On Wednesday I leave for a week in Cappadocia and Göreme, an unusual area of Turkey in central Anatolia. It’s enclosed by mountains and described as having a “steppe” climate – significant temperature differences between day and night. I’ll miss Datça for many reasons including the sea, beautiful coastline, and fantastic weather. The people here have a healthy, basic approach to life and are very happy.
Getting to Cappadocia from Datca involves a 14-hour overnight bus ride. Flying takes even longer with back tracking through Marmaris, Dalaman, Istanbul, and various airport layovers. I’m not looking forward to the ride, but Turkey’s long-haul buses are reasonably comfortable.
Cappadocia is known for its unique underground cities from the Bronze Age. People who have visited say it seems like you’re on the surface of another planet in a place out of this world. During the Byzantine period inhabitants used underground cities for protection. So far, archaeologists have discovered about 40 underground cities in the Cappadocia area. Six of them are open for display. Cappadocia’s best-known underground cities are Tatlarin, Derinkuyu, Ozkonak, Mazi, Kaymakli, and Gaziemir.
“Volcanic eruptions led to tectonic movements leaving the surface of Cappadocia covered with a layer of porous grey, green, and brown limestone rock. The same volcanic activity led to pressure and heat on the limestone causing it to crack and create naturally spouting springs of hot water. Volcanic eruptions produced soft tuff rock outcrops molded by wind, erosion, and other natural phenomena. These forces created Cappadocia’s strange Fairy Chimneys“.
The first inhabitants of Cappadocia opened cavities in the volcanic rock to survive harsh winter conditions, escape dangerous wild animals, and protect themselves from attacks by hostile invaders. Over time they enlarged their caves, opened new cavities, and used connecting tunnels and labyrinths to create underground cities. Christians used the caves to escape persecution from Roman soldiers.
The underground cities had ventilation chimneys in the living spaces. The chimneys kept things warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To protect them from outside threats, the cities had “locking stones” which opened and closed from inside only.
“The oldest written source about Cappadocia’s underground cities is in Anabasis, written around 4 B.C. by the Greek professional soldier and writer Xenophon. Anabasis. He describes how people living in Anatolia caved their houses underground and connected them to each other.”
My hotel is in the Göreme Valley near the center of Nevsehir Province where the chimney rocks are famous. Göreme Valley is an important religious place where the first Christians emigrated to escape persecution from Roman soldiers. The Christians built hidden abbeys, churches, and houses in the volcanic rock. Some Christian structures in Göreme include Elmali Church, Saint Barbara Church, Carikli Church, Tokali Church, and Hidden Church.
All of these structures are now in Göreme Open Air Museums. Frescoes with scenes from the life of Jesus and pictures and descriptions of the saints who wrote the Bible are found inside these churches. Aksaray Province in the Cappadocia region was an important religious center in Christianity’s earliest days. Founders of orders like Basil of Kayseri and Greegory of Nazianos lived here in the 4th century. More photos and info to follow…