Cappadocia The Fairy Chimneys
How was Cappadocia formedThese were created from eruptions of three volcanoes, Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz that dominate Cappadocia covering the former plateau of Urgup with ash and mud. Over the millennia the compressed volcanic ash changed into a soft stone called ‘tuff’ and the erosion of this from rain and wind is what created the strange fairy chimneys that Cappadocia is now famed for.
Living in Cappadocia in the pastThese formations have been used by many different cultures as dwellings along with underground cities they made from tunnels and caves. Largely ignored by invading armies of great empires, the native people living there took full advantage of the regions natural resources as they continue to do so even today with the rock dwellings still being inhabited.
Clay taken from the Kizilirmak River is used to make local pottery, wine is still being produced locally and has been since Hittite times and the fields are fertilised by guano collected from the rock cut pigeon houses just as they have always been.
Translated from Hittite, Cappadocia means “land of well bred horses” and these local horses, along with mules and donkeys, are still generally used by everyone for transport and farming. Cappadocia was a refuge for early Christians who lived and worshipped underground and an estimated 3,000 rock churches remain in the area.
The recent years have seen some rather large hotels being built to accommodate the increasing tour companies that pass through here but overall Cappadocia is very much unspoilt.
Places to Visit in CappadociaThe most visited sites by tour groups and the best known are Nevsehir , Avanos and Urgup (Ürgüp with the Turkish writing) whose connecting roads form a triangle and the valleys here hold the largest concentration of fairy chimneys (Peri Bacaları), the rock-cut Churches of the Goreme Open Air Museum and the troglodyte dwellings and churches of the Zelve Monastery.
NevsehirNevsehir is the largest town and the centre for travel in the region with the neighbouring Urgup , Goreme , Çavuşin Uchisar and Ortahisar as good bases to tour from but have little public transport.
AvanosAvanos is the centre for the local pottery industry and sits on the Kizilirmak River.
Derinkuyu and Kaymakli Underground CitiesHeading south outside of the triangle are other popular destinations; the Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities; the first of which has 8 levels and the second extending 55m down, were used by Christians escaping persecution in the 7th century and who created a self-sufficient living environment with kitchens, bedrooms, and rooms for storage.
Ih Lara ValleyFurther south near Aksaray is the Ihlara valley, a red coloured gorge 10km long and 80m wide, with 60 churches cut dramatically into its sides, 12 of which are open to the public, including the impressive Egritas Church. The valley is also popular with trekkers.
KayseriThe quiet provincial capital of Kayseri offers Selcuk architecture and bazaars, trips out to the Erciyes Mountain ski resort and the Sultansazligi Bird Sanctuary.
NigdeThere are other attractions around the town of Nigde that include the Eski Gumusler Monastery with frescoes rivalling those famed at Goreme. One of the other most popular things to do whilst in Cappadocia is to take a balloon ride across the valleys.
Cappadocia HistoryThe earliest settlers to the region were the Hatti and their capital Hattusas was based in Nevsehir. The Hittites, Indo-European immigrants from Western Europe, flocked here and by 2000 BC had taken over the rule of the region. They combined their culture and language with the Hatti, resulting in a rich and varied society with laws forbidding incest, torturing political prisoners and whose Hittite king was “first among equals” rather than an absolute ruler, all of which was unknown at that time. It was written, in reference to the power of the monarch “Whoever commits evil against his brothers or sisters answers for it with the royal head”. Call the assembly, and if the things come to a decision he shall pay with his head.” The Hittite empire fell around 1200 BC after which it was governed, at different times, by the neighbouring kingdoms of Lydia, Phrygia and Urartu. These circumstances changed when Lydian king Croesus was defeated by the Persians under Cyrus the Great and then was saved from Persian rule by Alexander the Great in 333 BC.
It then remained independent for the next 350 years until it became a Roman province with Kayseri (Caesarea) as the capital. There was little interest expressed by Roman and Byzantine rulers, other than to keep open eastern trading routes by controlling the roads, tax local produce and use the local manpower for their armies. Cappadocia has a diverse number of faiths, creeds and philosophies influenced by the east-west trading route with Christianity being introduced by St. Paul in the 1st century.
The Seljuk Turks came in the 11th century to establish good relationships with the local community because of the trading routes and road systems and they built the kervansarays that you see along the roads today. The Mongols defeated the Seljuk Empire in the mid 13th century and the Karaman dynasty, based in Konya, controlled it until the 14th century when it was integrated into the Ottoman Empire. The final Christian Greeks left in 1920 during the exchange of populations by the Greek and Turkish governments. The region and local people’s existence has changed very little and they more or less live today as they always have, inhabiting their rock carved houses and depending on agriculture, the vineyards and the breeding of livestock.
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