men and nature created a landscape of mountains, caves, and strange rock formations. In the past, the area was a hide away for Christians. Nowadays, these are gone, but the current population is still living here very traditionally. That is, as far as tourism hasn’t changed that.
Meet the FlintstonesThanks to the well paved roads and the comfortable night bus from Istanbul, we even managed to sleep a bit before we arrive around 8 AM in Göreme. But after finding a nice pension (Flintstones, of course), we take an extra nap since we are not completely awake yet.
Only after we wake up again, and walk around the village, we marvel about the landscape of Cappadocia. From the bus and in the early morning we did see some of it, but somehow didn’t realize the wonder of it. In the village are different rock formations, in which houses are made. More houses are located against, and inside the rock walls, and the streets wind themselves upward, around the rock formations. The population we see here is quite old, but still busy with cows, horses, the harvest, etcetera. The youth is probably busy with tourism.
We climb up against a ridge from where we have a good view on the surroundings. Everywhere are strange rock towers with little windows. And on the other side of the ridge is a landscape with valleys and mountain ranges. In the distance we see one of the currently sleeping volcanoes that once delivered the ashes from which erosion created the wondrous landscape of Cappadocia.
Once descended we eat a doner kebap at one of the food stalls in the touristic centre of the village. Tourism created a large number of restaurants and pensions here. But the restaurants are centred around two or three streets, and the pensions are mostly located in the caves. No landscape pollution of ugly high-rise.
Walking and climbingIn the afternoon we walk down the road from our pension until it changes into a dirt road and later disappears all together. We arrived in a valley with rock formations to the left and to the right. Every now and then we have to decide to go left or right, or to turn around. We have no idea where we are heading for, but we see an outlet high on the rocks, and aim to reach that. So we choose the most upward paths, until we reach a point with only steep walls. We are joined by an Australian guy and together we decide to climb one of the steep walls with hand and feet, to reach our goal. We succeed, only to find out that the outlet is located along a paved road where different tour buses stop. At least it is a nice viewing point.
The route we followed is too steep to descend, so we decide to walk on to the village Uchisar, rising as a rock castle above the landscape. Once there, we dive back into the valley to find our way back before dusk. While we sing out loud (Oh, Cappadocia, Cappa-day-jay-jay-ho-la-dee-yo) we march on. We walk downhill, passing nice vegetation, rock formations, and a few fairy chimneys. These are created by a large rock lying on the soft tuft ground (hardened volcanic ashes). The wind made the tuft around the rock erode. And what remains is a rock on a pillar of tuft, resembling the chimney in a fairytale.
Christians undergroundFor the next day we booked a tour along all the interesting sights in Cappadocia. Around 9.30 AM we are picked up and after some shifting between the mini vans we head off. After the inevitable viewpoint we head for one of the underground cities in the area. These were built by the Christians around the first centuries. They were under constant threat of attacks from different peoples, rampaging the area one after the other.
The first we see is a ventilation hole for the underground city. Not to be identified as such, it is camouflaged appearing as a well. Enemies would try to poison the water in the well, not knowing the real well was located underground with the rest of the city.
We descend to the first floor underground. This was where the animals were kept, together with the toilet. Smell goes up, so that’s the most logical place for those. The tunnels going further down are often separated by large round stones to block the corridor in case of an emergency. In the floors further down we find a school, church, wine cellar and kitchen. The smoke from the kitchen was not led outside, which would draw the attention. Instead, it was led through shafts until it was absorbed by the permeable rocks.
Ihlara GorgeBack into the daylight, we move on to the Ihlara Gorge. Created by earthquakes, it is a beautiful gorge with a lot of green and a small river in the middle. Here we first visit a small church hewn into the rocks by the Christians. It contains several biblical drawings on the walls and ceilings. After this visit we walk along Ihlara gorge to a small village where we can enjoy lunch at the side river.
Central Turkey is also located on the Silk road, the route from Europe to China, first used by Marco Polo as a trading route. In fact the Silk road is not a single road, but a large collection of possible routes to the far east. Our next stop is at a so-called caravanserai, a place where the caravans with camels could rest on their way east. These camel hotels were financed by the sultans, who profited from the trade with the far east.
At the end of the afternoon we also visit Avalon. This village near the river is the center of pottery in Cappadocia. It is located here because of the red clay won in the river. We visit one of the potteries, where we get a demonstration. But obviously, it is also a souvenir shop where we are asked to by something. After this visit the mini-bus needs to hurry in order to reach a viewing point in time for the sun set in the beautiful landscape. After this, we are dropped off in Göreme again.
Party truckSince we haven’t had enough of the beautiful landscapes in Cappadocia, we stay another day to enjoy the surroundings. This time we walk the road along the Goreme museum, a collection of rock churches with a high entrance fee, so we skip those. Our goal today is the valley in front of the mountain range we see in the distance. But before that, we stop for a drink at a campsite. It appears that an Overland Truck on its way from Istanbul to Cairo is staying here. Its passengers have had a rough night apparently, and arrive one by one at the breakfast table. We hear their stories, from which we conclude this must be one of the party trucks. At least they have a great time, that’s for sure.
It takes us too long to reach our targeted valley, so we decide to descend earlier. First we follow a cart track, but after a while it stops at a steep slope. We have no other choice than to follow a goat track further down. The valley we walk in now seems to be deserted, but it looks like something is grown here. The harvest must be transported by mules , since a car or even a horse and carriage cannot reach this location. We keep on following small paths, climbing rocks and making steep descends several times. Because of a ladder we realise we are following a walking trail now, and a little later we discover the blue markings of it.
Deserted routeThe environment remains beautiful. When we reach a larger path, we meet an old man on a horse and carriage, completing the scene. He asks for a baksjeesh (a tip) for the picture we take, but that’s ok. Not much later we find signs directing us to another valley, and when we follow these, there are also signs to a rock church. We need to climb on hands and feet many times, mainly because of broken ladders, and we wonder when the last people walked this route. But after a while we reach the rock church and to our surprise, there is someone sitting in a tent next to it. It is the caretaker of the church, which we can visit for a small fee. It isn’t much, but we enjoy the complementary drink of the friendly man.
To reach the next valley we have to climb up again, over the strange white rocks. We are treated to great views over the colored rock formations. We thought that the green and yellow stripes on the souvenir rock houses were just decoration, but here we see those stripes on the rock facades, very strange.
We descend via a goat trail again, and reach the next valley. Here are many pigeon houses in the rocks again. Pigeon dung was harvested here, before the arrival of artificial fertilizers. A while later we reach the road back to Goreme, and since we are hungry we decide to follow that.
Cappacocia stole our hearts. We could stay here for weeks, walking through the strange moon landscapes. There are a lot of things to see and do here as well, like taking a balloon ride. We just hope it is not too crowded in the high season. But if that’s the case, just visit off season, the temperatures during the day are good until November, and probably after that as well.
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