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: