Slap  bang in the middle of  Turkey is the region of Cappadocia which boasts a truly remarkable and unique landscape.

A long time ago a series of eruptions from Mt. Erciyes and Mt Hasan covered the area in a thick layer of volcanic ash which solidified to form the soft tufa that characterises the surface strata.

It would take a topographical map to show the mountains and even that wouldn’t reveal the strangeness and continually changing landscape.

Tufa, easy to cut by hand or via water erosion, becomes concrete-like when exposed to air and therefore ideal for troglodyte living.

The processes of erosion continues today, carving valleys and gorges out of the soft tufa.

One of these forms of erosion and the signature of the region is the ‘fairy chimney’. Often humorously phallic it is formed when a cap of resilient stone protects the column of softer material beneath it, while the surrounding tufa is removed.

But this is only one form of the “development” of tufa.

The area is also a warren of caves, underground cities, rock churches and chambers, some still inhabited today.

Christianity came early to the region with St. Paul passing through on his way to Ancyra (Ankara) and 3 Saints originating here in the 4th Century.

The arrival of Arab raiding parties in the 7th and 8th centuries drove the Christians underground forming underground cities.

Though the underground cities were not built for permanent residence, they apparently were utilized for extended stays with elaborate ventilation systems, kitchens, toilets and wineries. Some of these cities had thousands of inhabitants, including livestock. For protection, at deeper levels, huge carved wheel like stones were at the ready to roll over entrances should the need arise.

Valleys in Cappadocia are honeycombed with caves that contain fantastic architecture. Most caves have elaborate columns and arches, none of which are actual load bearing structural elements. These columns and arches merely mimic that of free-standing buildings and have only decorative functions. Many, though not all, of these “buildings” are churches built in the 4th century with frescoes that in many instances have not survived the ravages of time.

The earlier frescoes rely entirely on symbolism to communicate their messages and may look simple in comparison to some of the later works. Their form (as I understand it) is as result of the early church’s disapproval of the portrayal of the human form in religious art.

It is very difficult to find a section of fresco work that hasn’t been damaged, one cause(besides time) suggests this is as a result of the abhorrence of representations of the human form during the Arabic occupation.

Another, possibly apocryphal, tells us that local maidens believed that the blue eyes of the figures in the frescoes, if removed and powdered, could be incorporated to make a powerful love potion. An awful lot of figures have their eyes removed.

But I ramble on… a bad habit.

For Linda and I the true joy of Cappadocia stems from the fact that life still follows a village rhythm. Despite the hordes of tourists, including ourselves.

Deep in the heart of the country, people settled within the lunar-like landscape and burrowed their houses and churches into stone cliffs and their cities underground. In so doing, they provided a still-cogent example of the simplicity and sense of living at one with nature rather than imposing upon it.

Yes, we were but 2 of the many tourists here. But we felt privileged to be here- particularly on our bikes as it allowed us to follow the roads less travelled in this region.

Here are some of the pictures from both the ground and a hot air balloon trip:


We start early at 5am


Slowly it inflates


Finally up and a few stories high


We are not alone however and soon the bun fight begins, jostling for air space



The balloon is very reliant on the wind. Here we almost take this hotel out much to the surprise of the  hotel guests, mostly still asleep at 6am






The support vehicle follows us and often tries to second guess where we may land


We tried to land at this point however the prevailing wind had other ideas sending the support crew scrambling, again and again


Finally the pilot lands with pin point accuracy on the back of the trailer


The next morning conditions are more favourable as are the amount of balloons


Rock homes are still used




With our bikes we are fortunate to explore the roads less travelled


And discover high in the mountains a deserted settlement


Virtually non existent stairs, weathered over the centuries , take us higher and higher


Finally we get there , hopefully a kg or 2 lighter


The deserted church carved out in the rock


It is very difficult to find a section of fresco work that hasn’t been damaged


Not a soul in sight…



Made for hobbits-the underground cities


Huge hand carved wheel like stones were at the ready to roll over entrances for protection from invaders.


Ventilation shafts go down to 8 levels deep (this one is only on level one near the surface)



Watering hole for the underground livestock


Phallic ‘fairy chimney’. Oh to be young again….



Another world