Cappadocia is a place I won’t forget! There are natural formations called ‘fairy chimneys’ that create a very ‘otherworldly’ landscape.
There were volcanic eruptions from 3 to 10 million years ago. The layers of volcanic ash solidified, and over time was eroded by wind, rain and snow. (Yes, snow! Current temperatures range from -25 to +40 oC)
It’s an area about 5000 square kilometres, with the major towns being Göreme, Ürgüp, Nevşehir, and Ortahisar.
The stone is quite soft, and during the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC), homes were Started to be carved into valley walls. Some were later used as refuges by early Christians.
There are over 600 cave churches, some with beautiful fresco paintings from 10-11th centuries.
I did two day-long tours and didn’t see everything, but it was helpful to be in a spot at the right time of day for photos. The black tops are basalt, a harder stone, so erosion was delayed.
It is rather like clouds, and ‘what animal do you see’?
One day we did a 4.5 kilometre trek through the Rose Valley.
Layers can vary by colour too, depending on the minerals. Rose valley had more iron oxide, but there are yellow peaks too from sulfur.
A break at the Cafe was welcome, along with freshly squeezed pomegranate juice!
Many of the caves were designed with openings and nest areas for their pigeons. The pigeon droppings were valuable fertilizer for their agriculture, but this changed with the availability of commercial products.
Ortahisar ‘Castle’ rock is a natural look-out for defence.
They could see about 32 kilometres. If they saw enemies approaching, a one day walk, they had time to go to their multilevel underground cities. These were connected by tunnels from their homes.
The underground cities were used for periods up to two months for safety or warmth during the winter. This is Kaymaklı. They have excavated four levels and there may be more, but there is risk of collapse and lack of money.
You can see their regular houses on the top.
Göreme Open Air Museum
The locals gave up living in the caves in the 1960’s when the government built new houses with luxuries like indoor plumbing. Most have now ended up as ‘cave hotels’ for the throngs of tourists who come here now. Maybe because it is late in the season, or because of the wide area, it didn’t feel crazy.
But where it really hit me was on the highlight of my visit – the hot air balloon ride. There were about 100 balloons rising at the same time, and each held twenty people. I hadn’t reserved, and was fortunate to find a spot!
Pickup at the hotel was at 05:30. We drove on crisscrossing sandy back roads out to a clearing, one of dozens of trucks hauling baskets and other mini vans of guests.
In the pitch black, with only the truck’s headlights, we watched them set up and inflate the balloons,
It was an amazing sunrise, and an hour later we landed😢Our pilot, Fatima, opening our celebratory bubbly.