Jun 29, 2008

Living Under a Rock

Cappadocia is a modern day Bedrock. The main difference is that cars are not foot powered and I haven’t been able to find dinosaur vacuum cleaners or anything that resembles a bird can opener. But people do live inside rocks and mountains as they have for hundreds of years. There’s even a Flintstones cave hotel. I realize I have been quite liberal in the use of this word in past blog entries, but Cappadocia is the definition of surreal. Nothing has captured our bewilderment more than the hundreds of fairy chimneys carved into ancient homes and churches. Imagine a tall rock spire planted in the desert with a door, windows and stairs carved into its side. Walk inside to find multiple floors, carved tables, shelves, and even large, domed and frescoed churches. The volcanic rock is particularly soft in this region. For some reason, its inhabitants in the 11th-13th centuries decided to pick up a hammer and chisel and start digging. Nearly everywhere we turn, we see windows set hundreds of feet into the cliffs. The landscape alone is enough to deem this region stunning, the fact that thousands of people still live in the caves is the tipping point. This place is beyond anything we have ever seen. After 6 months of travel, we don’t feel this way very often.

Each home is supremely different. All resemble something from a Dr. Suess book. Some are built in groups such as apartments, other stand solo surrounded by grape vines. Each morning a barrage of 20 + hot air balloons make a quite assault on the sights below. But this only adds yet another element of madness as now the skies are filled with colorful jewelry.
We rented a scooter on our first day to do some exploring. We hiked and climbed and played in this ancient fun house of a place.

And if things just couldn’t get any stranger, it turns out that they lived underground too! Over 30 underground cities have so far been discovered. Using similar methods of carving and removing rock, the Cappadocians dug down as well. The largest underground city is 12 levels deep. Discovered in 1982, it is thought to have housed up to 30,000 people completely hidden beneath the desert’s surface. It is said that they lived here during periods of war and conflict (history has placed quite a few in this region of the world) to escape religious persecution. This was a very Christian community surrounded by Muslim armies. All entrances could be blocked by a 10-ft diameter stone that was rolled into place. The city we visited at Kaymakli was 8 levels deep and supremely strange. It is difficult to fathom an entire city living beneath the ground, yet here I was staring at their pantries, churches, air shafts, and toilets.

We’ve spent the last two days exploring the beautiful pigeon homes and rock formations in and around the city of Goreme, our home base for Cappadocia. Turkey just keeps getting better.


Maryline et Renaud said...

Hey guys ! We're glad to hear about you again ! Your posts about Turkey (and of course Amanda's amazing pictures!!) really make us think about going there soon. It's not so far from France...
As for us, we're now in China, enjoying the heat, crowd, oily food and great sites of Beijing.
Take the best of your last month traveling
Maryline et Renaud

alphasquirrel said...

Looks like the perfect place to use my favorite joke- 'Hey look at that rock!'
Replace 'rock' with 'tree' and you can entertain yourselves in the woods for hours.
Avett Brothers in town Sat night. You guys should be here!