Natural Chimneys, Manmade Caves, and so much more

Cappadocia really does have it all. Well, everything except low prices, that is. The landscape here is amazing. When we arrived, we came in during a lightning storm, shortly after sunset, so the lightning was flashing behind all these API Call Errorrock formations. One particularly large formation, which looks a little like a castle, had a flash go off behind it just as we were going by, and looked like something out of a Dracula movie.

For those interested in geology, the landscape here was caused by eruptions of 3 nearby volcanoes. The basic principle is that in some spots a soft rock layer was covered by a hard rock layer, so over the ages, the unprotected soft rock has eroded away in the rain, and places that had a harder rock on top of them remain. Some of these spots look like cones, but many others API Call Errorlook a bit like mushrooms. The term for them, Fairy Chimneys, comes from the way some of the mushroom ones look, where they appear to have a larger cap on them, looking much like the type of chimneys that have cones on top to prevent rain from going down.

Aside from the natural landscape, Cappadocia is also famous for its API Call Errorcaves, which have been inhabited for millenia. A few are natural, but the majority of caves have actually been dug out of the rock. Most interesting are the API Call Errorunderground cities, which were started by the Hittites around 1200 B.C., and vastly expanded by the early Christians and Byzantines, first to hide from the Romans during the Christian persecution, and later to hide from the Arabs when they started raiding deep into the Byzantine Empire. The really were functioning cities, though they only used them during times of danger, since, as you can imagine, living underground with only oil lamps for light wouldn’t be much fun. According to our guide, people might stay in the caves for anywhere from 2 days to six months at a time. You have to use your imagination a bit, since going through them now, it really does look a bit like just a lot of rooms of rock with various niches. Still it is quite an incredible feat of construction, the city we visited goes down seven stories.

Smaller caves were also used as houses or API Call Errorchurches. We’ve only visited one so far, a cave church. The one we visited was a bit different. A lot of the cave churches around here are famed for their artwork, but the church we visited had just been decorated by local worshippers, so it’s much less memorable. We will visit some of the professionally decorated churches tomorrow at the Göreme Open Air Museum. As for the houses, we did visit some of the API Call Errordissused ones, which weren’t much different than the underground city, but unfortunately, most of the cave houses are still in use today, so you can’t really visit any of them. We were talking to a British lady who lives in one (actually, the author of the Lonely Planet guide), and she says that they’re looking into arranging it so that various owners open up their homes a few days a year, but, of course, can’t be open to tourists all the time.

We also went to a pottery workshop yesterday, which was kind of neat. Everything there was handcrafted, and we watched some of the painting being done…I just can’t imagine the patience required to do a job like that…they paint every dot individually on the plates (or whatever they’re working on…they were making plates when we were there), and then, when it gets refired, it might just break. Indeed, we were told that the really big plates, which can take months of work to make, have a 60% chance of cracking on their final firing.

That’s about all we’ve done. There are some other things we’d like to do around here, but unfortunately, it’s just too expensive. Most of the activities are priced out in euros, which means about double the price to get the actual cost in lira that we pay. So white water rafting, one day, is €95/person, and hot air ballooning, which has gotten rave reviews from others at our guesthouse who went, starts at €160/person for a short ride with a less reputable company, to around €225/person for a longer ride with the better pilots. At our budget of 55YTL per day, this means going with a reputable company would be more than a week’s budget. So we’re getting a bit frustrated at the prices.

Still not sure where we’re going next. There’s some interesting hiking and other activities in the Kaçkar mountains, near the Georgian border, but that’s a good 12 hour bus ride from here, and puts us at the exact opposite end of the country from where everything else of interest is. So right now we’re leaning towards heading west into the Western Anatolia region and trying to find some hiking, at least, in the Taurus Mountains before heading south the see the sights along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. In a pleasant surprise, we’ve actually been issued a multiple entry visa (you’d hope you’d get something good for US$60, right?), so we think we’ll probably go to Greece before visiting Istanbul.

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