Kappadokia, that means "beautiful horse country" and it got its name from the persian traders that visited this part of Anatolia. But there is no word that describes the bizarre and extraordinary landscape that was formed within centuries by volcanoes, water and wind. Nature played with fantasy and formed rocks that looked like churches, chimneys and even the silhouette of a camel can be found.

As early as 5000. BC, people took advantage of the tough stone, which can be formed and digging is easy but the tuff is, on the other hand, very strong and has good insulating properties. The early settlers built their homes and stables in the rocks and used the tunnels as hiding places from enemies. More than 36 underground cities are known in Kappadokia, but only a fraction have been opened to date.

Those catacomb cities are the major attraction for the millions of yearly visitors, but I found the beautiful and bizarre landscape much more appealing.

Vast eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Eriyes (3913 m) and Mt. Hasa (3268 m) millions of years before covered an area of 20.000 square meters with its ashes, lava and mud. Wind and rain played the major role in the erosion of the most surrealistic forms of rocks and colors.

This moonlike landscape was used for fantasy movies like "Star Wars". The settlers built their gardens and houses directly into the rocks. We wandered around and were within moments fascinated by the shear beauty of the Göreme Valley.

Göreme means "You don't see me"

And in fact it was a labyrinth of valleys, gardens and rocks and it was hard to find a route that did lead us into the main valley, where we found a "Garden of Eden" like valley. We found apples, pumpkins and other fruits just in time, because we had no provisions with us.

We wandered along the valley on the way to the little town of Cavusin and were once again amazed by natures fantasy.

The second day led us to the well known underground cities of Kappadokia. We drove to Kaymakli, one of the most famous 3 places to visit.

Interesting is the history of these cities. Actually the mystery, because there is still no factual knowledge on the questions. Who started to build these cities ? How many people lived here and where did they put their waste? Where did all the sand go, when there is no trace of it? How long did it take to build them?

One thinks the air tunnels were built first after a plan, because otherwise it would not have been possible to dig such a big place with no air.

As well, there are hundreds of mill stone like doors weighing over 500 kg. The people must have brought them from some other place, because the stone is not identical from the one in the dug cities.

They could be closed and opened only from the inside.

The only factual knowledge about the cities is told from the middle age. The early Christians fled into the caves and houses and used them as secret places. Here they could maintain their religion and hide from the terror that was all over the country when the arabs came. Apostle Paulus is known among the early Christians in Kappadokia. Very many paintings in the natural churches tell about this time.

But nobody can tell who started to build these places. Archeologists found in one of the storages an ax from the Paläolithikum (time of stone age). Later the Romans and the Byzantines used the cities as their homes. But in between the centuries there were times when nobody knew anything about the cities. Derinkuyu, the biggest city currently known, was accidentally found in the early 30th of this century.

There must have been a big time scale between the first building of those caves and the later forthcoming of the construction, but the historians can't tell exactly the age of the cities.

At the end of our second day we visited Avalon, that is famous for its pottery. It takes up to one month to finish such a plate. I had an opportunity to try my luck with the clay but did not succeed.

We spent the third day in Zelve. Here one can find the most bizarre rock formation and an almost intact village with churches, mosques and monasteries. Its interesting to see that in the early days moslems and christians lived peacefully together. A mosque stands right beside a church. We climbed up the tunnels of an old monastery and Sepsi, our guide told us a bit about the place. There were a mill, kitchens, wine cellars and stables and of course churches with interesting fresco paintings.

In the afternoon we visited Mustafapasa, a village named after the great Atatürk, Father of Turkey. We tried the young wine of a winery and walked along the old houses that were built from greek architects.

A BBQ completed the 3 wonderful days in Kappadokia. We lazed on the turkish carpets in a cave house, one of the rare rock houses that is still inhabited, and warmed our feet under the traditional ovens.

As you can see its hard for me to put all the beauty we saw into single words. Instead, I attach some more pictures. If some of you have a chance to come here, you should allow for at least 3 days of time and one should spend a lot of time with walks along the valley. When you walk along those rocks your own imagination can bring the history alive.

AMBERELLA's travel stories © 1998

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