Go Turkey: Cappadocia, the Land of Fairy Chimneys

If I was given the option of just visiting one place in Turkey, my answer would have been Cappadocia. You would have not seen this kind of landscape anywhere in the world, a large number of rock formations resembling chimneys caused by weathered volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

We approached the region from Konya in the evening, a journey of about three hours. As we entered the main city of Nevsehir, we could see statues of horses all over the town. It was here that we came to know that the word Cappadocia means “Land of beautiful horses”. Over the next few days, we could see many horse ranches spread all over the region.

Cappadocia is known for its caves and hotels that are located inside caves. Our hotel Demisos Cave Hotel, located at Mustafapasha was one of them. The climb to the hotel was quite steep, but once inside we found a completely stunning experience altogether. Each of our rooms was actually a cave, with all facilities like an attached bathroom and modern amenities. Since there were no windows, initially we felt a bit claustrophobic, but soon got accustomed to the place. The hotel run by a lady had about ten rooms and had a coffee shop outside to cater to the guest. 

The next morning was balloon time. Cappadocia is known for hot air balloon rides to watch the sunrise. I am not too comfortable with heights and adventure sports so opted out of this experience. My wife along with my niece left at 4 am for the hot air balloon experience, which costs around Rs 18000 per head in Indian currency. 

The team returned around 8 am when we were having breakfast in our cave hotel. The balloon experience starts just before sunrise, as you see the first rays of the sun lighting up the Cappadocia chimneys. There are about one thousand balloons that go up every day for a short ride of around one hour. About a dozen persons are huddled in a basket that is attached to the balloon. The overall experience is exquisite.

However, the ride is not without risks. A week before we reached, a hot air balloon crashed while landing killing three of its passengers – all Spanish tourists. 

After a sumptuous homemade breakfast at our hotel, we were ready to explore Cappadocia. Our guide was a young lad just out of college, and he showed great enthusiasm in showing us around. The region has a number of valleys, and each has its own style of fairy chimneys. The volcanic eruptions had resulted in soft rock formations in the region, and wind and rains washed away part of these deposits with the harder part protruding out to the extent of even a hundred feet. These rocks were malleable and easy to carve out, so persecuted groups in many periods found it convenient to carve out homes, churches, and even stables for their horses inside these chimneys. Entire underground cities also came up to protect them from the enemy, and the larger ones even had ten stories below the ground level.

Cappadocia is known for its rocky valleys. Our first stop was the Love Valley, where it was our first look at the phallic natural structures. Next was the Fairy Chimney Valley, where the structures were different, looking like mushrooms. In fact, the local police station was housed in one of the mushroom-shaped structures. 

Cappadocia also has a couple of castles built out of the rocks, and Uchisar is perhaps the most famous of these. A huge rock structure with windows like pigeon holes used to house a few hundred people. After visiting one of the palaces our last stop for the day was Goreme Open Air Museum. The museum houses the large monasteries that were cut out from the tuff or soft rocks. We took a walk around the structures and visited a church located in one of them. The Christians persecuted by the Roman Empire had taken refuge at Cappadocia, and thus there are many multi-storied sites with religious inscriptions in the caves and the chimneys. There was a large community dining room and kitchens too. The structures are as old as 1800 BC. 

In the evening we visited a local café in Mustafapasha for dinner. He assembled very tasty and fresh local sandwiches which we enjoyed with Turkish coffee.

The last day at Cappadocia took us to Rose Valley. The valley is thus named because the chimneys here are colored rose. There is a long trek that we attended but as it was too steep, none of us except our niece could handle it. We visited the Avanos pottery town as well as a pottery workshop. Avanos has had a tradition of making pottery since the BC period, and even now the locals are continuing it. Some of the products are very intricate and can be compared to the best in the world. 

We were pining for Pide, the Turkish pizza ever since we landed in the country. Our guide took us to a village pide place, where we could try cheese and beef pides. The specialty of pides of this region is that it is extra long. The preparation of the pide was also shown to us.

Our final visit was to the Underground City at Kaymakli. There are many underground cities in Cappadocia, most built by Greeks to protect them from attacks by Persians. Later during Ottoman rule, refugees used to still live in these cities. Kaymakli has eight floors all underground, and one can only reach up to five. Some of the pathways and narrow and low, in some places you have to crawl. You can be privy to an entire city with stables, churches, oil factories, kitchens, storage places, and wine factories. 

We spent two days in Cappadocia but actually, you can definitely spend a couple of days more. There are many walks, treks, horseback viewing, and exploring the caves that you can do. Many people visit Turkey just to visit Cappadocia. 

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