TURKEY:

Cap­ti­vat­ing Cap­pado­cia

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Iam just back from a visit to the stun­ning area of Cap­pado­cia in cen­tral Turkey, and I can’t get the images out of my mind. Snow-cov­ered moun­tains, wide rolling plains, ex­tra­or­di­nary ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions (oth­er­wise known as fairy chim­neys), an­cient painted cave churches - such a con­trast to the hus­tle and bus­tle that is Is­tan­bul. We were a merry group of six who had come to visit - di­verse in age range and per­son­al­i­ties and in­cluded a Rus­sian princess, a busi­ness en­trepreneur, a pho­tog­ra­pher blog­ger and a cou­ple of writ­ers from Malaysia and Hun­gary.

So why visit Turkey, par­tic­u­larly at this time, when tourists are can­celling their hol­i­days in droves? Per­haps that is ex­actly the best time to visit - es­pe­cially to an area such as Cap­pado­cia - which couldn’t seem more re­mote and afar from the trou­bles of the big cities. It is an area burst­ing with his­tory but also a calm haven with such stun­ning land­scape that it should be on ev­ery­one’s bucket list to visit.

Cap­pado­cia lies in cen­tral Turkey and cov­ers an area of about 250 miles (east-west) and 160 miles (north-south). The ma­jor towns are Ürgüp, Kay­seri, Göreme, Nevşe­hir, Se­lime, Güze­lyurt, Uçhisar and Avanos. The area is dom­i­nated by two large snow-cov­ered moun­tains and our jour­ney was to see the mag­nif­i­cent val­leys and weathered stone mon­u­ments known as the ‘fairy chim­neys’. The land­scape that you see to­day was formed many mil­len­nia ago by vol­canos and then the rocks were weathered, leav­ing the ‘fairy chim­ney’ ef­fect that is fa­mous to­day.

His­tory

Man’s pres­ence in the area is known from 10,000 BC with dis­cov­er­ies made at Asikhhöyük, near the Ih­lara val­ley, and kitchen uten­sils, clay ves­sels and other dis­cov­er­ies found at the site of Zankhüyük, 20 km north of Avanos which date to the Bronze Age (3,000 - 1200 BC). The Hit­tites also oc­cu­pied the area. At the be­gin­ning of the 6th cen­tury BC, the area was in­vaded by the Medes, fol­lowed by the Per­sians, Mace­do­nians and in 47 BC, Julius Cae­sar set­tled his army in the area around Mazak, changed the name of the town to Cae­sarea (to­day it is known as Kay­seri) and Cap­pado­cia be­came the 17th province of Rome. In 312 AD Em­peror Con­stan­tine di­vided the empire into East and West and adopted Chris­tian­ity as the main re­li­gion. In 324 he de­feated his ri­val in the east and in 330 he es­tab­lished the city of Con­stanti­nop­o­lis. It was dur­ing this pe­riod that Cap­pado­cia’s own saints be­gan to emerge: Basileios the Great of Cae­sarea (Kay­seri), Gre­gory of Nazianzus (Nenzi) and Gre­gory of Nyssa (Nevşheir).

Dur­ing the reign of the Em­peror Valens (364 - 378), Cap­pado­cia was split into two re­gions, with cap­i­tals at Cae­sarea and Tyana. Be­tween the 6th and 9th cen­turies, the area grew in promi­nence and was as­so­ci­ated with a bish­opric. Fol­low­ing Ro­man rule, the area was oc­cu­pied by the Sas­sa­ni­ans, Arabs and the Seljuk Turks who swept

in from the plains of Cen­tral Asia. The Ot­tomans seized Con­stanti­nop­o­lis in 1453 which marked the end of a thou­sand years of rule by the Byzan­tine empire. One of the towns in Cap­pado­cia, Old Nyssa, was the birth­place of the fa­mous Ot­toman vizier Da­mat Ibrahim Pasha and dur­ing his ser­vice, the town of Muskara be­came Nevşe­hir , which means ‘new town’ in Turk­ish, and is now one of the main towns in the area. Ot­toman rule ended af­ter the sec­ond world war, and on 29 Oc­to­ber 1923 the Repub­lic of Turkey was born. Fol­low­ing the treaty of Lau­sanne in 1924, there was mas­sive em­i­gra­tion from the area and many Greeks were sent back to their home coun­try.

Ar­rival

Our flight from Is­tan­bul had been un­event­ful (ex­cept for the ten minute bus ride from ter­mi­nal to plane which caused much amuse­ment and com­ments such as ‘ are we driv­ing to Cap­pado­cia?’ from fel­low pas­sen­gers), and com­ing into land at Kay­seri, the coloured blocks of flats looked like stacks of Lego bricks. Mov­ing swiftly through the air­port, we had about an hour’s drive to our ‘cave’ ho­tel which gave us time to take in some of the sur­round­ing land­scape, one of the joys of vis­it­ing Cap­pado­cia. Af­ter quickly leav­ing the city be­hind, the land­scape turned into the more tra­di­tional farm dwellings be­fore the vast rolling plains ap­peared, their green­ery in con­trast to the snow-capped moun­tains ahead of us.

There are two main moun­tains in this area - known as Er­ciyes and Hasandagi. The for­mer is one of the high­est moun­tains of Ana­to­lia and was an ac­tive vol­cano for many mil­len­nia. Its peak is al­ways cov­ered in snow and it was called Harkas­sos or ‘the white moun­tain’ by the Hit­tites who in­cluded it as one of their many gods. Dur­ing the Ro­man pe­riod the moun­tain was known as ‘Argieus’ and ap­peared on all minted coins of the re­gion. The dou­ble peaked Hasandag moun­tain is de­scribed as one of the most beau­ti­ful moun­tains of Ana­to­lia and in­deed lives up to its name.

On our jour­ney we also had our first glimpse of the fa­mous ‘fairy chim­neys’ - the main star of the ge­o­graph­i­cal land­scape of Cap­pado­cia. As men­tioned pre­vi­ously, th­ese shapes were caused by ero­sion over thou­sands of years and the re­main­ing shapes are unique to this land­scape. They of­ten look as though they are wear­ing a hat, but those with a vivid imag­i­na­tion can see camels, birds or even a whirling dervish!

Driv­ing through the vil­lage of Ürgüp, we came to a tra­di­tional vil­lage which housed our spe­cial ‘cave’ ho­tel. When I first vis­ited the re­gion 30 years ago, there was very lit­tle ac­com­mo­da­tion and we had also stayed in one of the caves then. It was the mid­dle of win­ter and the snow was thick on

the ground and it had been freez­ing in our lit­tle cave. All that was re­quired for bed­time had been to take off our shoes, and to climb un­der the quilt fully clothed. Now Cap­pado­cia is filled with many choices of ac­com­mo­da­tion and many of them make use of the caves.

Our ho­tel, the Gami­rasu Cave Ho­tel, is one such ho­tel - a won­der­ful labyrinth, full of stairs lead­ing to lit­tle ter­races or hid­den rooms. The ho­tel started with just nine rooms and it has grown over the years with the owner, Ibrahim Bas­tu­tan, tak­ing his time with the restora­tion of each room, and it shows. The beau­ti­ful jas­mine blos­som was out when we vis­ited, guar­an­tee­ing an even more en­chant­ing feel to the ho­tel, and if you can puff your way up about four stair­cases to the very top level, there is a ter­race where you can sit sip­ping a glass of wine or a cold beer and watch the sun set over the vil­lage.

Our Rus­sian Princess had the req­ui­site suite, larger than most peo­ple’s homes, com­plete with sit­ting room and mo­saic ham­mam bath. Oth­ers in the party had more moder­ate of­fer­ings - but all in­di­vid­ual in style with plaques with in­for­ma­tion about the date and his­tory of their rooms. So how did it feel to sleep in a two thou­sand-year-old cave? Well, if you love a bit of his­tory as I do, you spend most of your time won­der­ing who was there be­fore you…were they a per­se­cuted Chris­tian hid­ing from the Arabs? Or per­haps just a lo­cal farmer us­ing the caves for stor­age?

A life­time ex­pe­ri­ence

Our next day started early, at a very im­po­lite 4 am. We were be­ing picked up at 4.30 am for a bal­loon ride over the won­der­ful fairy chim­neys and a birds-eye view of the land­scape of Cap­pado­cia. On ar­rival at the of­fice of Uni­ver­sal Bal­loons, we were of­fered a wel­come break­fast and at about 5.50am we were driven out to our bal­loon site. It was still dark, but you could see the night-time was about to dis­ap­pear as the flashes of gold filled our red bal­loon. All as­sem­bled and land­ing brief­ing given, our take off was so gen­tle you hardly re­alised that you were sud­denly off the ground and head­ing high above the chim­neys. Bal­loon­ing is one of those ac­tiv­i­ties that if you don’t think about how high you are (we went up to 600m high) and don’t peer over the edge if you’re not keen on heights, then it is one of the most amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. It was nois­ier than I had an­tic­i­pated be­cause of the blasts of gas go­ing into the bal­loon, but the sense of peace and calm as you gen­tly float over the land be­low is to be highly rec­om­mended. The sun rose slowly over the moun­tains and then sud­denly it seemed as though the air was filled with colour - there must have been at least 40 bal­loons all around us. The land­scape of Cap­pado­cia opened up be­low us with vil­lages, val­leys and those ex­tra­or­di­nary rock for­ma­tions.

Much ad­mi­ra­tion was ex­tended to our pilot for not only his smooth land­ing but also for the ma­noeu­vring of the bal­loon onto the trailer. You can see the buses and trail­ers wait­ing for all the bal­loons to land and then they ar­rive im­me­di­ately on the scene to help and wel­come you back to earth. The men worked quickly to­gether to set up a ta­ble with drinks and cake (plus scat­tered flow­ers to make it look spe­cial), and af­ter a glass of (fake) kir royal we were pre­sented with medals to com­mem­o­rate our flight.

It was then back to the ho­tel for our sec­ond break­fast which we de­voured with glee as we were all very ex­cited af­ter our early morn­ing ex­cur­sion. We ate on the ter­race in the warm morn­ing sun­shine and ev­ery­body agreed that the bal­loon ride had been a ma­jor tick off their bucket lists. A ‘once in a life­time ex­pe­ri­ence’ was the main con­sen­sus of opin­ion.

We ate on the ter­race in the warm morn­ing sun­shine and ev­ery­body agreed that the bal­loon ride had been a ma­jor tick off their bucket lists. A ‘once in a life­time ex­pe­ri­ence’ was the main con­sen­sus of opin­ion.

The un­der­ground cities

For­ti­fied with full stom­achs, we set off on our next ad­ven­ture which was a visit to one of the un­der­ground cities in the area. There are cur­rently 36 such cities in Cap­pado­cia, and there are nine open to vis­i­tors. The two main ones that can be vis­ited are in Kay­makli and Derinkuyu. We vis­ited the lat­ter which lies 29 km south of Nevşe­hir and is said to be 40 me­tres deep and have 18-20 lev­els - al­though only the first eight are ac­ces­si­ble to vis­i­tors. On ar­rival, we were told that no bags were al­lowed to be taken down into the city, and we were screened be­fore en­ter­ing. Our guide told us that th­ese were very re­cent de­vel­op­ments, and tight se­cu­rity was en­coun­tered at all tourist sites.

The un­der­ground cities were very im­por­tant to the de­vel­op­ment of Chris­tian­ity as they pro­vided the early Chris­tians with a place to hide, shel­ter and wor­ship and were in use un­til the end of the 7th cen­tury. It is not known ex­actly how many peo­ple lived in them, al­though it is gen­er­ally thought that in the larger cities of Kay­makli and Serinkuyu there might have been a pop­u­la­tion of about 4000. One of the most im­por­tant is­sues when build­ing them was ven­ti­la­tion, and so shafts of 70 - 80 me­tres deep were sunk. It is said that small cities were founded above and at times of peril, ev­ery­one dis­ap­peared be­low ground. We saw on the way down that the nar­row cor­ri­dors could be blocked by enor­mous round stones that could be rolled into place at times of dan­ger. Once in place, they could only be opened from the in­side.

The pas­sage­ways are nar­row and of­ten steep, the steps worn away from the many foot­steps over the years. Un­for­tu­nately, one mem­ber of our group was claus­tro­pho­bic and had to leave early and two more also gave up be­fore the fi­nal lev­els were reached. But those who per­sisted were re­warded with the dis­cov­ery of chapels, kitchens, liv­ing rooms and what ap­peared to be a bap­tism pool, com­plete with wa­ter spout and steps lead­ing into the pool. It was next door to a large rec­tan­gu­lar room which was re­frec­tory-like, with fur­ther rooms lead­ing off. The ‘city’ is a com­plete labyrinth and I guess it might be easy to get a lit­tle lost if you weren’t con­cen­trat­ing. I had vi­sions of won­der­ing around in the depths for days - would any of the party re­alise I wasn’t there be­fore it was too late?

Il­hara Val­ley

We headed back to our bus, com­plete with new Turk­ish head­wear and fridge mag­nets and our next stop was the beau­ti­ful Il­hara Val­ley - al­though our guide in­sisted it was much more than a val­ley - it was in fact a canyon! Names aside, this is an­other gem that Cap­pado­cia has to of­fer. The whole canyon is 17 km long and stretches from the Il­hara vil­lage to the vil­lage of Se­lime in the north and is 150 me­tres deep. It is not only a place of nat­u­ral beauty, formed on the out­skirts of the Hasandag moun­tain, but of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance too - it is the site of a num­ber of rock-cut chapels. The early Chris­tians built a num­ber of monas­ter­ies in this val­ley and also the val­ley of Belis­ara as they were al­most hid­den and ge­o­graph­i­cally hard to reach and the churches here date from the 6th to the 13th cen­turies. They were said to be a refuge for many flee­ing monks from Egypt, Pales­tine and Syria and even dur­ing the era of the Arab in­va­sions, the well-hid­den churches in the val­ley con­tin­ued to func­tion. Of the orig­i­nal 105 churches that ex­isted, only 15 are still stand­ing to­day.

We joined the canyon at Bu­radasiniz, and walked along the river for about 4 km. About four hun­dred steps take you to the val­ley floor, and on the way is the first church, that of Daniel Pan­tanassa. It has a sin­gle dome and a cru­ci­form floor plan and is dated from the 9th-11th cen­turies. Of its three apses, only one still re­mains. The dec­o­ra­tion im­me­di­ately jumps out at you as it is so bright - with its reds, oranges and yel­lows. The As­cen­sion of Je­sus to heaven fills the dome with other pop­u­lar sto­ries of The An­nun­ci­a­tion, Fight into Egypt, Three Wise Kings etc - al­though the de­pic­tion of Daniel in the Lion’s den is an un­usual mo­tif. One thing to look out for: the guide books point out that the three wise kings here are por­trayed dif­fer­ently to other churches, as they are more rem­i­nis­cent of Mevlevi dervishes.

There are a num­ber of churches along this route, and one not to miss is the Sum­bulu Kilise (Nar­cis­sus Church) with its rare fres­cos. The cru­ci­form-shaped church was carved into a huge rock mass and has two lev­els - the church is on the sec­ond level. The 11-12th cen­tury fres­cos are dif­fer­ent as they show char­ac­ters not en­coun­tered

in other Cap­pado­cian churches. De­picted on the dome is the Pan­to­cra­tor Christ with saints (and Saint Gre­gory and Theodorus por­trayed within medal­lions) and they also have Mary among the An­gels and three Jewish youths thrown into the burn­ing fur­nace.

Fur­ther along the val­ley floor you will see signs for the Kir­damalti Kilis or Church of Saint Ge­orge. The climb to this church is steep (it is the high­est church in the val­ley), but it is worth it to see one of the few Byzan­tine-era in­scrip­tions that re­main in­tact in the Ih­lara Val­ley. From the sec­ond half of the 10th cen­tury, the Byzan­tine Empire had recog­nised the Is­lamic mys­tic saints of Khor­san and this was an im­por­tance step to show tol­er­ance be­tween the two re­li­gions. In the in­scrip­tion above the niche on the north wall of the church, the Seljuk Sul­tan Me­sud II and the Byzan­tine Em­peror An­dronikos II are highly praised. The church was con­structed be­tween 1283 and 1295 and it is one of the few churches where the date of con­struc­tion is known for cer­tain, and it has a very rare scene de­picted, that of the Mur­der of Zechariah. The bene­fac­tor of the church, Tama, is also de­picted with a model of the church in her hand.

The four kilome­tre walk along the val­ley was easy and took a leisurely hour and a half. The val­ley is filled with aca­cia, wil­low, pis­ta­chio, net­tle-berry, po­plar, al­mond and walnut trees. You could see that many were about to burst into blos­som which would be such a stun­ning sight. Along the way is a lit­tle camp where you can stop for tea and at the end of this sec­tion are a cou­ple of restau­rants where you can en­joy a meal over­look­ing the wa­ter. We were greeted on our way to lunch by one of the many stray dogs that ex­ist in Turkey, who whim­pered as we walked past. Al­ways a soft touch for a dog in peril, I saved half my lunch to feed to him. Sadly, af­ter lunch I couldn’t find him and I was up­set that this poor crea­ture was now starv­ing. But we (I was ac­com­pa­nied by the Princess and the Blog­ger) were most de­lighted to even­tu­ally see that he was play­ing hap­pily in the or­chard with a lit­tle black doggy friend and looked as though he didn’t have a care in the world. Per­haps his whim­per­ing had been an act for the gullible tourist.

Our fi­nal visit of the day was to the Cathe­dral at Se­lime, one of the largest churches in the re­gion. It is made up of tens of rooms which are in­ter­con­nected by tun­nels. The main church is a basil­ica plan with three naves and is the only church of this type of plan in the area. It was built in the 8th-9th cen­turies with the fres­cos dat­ing from the late 10th-early 11th cen­turies. The Cathe­dral served as a sig­nif­i­cant cen­tre for re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties in the Byzan­tium pe­riod and it was also the site of the first

non-se­cret mass to be con­ducted in Cap­pado­cia. The Cathe­dral was also used as a mil­i­tary base and was a strong­hold against the Moguls in the Seljik pe­riod. Vis­i­tors beware how­ever - it is quite a scram­ble to get to the church al­though go­ing down wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sen­si­ble shoes are def­i­nitely the or­der of the day here if you don’t want to take your life in your hands.

Fairy chim­neys and cas­tles

The next day was a visit to two val­leys: Imag­i­na­tion (or Devrent) Val­ley, so called be­cause the weath­er­ing of the rock for­ma­tions means you can see shapes such as camels or whirling dervishes and Pi­geon Val­ley which leads into the heart of Cap­pado­cia, the town of Göreme. We also vis­ited Zelve or Pasabag, which is the cen­tre of the 'Fairy Chim­neys' and was home to an im­por­tant set­tle­ment from the 4th - 13th cen­turies while a cur­rent set­tle­ment ex­isted there un­til 1952. It is gen­er­ally thought that the mush­room or pyra­mid shaped fairy chim­neys here are the most beau­ti­ful in the re­gion. There are three churches here and one, Ba­likli Kilise, was ded­i­cated to the Syr­ian saint, Saint Simeon, who spent most of his life perched on top of a pil­lar. Also de­picted in the church is the story of Daniel among the lions and a youth thrown into a fur­nace.

Our next stop was to see Uchisar Cas­tle or fortress, which lies on Cap­pado­cia’s high­est hill. Its po­si­tion pro­vided a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage in de­fence against the Arab in­vaders, as from the top you have a mag­nif­i­cent panorama of the re­gion all the way to Mount Er­ciyes, 80 km away. It was dur­ing th­ese vis­its that two at the back of the bus (who will re­main name­less) started to rebel and made the mem­o­rable com­ment of ‘ What? More stones? We want to go shop­ping!’

And then we were fi­nally on our way to Göreme - the heart of Cap­pado­cia. It lies at 1100 me­tres above sea level and al­though the ori­gin of the name is un­clear, it is thought to have orig­i­nated as a cor­rup­tion of the name Ko­rama, given by the early Chris­tians who lived here when flee­ing the Arab in­vaders. The Val­ley of Göreme is a per­fectly hid­den place for those flee­ing per­se­cu­tion and was the birth­place of the mar­tyr Saint Hieron. Here you can find the ear­li­est ex­am­ples of the Byzan­tine churches and it is be­lieved that Ar­me­nian ar­chi­tects helped to de­sign some of the churches.

Göreme Open Air Mu­seum

The high­light of the day (even to the ‘ what,

more stones?’ mem­bers of the group) was the visit to the Göreme Open Air Mu­seum. There are 200 churches in Göreme Val­ley, and about

30 are in­cluded in the Open Air Mu­seum. There are thought to be so many churches in the area be­cause Saint Paul de­cided to use the area to ed­u­cate his mis­sion­ar­ies.

There is a lot to see here and I would rec­om­mend that you spend at least a cou­ple of hours so you can ex­plore ev­ery­thing. The churches come in dif­fer­ent sizes and lay­outs, and you can tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween the early and later ones by their dec­o­ra­tion. The ear­lier dec­o­ra­tion is painted straight onto the walls and con­sists mostly of stylised crosses and ge­o­met­ri­cal de­signs, while the later churches ap­plied plas­ter to the walls and then cov­ered them with pop­u­lar scenes such as The As­sump­tion, The An­nun­ci­a­tion, The Visi­ta­tion, Na­tiv­ity, Flight into Egypt, Trans­fig­u­ra­tion, The Last Sup­per or Cru­ci­fix­ion.

The ‘Ap­ple’ Church is said to be one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing in the Göreme Val­ley be­cause of its rarely seen sym­bolic dec­o­ra­tion. The name of the church comes from a nearby ap­ple tree, and it dates from the mid 11th - early 12th cen­tury and has a de­tailed lay­out with nine domes, four col­umns, three apses and a floor plan of an en­closed Greek Cross. The col­umns are not sup­port­ive but are there to mimic or fol­low nor­mal church ar­chi­tec­ture and to cre­ate an aes­thetic ap­pear­ance. There are 15 painted scenes from the life of Je­sus.

In con­trast to this richly painted tomb is the Church of Saint Barbara which was carved from the same con­tin­u­ous rock mass as the Ap­ple Church, and dates to the 11th cen­tury. The painted brick red fig­ures were ap­plied di­rectly to the rock sur­face and it is thought that some of the sym­bols in this church are in­volved with sor­cery and the break­ing of spells to en­sure pro­tec­tion against the devil. Look out for the paint­ing of a rooster above the saints, who is peck­ing at some­thing (pos­si­bly a flower) and be­neath it, be­tween two crosses, a strange crea­ture that has risen to its feet. Ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian mythol­ogy, the rooster was ap­par­ently thought to rise early in the morn­ings and chase away evil spir­its and that it was also a re­minder of the de­sire for free­dom. The crea­ture that is dif­fi­cult to iden­tify is said to be a sym­bol of evil.

Nearby is the Ser­pent Church, which also dates to the 11th cen­tury, and has nei­ther domes nor

col­umns. The name of the church comes from a paint­ing on the left of the en­trance, de­pict­ing Saint Ge­orge and Saint Theodorus killing a ser­pent in the form of a dragon. Also look out for the paint­ing of em­peror Con­stan­tine with his mother He­lena who are de­picted with the ‘True Cross’ be­tween them and a com­po­si­tion show­ing Saint Basileios hold­ing the bi­ble with Saints Onuphrius and Thomas, a Cap­pado­cian pri­est, next to him. Onuphrius is said to have spent 60 years in the desert, sub­sist­ing solely on roots and dates which may ex­plain the trif­fid-like ob­ject in front of him.

One church within the com­plex re­quires an ex­tra fee to en­ter but it is worth it to see the mag­nif­i­cent fres­cos in the Dark Church, which have been re­stored and has only re­cently re-opened. This is said to be the most im­por­tant and mag­nif­i­cent church in the Göreme Val­ley and dates to the 12 - 13th cen­turies. Its name comes from Karan­lik, which means dark in Turk­ish be­cause it was pro­tected nat­u­rally for cen­turies be­cause of its se­cluded sit­u­a­tion. How­ever, it is not been so lucky from the dam­ages of mankind. The church has a cru­ci­form plan, with a cen­tral dome and four col­umns and is en­tirely carved into the rock. At its en­trance are the re­mains of an­other church from an ear­lier era. I liked the small touches in the paint­ings here: in the na­tiv­ity scene for ex­am­ple, the don­key and ox are warm­ing baby Je­sus with their breath and by lick­ing him and in the Cru­ci­fix­ion scene blood pours from the right side of Je­sus’s chest where it has been pierced by a spear.

Lo­cated out­side the mu­seum, just down the road op­po­site the car park there is one church not to be missed. It is called Tokali Kilise (Buckle Church) and is the largest in the re­gion and is likened to a cathe­dral. It is made up of three seg­ments that were built at dif­fer­ent times - a sin­gle nave church, the new church and the oldest part that was used as a ceme­tery. The most stun­ning as­pect of this church are the brightly coloured paint­ings in the new sec­tion - the part that runs per­pen­dic­u­lar to the first bar­rel-vaulted area. The new church is rec­tan­gu­lar in plan with

Ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian mythol­ogy, the rooster was ap­par­ently thought to rise early in the morn­ings and chase away evil spir­its and that it was also a re­minder of the de­sire for free­dom.

a sin­gle narthex and cor­ri­dor and with the apse sep­a­rated from the nave by col­umns and dates to the late 10th - early 11th cen­tury. The qual­ity and beauty of the colours is unique in the Cap­pado­cian churches and they con­sist of a lapis lazuli blue, green, red and browns. The top­ics of the fres­cos are nu­mer­ous and in­clude the usual sto­ries, but also in­clude the Wed­ding at Cana, where Je­sus turned wa­ter into wine, The Apos­tle’s walk on the wa­ter of the Sea of Galilee, the heal­ing of the lepers and many other sto­ries. As you leave the new church, don’t miss the enor­mous Ro­man sol­dier that is on your right. When I asked the guard who he was, he looked at me piti­fully and said it was Herod, and couldn’t I read his name next to the fig­ure? It was all Greek to me how­ever.

It is worth not­ing that the Open Air Mu­seum has a fab­u­lous gift shop that is full of books about the mu­seum, the re­gion and all as­pects of Turkey, new and old. There are also the usual gifts, but I didn’t have much time to browse as we were on a dead­line. I only men­tion it in case you are look­ing to find a great guide book for Cap­pado­cia - you can find it here. We also talked to some fel­low trav­ellers from an Amer­i­can group and they men­tioned that all the se­cu­rity that had been in place at all the sites they had vis­ited had def­i­nitely made them feel safer once they had ar­rived in coun­try. This was def­i­nitely good to hear.

And so our brief visit to Cap­pado­cia came to an end. We had only seen a small amount of what this area has to of­fer and next time I would like to see the Hit­tite hi­ero­glyph in­scrip­tion at Topada, Acigöl, the town of Ürgüp, which is one of Cap­pado­cia's oldest set­tle­ments, Si­nas­sos with its Greek ar­chi­tec­ture, the Gömede Val­ley (a smaller ver­sion of the Il­hara Val­ley), the an­cient Ro­man city of Sobessos with its on­go­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions and the 'small but beau­ti­ful' mu­seum at Nevşe­hir.

Turkey is a coun­try that is full of di­ver­sity - it has beaches, his­tor­i­cal cities, an­cient sites and the nat­u­rally ge­o­graph­i­cal stun­ning land­scape of Cap­pado­cia. The con­sen­sus of my fel­low trav­ellers, be they Rus­sian roy­alty or lo­cal busi­ness­man, was that it was def­i­nitely an area not to be missed and should be on ev­ery­one’s bucket list to visit - and the sooner the bet­ter.

Left: 15th cen­tury map of Ana­to­lia from Mün­ster’s Cos­mo­graphia show­ing Cap­pado­cia (Im­age: Rare­li­bra CC BY-SA 2.5). Right: To­wards the moun­tains (Im­age: © Cam Wheels) Pre­vi­ous page: Bal­loon­ing over Cap­pado­cia (Im­age: © Fiona Richards)

Bot­tom: A suite at the Gami­rasu Cave Ho­tel Left: Bal­loon­ing over Cap­pado­cia - a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence (Images: © Fiona Richards (top), © St­effi C @ stef­fi_­day­dreamer (bot­tom))

Above, left: An un­der­ground pas­sage at Derinkuyu with huge stone vis­i­ble that could close off the cor­ri­dor when un­der at­tack (Im­age: © Ne­vit Dil­men, CC BY-SA 3.0) Above, right: One of the un­der­ground rooms (Im­age: © Mar­tijn Mun­neke, CC BY 2.0)

Right, top: The beau­ti­ful Il­hara Val­ley Right: The dome of the Sum­bulu Kilise (Both images © Fiona Richards)

Above: Fairy chim­neys near Göreme, (Im­age: Benh Lieu Song, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Left, top: The Camel for­ma­tion Left, mid­dle: The Cathe­dral at Se­lime Left, bot­tom: Tree cov­ered with blue wadj eyes over­look­ing the val­ley to Göreme (All images © Fiona Richards) Right: The Göreme Open Air Mu­seum (Im­age: Bernard Gagnon CC BY-SA 3.0)

Above: Fresco on the ceil­ing of the Tokali Kilise with beau­ti­ful blue colour­ing (Im­age: Georges Jan­soone CC BY 3.0) Be­low: Sun­rise over Cap­pado­cia (Im­age: © Fiona Richards )

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.