Friday, January 18, 2008

Cappadocia. Am I on the moon?


T
he first time I saw a picture of Cappadocia (pronounced "Cap-a-doh-kee-ya"), I was completely mesmerized by the what I saw on the pages of the magazine - a landscape unlike any that I had ever seen.

Cappadocia is a vaguely-defined region in central Anatolia. The surreal, "lunar-like" landscape of Cappodocia was formed by repeated volcanic eruptions around 40-50 million years ago, covering the area with layers of a light rock called tufa. Over time, the elements have eroded this surface rock to create unusual valleys and vast rock sculptures or ‘fairy chimneys’ which have been incorporated into the building of towns, villages and vast rock mounds. Wierd looking, isn't it?

Some of the fairy chimneys are large enough to contain caves and labyrinths. I read somewhere that the some of the labyrinths are large enough to hold hundreds of people and that as early as the third century, these caves and labyrinths became hiding places for early Christians who fled persecution from the Romans, and then later from raiding Muslims.


 

Today some of the caves are used for lodging for tourists, although it's now illegal to make new ones. Lei and I have booked ourselves a room in a cave hotel - we deliberately picked a room that has the "cave feel" to it.

One of the most popular tourist activities in Cappadocia is to take a hot air balloon ride to see the landscape from above. Lei and I have decided that we definitely want to do this. I want to see what this land looks like from the vantage point of a bird hovering high up. Luckily for us, the hotel that we are going to be staying at offers rides so I'm thinking we can make the arrangements before we even arrive.

Our plan at the moment is to fly from Istanbul to Kayseri and then take a bus from Kayseri to Göreme (pronounced "Gore-rem-ma"). The town of Göreme is the major activity center of Cappadocia. Aside from the surrounding, surreal looking landscape, the most famous attraction in Cappadocia is the Göreme Open Air Museum, a complex of several painted cave-churches carved out by Orthodox monks between 900 and 1200 AD. We're definitely going to be spending time wandering the cave-churches!



We only plan to spend two days in Cappadocia and we're going to pack in every moment to make the most of our short visit. I can't wait to walk among the unique rock formations that have captivated me for so long!