Friday, December 31, 2010

Cappadocia, Turkey II

Although I already wrote about it here, here's a few more quick interesting facts about Cappadocia:

- The crazy landscape might look familiar. The Sand People scene in the first Star Wars movie was filmed here.

- Early Christians, possibly including Saint Paul, fled here in the 2nd century AD before Christianity was accepted. They fled Roman and later Muslim persecution by hiding in the caves, twisted valleys, peaks, and underground cities of the region.

- 200 years later, monasticism began here. Saint Basil encouraged hermit communities to form. They abandoned their homes and led chaste, reflective lives here in poverty. 

- Cappadocia is mentioned twice in the Bible [Acts 2:6-111 Peter 1:1-2]. Cappadocians were among those present on the first day of Pentecost.

- Estimated number of cave churches: 1000

- Number of underground cities: 40 (maybe more.. still being discovered)

- Most famous tourists: Alexander the Great and Marco Polo

-The wild rock formations were created by volcanic eruptions and then smoothed by wind and rain.

-Many of the rock towers have caps and are called fairy chimneys or mushrooms. Some locals believe angels put them there.

-Cappadocia is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

- Julia

P.S. Still a few more posts from Cappadocia... the Open Air Museum (which houses many early cave churches), a Turkish dance night, and our nature walk through Rose Valley. This is one of those magical  places where you simply can't put the camera down.

Eating a traditional pottery kebab.
Surprised to find that rug weaving by hand still exists!
One of the nicest hotels in the area: Anatolian Houses

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cappadocia, Turkey I

While in Pamukkale, a couple of travelers recommended we visit Cappadocia. Being a 9 hour bus ride away, I wasn't really interested. That is, until we looked it up online. The first photos we saw was all it took for us to make up our minds. And off to bus station we went for another overnight journey.

Cappadocia is set in a unique landscape that makes it look like something out of a fairytale or a city on the moon. Definitely not something of this world. The land has peeks called "fairy chimneys" dotting the hillsides which were created by volcanic activity many many years ago and then smoothed over by wind and rain through the years. In ancient times, people started carving into the soft rock and living in cave houses. There are entire underground cities in the region, but more on that in a later post. Modern houses have been built on land and into the hillside out of materials that blend in with the natural sandy colored mountain formations.

We stayed in a small city called Gerome in the Cappadocia region. It was only fitting that we stay in a cave room with no window to the outside world. There are several hotels that offer cave rooms for an authentic experience. The bare rock walls were outfitted with a few turkish rugs and a stone fireplace in the corner. The place had a tiny door that led downstairs into the room. I knocked my head on the door frame several times. It smelled a little moldy and old, but once I got over the smell, I felt like a princess on the run, hiding away in a rustic cave.

The atmosphere in Gerome was incredible. The city thrives on tourism, but retains the traditional Anatolian culture. It felt dreamy to walk around at dusk and peer into the cozy restaurants lit up with colorful glass lanterns or get lost in a rug shop. One rug store we went into had rooms and rooms of rugs connected by small doorways, creating a maze. Every room was covered with stacks of rugs from floor to ceiling. Outdoor cafes had low tables surrounded by cushions. We saw a lot of water pipes (or hookah), tea kettles, earthy pottery, beautiful detailed ceramic plates/bowls, and traditional weavings with an eye in the center to ward off evil. Even the food felt more authentic and Turkish than the previous cities we had been in. Here we tried a traditional dish called the testi kebab (pottery kebab)-- lamb meat, potatoes, and veggies are cooked inside an earthenware jug. The dish is served in the closed jug. The server provided Yuriy with a knife and instructed him to hit along the center of the jug to break it open. The food inside was piping hot, moist (similar to a stew), the meat very tender, and we ate a few small pieces of pottery with it. Horses were the primary way of getting around in ancient days and they are still present around the city and available for tours. Old wagons can be spotted around town, giving the town a western feel, especially with the dessert like surroundings. At sunset, hot air balloons dot the horizon among the rising fairy chimneys.

I think any trip to Turkey is not complete without a venture into Cappadocia, even if for a day or two. It was so unique and charming and I would not mind coming back one day to stay in the luxury Anatolian Houses.

- Julia

Getting there:
Our classic lunch between buses: sausage, cheese, bread, very spicy peppers

Our cave hotel: