Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cappadocia (June 10-11)

Of all the places in Turkey which I read about before our trip, Cappadocia was the place I had been looking the most forward to visiting. I was filled with excitement as we turned the bend in the road, and I caught my first glimpse of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys. You feel as if you’ve entered another world. Part Flintstones, part Luke Skywalker’s birthplace, part another planet. The unusual fairy chimney landscape which characterizes Cappadocia was formed from volcanic ash when erosion cleared away the lava covering the tuff (consolidated volcanic ash). The end result are pinnacle cone formations that can reach a height of 40m! Some have caps of hard stone on top, some are just pointed, but each fairy chimney is somehow different from the next.

First glimpse of Cappadocia

Fairy chimneys with hard stone tops

Cappadocia is actually a region between the town Kayseri on the east to Nevsehir on the west. Cappadocia became a refuge for Christians from the 4th-11th century, and many churches, monasteries and underground cities that can still be visited were built during this period.
We stayed in the village of Goreme in a cave room at the Kookaburra Pension. The owner was a bit strange, but his guesthouse was really special with incredible views of fairy chimneys from the roof terrace.

Our cave room

View of Goreme from our rooftop terrace

While in Goreme, we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was built during the Byzantine period as a monastic settlement for 20 monks, then as a pilgrimage site from the 17th century. There are clusters of churches, chapels and monasteries cut directly into the rock, which are really spectacular architecturally and artistically. The insides of the churches have paintings directly on the walls and ceilings, some very colorful and ornate and some very simple. Most of the paintings depict scenes from Jesus’ life such as the last supper, the nativity, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, the crucifixion and the ascension, as well as Old Testament stories like the three men (Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego) who survived being thrown into a burning furnace because of their faith in God. In addition to scenes from the Bible, other repeated paintings were of St. George slaying a dragon (the dragon symbolized paganism) and St. Basil. To help preserve the incredible paintings, photos were not allowed in most of the churches and chapels.

Monastery in Goreme Open Air Museum

Kirstin exploring the rock cut churches

Camel in Cappadocia

1 comment:

  1. Amazing pictures! I'm quite relieved for the news and am excited to keep reading. Travel on!