Day 11

2 08 2015

Little squares cut into stone. Windows. Stairs. Ladders and holds chipped into the rock. Cappadocia is a wonderland, a place of “fairy houses,” that we explored today in more depth, adding only to its strangeness and curiosity. People built houses and places of worship into these caves and pinnacles dating back to 400 A.D., and were only asked to evacuate the dwellings (for fear of collapse) in 1952. I’ve often romanticized the thought of living in such a “natural” space, and Cappadocia was the chance to firsthand step into that life. Simple, yes, and with some low head clearance (I can tell you as a tall guy), but with charms unlike any other modern(ish) dwelling I’d experienced – the dramatic entry, a coolness to the rock, and a view stretching with endless mushroom pinnacles that neighbors once called home. We walked through the Open-air Museum where there Byzantine hermit monks left civilized life for a life closer to nature, closer to their god, and left painted evidence of their devotion on the cave walls. It was shocking to see how some of the paintings had been defaced through the ages – a testament to the historical conflicts spurred by religious differences. In this region of soft stone (called “tuff” from ancient volcanic eruptions), we also entered a place of refuge for those of certain faith. A great series of underground tunnels were built by certain Byzantine Christians to serve as a refuge in the case of Arab invaders. We ducked and contorted to fit though narrow passages where people fled for their lives. Airways were built to prevent asphyxiation, rolling stone discs to block entry ways, and huge corridors to ensure space for people and animals alike. To imagine a 5-month siege by an enemy and spending those months underground left us all a little claustrophobic and glad for our freedom to roam outside. In the end, Cappadocia is a strange wonderland where nature, history, and religion blend in a way unlike any other. I found it to be the most striking topography we have seen in Turkey yet, and a place I will certainly be coming back to – there is still a lot out there to explore.

Josh


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