Historical and Natural Grandeur of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is the more generally used name for the region of the Nevsehir Province in modern day Turkey. The name “Cappadocia” originated from the Persian work “Katpatuka”, meaning “the land of beautiful horses”, and one can imagine wild horses running free in the rugged landscape and wide open spaces which characterize this fascinating region of Turkey. Cappadocia is world renowned for its exceptional and unique wonders, as well as its historical and cultural heritage.
The Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia have been given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Goreme National Park incorporates a valley created by volcanic rocks and is famous for its unusual “fairy chimney” rock formations. These fairy chimney rock formations were molded by years of erosion and consist of a cone-shaped pinnacle of soft consolidated volcanic ash, known as tuff, supporting a cap of hard basalt rock. Eventually the softer tuff under the cap is completely eroded, the cap falls off, and the rest of the cone soon wears away. The Goreme open air museum is situated an easy 2 kilometer walk into the valley from the lovely town of Goreme. The museum, which features numerous cave-like dwellings and more than 30 rock-carved fresco-decorated churches and chapels, gives visitors fascinating insight into the monastic community who once lived in what is now the Goreme National Park valley.
Situated about 50 kilometers south of Goreme, is the underground city of Derinkuyu that was at one time home to as many as 20,000 people. Derinkuyu is the largest of the more than 40 such underground cities in Cappadocia. Many of these underground cities were used by early Christians who were seeking refuge from Roman armies, although it is believed that they were excavated by the Phrygians in between 800 and 700 BC. Derinkuyu descends into the Anatolian plateau to a depth of an 18 floors. Visitors have access to 8 floors of the city, descending to a depth of about 85 meters, which consists of a labyrinth of tunnels and rooms, with amazingly effective ventilation shafts descending from the surface to lower levels. In the event of an attack, massive circular doors would be rolled across the passages and sealed from the inside. In addition to bedrooms and communal rooms, the city has storage rooms, cellars, wine and oil presses, kitchens, chapels and even stables for livestock. Excavated wells provided water to both the villagers above, as well as being available in times of hiding.
Hot air balloon rides are a popular way for tourists to view the magnificence of Cappadocia’s natural wonders. Visitors are invited to drift effortlessly over the rich fertile valleys, unique rock formations and dramatic landscape in what is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
There is no doubt that Cappadocia in Turkey has much to offer travelers who appreciate history, natural beauty and friendly, hospitable people.