Cappadocia Day #1 - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

What a strange place Cappadocia is...It feels like we are on the moon! Most of the towns in this region have dwellings built right into rocks. The rocks are roughly conical in shape, rising into the air and topped by a mushroom cap formation, a natural phenomenon which was created by wind erosion aeons ago. The dwellings have holes cut into them for doors and windows, and the rock is soft enough for rooms to be dug into them.

We signed up for a two day tour of the area. Our tour guide Ibrahim has a good sense of humor and tons of info that can't be found from reading a guide book. He told us about marriage traditions in Turkey. Apparently polygamy is prevalent with the Kurdish peoples in eastern Turkey though it is illegal. Also, 60-70% of all Turkish marriages are still arranged! At the first meeting for a couple who are courting, it is traditional for the woman to fix traditional Turkish coffee for her parents and suitor. If she is interested in the suitor, she makes the tea sweet. If not, she adds no sugar and sometimes even salt to indicate her lack of interest. Pretty harsh! Fifteen to twenty years ago, the parents had the final say in who the woman married, but now the woman has the final say.

First stop - the underground city of Derinkuyu
One of the main reasons for visiting turkey was to check out the subterranean towns of this region which extend up to eight levels into the earth, carved from the soft volcanic stone. Around the 11th century, the Christians in the area escaped to these rocks to avoid persecution. This huge underground city was capable of accommodating 10,000 inhabitants at a time of siege. The city was abandoned a long time ago and stayed hidden underground until 1968. There is another city in the area which is interconnected to Derinkuyu by a 9km underground tunnel. Scientists estimate that there are another 30 cities in the area yet to be discovered! This place is a kid's paradise, it's like a huge maze with hidden niches at every turn...

Rolling-stone doors prevented invaders from entering. Deep wells collected rainwater, and tall chimneys ventilation. Wine presses, oil storage, livestock pens, cooking-places and even elaborate churches were carved out of the soft volcanic rock so that the inhabitants could live for weeks or months underground until it was safe to emerge and return to their ground-level villages. Very impressive place, if not a little short for Dave.

Second stop - Ihlara Valley
We hiked down to the deep canyon which was formed by the water flowing down from the Melendiz mountains and the 10000 ft plusHasan Dagi throughout the millenniums. There are tall steep rock walls surrounding the 14kms long canyon on both sides. The valley reaches to the cave villages of Ihlara and Selimiye on both ends with more than a hundred churches from the 4th through 9th century carved into the rock walls of the valley. The entire hike would be just perfect on a warmer day!

Third stop - Selimiye
We stopped next in a small town that had above-ground cave dwellings that were lived in as recently as 1920! Some scenes from one of the "Star Wars" movies was filmed here. We climbed up to the monastery, a large rock dwelling riddled with holes and a maze of cave rooms. Many people call these strange rock formations "Fairy Chimneys" as they look straight out of some strange fairy tale.

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