Kapadokya – Cappadocia

It was some 60 million years ago that nature began its work, a process that is still going on, to decorate Cappadocia. From that time onwards, the canyons, plateaus, valleys and most of all the Peribacalari (Fairy Chimneys) that have become the symbol of the area started to be formed. Much later, human hands got involved in the long and patient work of nature. Much, much later in fact, some nine to ten thousand years ago… With their own patience they carved shelters into the rocks. Almost 2,000 years ago, Christians carved their first churches into these stones. Later they developed huge, safe underground cities. They laid the first foundations of a great civilisation in the region where for millions of years nature had been working on the scenery. What nature and people did was to complement each other’s efforts.

A dreamland was born. The name “Kapadokya” (Cappadocia) came from the Persians, who called the region Kapatukya, meaning “the Land of Beautiful Horses”. In its long history various civilisations settled here, though it is the Romans, the Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans who have left most evidence of their passing. According to Strabo, the father of geography, the region known today as Cappadocia covered a much larger area in the past.

How were the Fairy Chimneys formed?

 

Some 60 million years ago, during three separate geological periods, the Toros Mountains rose up and in the north, with the land of the Anatolia Plateau being squeezed, volcanoes erupted. The mountains of Erciyes, Hasandagi, Golludag all spewed forth lava. The ashes that piled up on the plateau formed a soft tufa layer. Some of the upper levels of tufa became covered with a hard basalt formed by a thin layer of lava. In time, the basalt cracked and broke into pieces and the rainwater running in the cracks began eroding the tufa. The changes in temperatures and the wind also contributed to the erosion.

Thus, from the hard basalt stones hat-like cones were formed. People came to call these strange formations fairy chimneys. This name suits the wonders of nature very well. Those tufa layers that were not coated with basalt, thanks to the continual erosion, turned into valleys and strangely shaped canyons.

 

Cappadocia, though not on Turkey’s popular coastlines, is one of destinations that attract the highest numbers of tourists. ‘From all the countries of the Americas, the Far East and Europe many thousands of tourists in every season come to breathe in the natural and cultural riches that were formed by the labour of nature and human intelligence. Turks too find the area irresistible, with many coming on short holidays. Cappadocia is not an area you visit on your own or even just with the help of a guide book. Even if you have gone to the region with a travel tour, you should take a day tour conducted by .a local travel agent. Otherwise you may miss most of the beauties formed by man and nature. However, for those who insist on visiting the area on their own, our advice is for them to rent a motorcycle, of which there are many available. This is the most suitable vehicle for getting around the region. Those who are more active can also have a try a bicycle.

 

 

Short notes from a long history

 

•  The oldest written tablets found in Anatolia are known as the Cappadocia Tablets. These tablets, inscribed in the cuneiform writing of the Assyrians, indicate that writing was first brought to Anatolia by Assyrian merchants.

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•  Many settlements and artefacts belonging to the Hittites, who inhabited the region between 1750-1250 BC, have also been found. The Hittites, who came from the Caucasus through Europe, mingled with the locals and formed a great kingdom.

•  The Persian and the Cappadocian Kingdom (585-332 BC): The area came under the sovereignty of the Firigs who put an end to the Hittite Kingdom, the land then being taken over by the Kimmers. After that in Anatolia there were the Medes and who were followed by the Persians. The Persians controlled the area through a satrap called Giovernora. It was at this time that the Cappadocian Kingdom was founded.

•  The Roman period (17-395 AD). The Romans seized the area after a long period of turmoil in the region. The First Christians began appearing at the end of this period. Some of the churches that can be visited today date back to that period.

•  After the Byzantine Emperor Leon III banned icons from being displayed in churches, some pro-icon clergymen found refuge in Cappadocia. In the iconoclastic period, which lasted for more than a century, except for a few churches, most of Cappadocia’s religious centres retained their icons, in defiance of the Emperors.

•  The Seljuk Period (1071-1299). The Seljuks, descended from the Oguz Turks, came from Central Asia and founded the Anatolian Seljuk State. The Seljuks, who converted to Islam in 1082, included Cappadocia in their empire.

•  Following the Seljuks came the Ottomans, under whose rule, just as it had been in the Seljuk period, the Christians living in the area were tolerated. The 18th century Constantine and Eleni Orthodox churches in Sinasos and 19th century Dimitrius Church in Gulsehir, as well as the ones in Derinkuyu, are examples of this tolerance, dating as they do from the time of Turkish rule.

 

Nevsehir

 

In the administrative centre of the region, Nevsehir, you can visit the citadel, mosques, a mosque complex and museum with artefacts from the Seljuk and Ottoman periods. The nearby town of Nar, which in time has become a suburb of the city, is the first introduction point to the natural and cultural heritage of Cappadocia. The town of Cat, eight km away, draws many visitors with its settlement carved into long corridors of stone.

 

Uchisar

 

The best place to start your tour of Cappadocia is Uchisar. It is at the centre of the Nevsehir- Goreme-Urgup triangle. Uchisar and Ortahisar together are like the natural fortresses of the region and indeed their names come from that role, meaning the outer and central fortress. It is known that this natural castle has been used as a place of defence in Hittite and Ottoman times. Once you get to the top of the Uchisar hill an amazing view appears before your eyes. This natural fortress used to shelter many families in the past. It was later closed to settlement.

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