Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cappadocia. Day 3 - Paşabağ.


A
fter lunch, we piled back into the van and headed for a short drive to Paşabağ ("Pah-shah-bah") which is known in English as the Valley of the Monks. Paşabağ means "Pasha’s Vineyard", a name it received after the Byzantine Greek population left the region which is located in the middle of a vineyard.

Paşabağ contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps - formations that are unique even for Cappadocia.



GeologyThe unique landscape of Cappadacia was formed by volcanic eruption followed by centuries of erosion by wind and water. The geology of areas where fairy chimneys form typically comprises a thick layer of tuff (consolidated volcanic ash), covered by a thin layer of basalt or other volcanic rocks that are more resistant to erosion than the underlying tuff. Over time, cracks in the basalt allow the much softer tuff to be eroded and washed away. Fairy chimneys are formed where a small cap or boulder of the original basalt remains, and protects a cone of tuff beneath it from erosion. Eventually, the tuff will be undercut to the extent that the cap falls off, and the remaining cone is then quickly eroded.


The fairy chimneys of Pasabag harbor a number of chapels and dwellings once used by Christian hermits, the most prominent of which is a tri-level chapel dedicated to St. Simeon (Simon) and a hermit’s shelter that is built into one of the fairy chimneys with three conical heads.

St. Simeon the Stylite was living a life of hardship and denial in Antioch around the 4th century when rumours that he performed miracles started to spread. Disturbed by all the attention, he began to live at the top of a 2m high column and later moved to one 15m (50 ft) in height. From there he only descended occasionally to get the food and drink brought by his disciples. Later, hermits were inspired to do the same, initiating a "stylite" movement of isolated living. The hermits of Cappadocia distanced themselves from the world by cutting into fairy chimneys rather than living on top of columns. They hollowed out the chimneys from the bottom to top for creating rooms at 10-15m high.

Climbing the ladder to enter the chapel. In the foreground is Bill Noonan and his Terry is just about the climb the first step. They're from Seattle, Washington. A retired couple, who sold pretty much everything they owned (including their house) to travel the world.



The interior of the small chapel. An ancient painting, very primitive in style, is the only adornment.





















Another set of cells carved by the Christian hermits.




A basalt cap, very precariously perched, atop a tuff column.
Our time in Paşabağ was short but I will always remember its unique sights! Next stop - Devrent (Imagination) Valley.