Monday, September 7, 2009

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey blessed with fairy-like rock spires and churches and homes carved into rock. I spent two days in this touristy region, eager to observe these intriguing rock formations.

I spent my first day in the town of Goreme, which is in the center of the tourist region. When I arrived at dawn, there were dozens of hot air balloons floating in the air. After admiring the landscape, I proceeded to the Goreme Open-Air Museum, which has all of the cave churches in the area. The cave churches dated from the 11th century and contained Byzantine frescoes on the walls and ceilings. Many contained columns and domes inside.

I spent the second day on a group tour of Cappadocia. Highlights include panoramic view of the fairytale chimneys, caves and rock formations of Goreme and of Pigeon Valley. We also visited more caves in the Selime Monastery and hiked along a river and amongst the mountains in the Ihlara Valley.

By far my favorite visit ,though ,was the one to Derinkuyu, the region’s largest underground city. This complex is 55 meters deep with 8 stories and could have held a maximum of 2,000 people. The place contained a kitchen, church, school, well and meeting places. The construction of ventilation shafts and rocks to block enemies was well thought out.

I took an overnight bus to Istanbul on my second day in Cappadocia. The bus was crowded and almost every woman had a headscarf on, indicative of the more conservative rural Turkey. As usual, there were numerous 20-minute stops, which caused the arrival to be 1 hour late.

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