The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is indeed a Star Wars world. It was featured in the first Star Wars and the landscape is so bizarrly striking that it really does look like another planet.
Wookies and the little fuzzy guys are still there peeking out from the tiny caves and Luke Skywalker fits in like a hand in the glove. So what's there?
What Cappadocia Offers
A massive snow covered mountain, the captain of the tourist range, glowers in the background. In the foreground, is a sandstone limestone landscape carved by an endless wind into a valley of spires and steeples speckled by the cave openings of the early Phrygians who hid there deeper than worms at a lawn mower party.
In early spring, when its cool, the place is really worth a visit. For Trekkers, its easy to spend three days scrambling through old cathedrals inside the mountains and the warrens under the ground. In midsummer, it could be a cooker. But you can fly in the balloon and have a hawk's eye view of the out of this world landscape that has preserved a piece of captivating ancient history, posing as many questions as it answers.
The Fairy Chimneys
History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia in the first recorded accounts was the home of the Hittites. It was referred to as Hatti. Later on, other invaders came and took over the land from the Lydians to the Persians and later, the Greeks and the Romans.
Herodotus recorded that the Greeks refers to the people of Cappadocia as Syrians or White Syrians. Cappadocians was used by the Persians.
At around 64BC to 24 AD, according to the historical records of Strabo, the Kingdom of Cappadocia was an independent state and it was here that Cilicia was located with Caesarea as its capital.
Cappadocia then came to be under Alexander the Great when they enjoyed relative peace. Then, later, they came under the Roman rule.
After this, with the conversion of the Byzantine Empire, Christianity advanced with the work of the Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus. Cappadocia became a centre of activity for the early Christians. After the Turks settled in neighbouring Anatolia, Cappadocia slowly became a Turkish tributary.
Where is Cappadocia?
How to Go to Cappadocia
Today, one can visit these fairy chimneys by taking a bus tour from Istanbul or Ankara. The best, though, is to take the low cost airlines servicing both Istanbul and Ankara to Kayseri, the closest airport to Cappadocia.
As the services are not so well established yet, it is better to book these trips through the many tour operators in both Istanbul and Ankara as they will arrange airport pick up at both ends, hotels if you want to stay there and a guide.
For those who want to arrange it themselves, you can always do so. Make sure you arrange transfer from Kayseri to Cappadocia or ask your hotel to arrange one for you. There is a regular transport used by several operators and hotels from Kayseri to Cappadocia.
You can bike or hike to some of the sights. Again, your hotel can help you arrange this. In peak season, it is good to book ahead if you only have a few days in Turkey.
We did a one day tour flying to Kayseri early morning and coming back in the evening. The best is to stay in Cappadocia for the night and hit the other sights like Ephesus from there so you don't have to go back to Istanbul.
The Valley of the Pigeons
The Valley of the Pigeons will take your breath away as it must have done thousands of years ago when the resulting pigeon poo provide the primary fertilizer to the locals' crop. This is not a verdant landscape. It is dry and tough and designed for hard scrabble farmers.
This is called the Valley of the Pigeons because residents encourage the pigeons to home in as the pigeons were their guarantee to survival. The guano is the only fertilizer they have available to produce food in that unforgiving landscape.
The Underground Tunnels of Derinkuyu
In one spot, Derinkuyu, a honeycomb of tunnels stretches down 60 meters and laterally hundreds to create a safe residence for the population and their animals when troubles came.
The ventilation system was an engineering triumph and completely fooled an endless series of invaders who thought the vent shafts were wells. Down you go for anyone under 5 feet tall the underground adventure is a great event. Of pork chops like Grumpy, the danger of a terminal jam in a tiny tunnel adds an air of happy expectation to the total tour group.
Nothing appears on the surface but wind blown limestone polished over the millennia by an endless wind, cooked and cratered by a ruthless nature, it tells no stories and gives no clues. But just underneath, begins a honeycomb of tunnels and rooms, large and small, for housing entire community and its animals in times of trouble.
They were not tall and visiting there gives you an idea of a small scurrying people whose justifiable worries of an angry and aggressive world gave them a honed ability to disappear into their holes with a speed of a prairie dog.
Grumpy had a souvenir from our visit which only healed days after we came back. He sratched his head rather heavily on the tunnel roof.
This underground refuge is alleged to have been first built by the Phrygians but later used by the Persians as refugee settlements.
This particular underground city in Derinkuyu can house about 20,000 at a time. In this underground refuge, people at that time, continued to live their life with their church for worship and places to care for their animals.
The Cave Monasteries and its Frescoes
These churches showed the major role played by religion. Some of the frescoes have been mutilated and it is claimed that the Greeks did this.
As the figures in these frescoes were considered by the Greeks as their protectors, before they left Turkey to go back to Greece during the establishment of the modern Turkey, they destroyed these figures so they do not protect the people left behind. Others claim, these were destroyed by the locals.
But here's the most spectacular in a Cappadocia trip. Go there during the balloon festival. It is amazing to see the balloons in this valley.