Turkey, Part 1
Have you ever wondered where Barbapapa's house really is? Or harboured dreams about visiting a moon landscape without the funds to actually go into space? If you are liberal enough not to shy away from a phallic overdose, then I here invite you on a blog journey of a life time!
Today, I side-step from my normal interior and garden decorating track, and show you some photos from when we lived in Turkey, six years ago...
Cappadocia, an extraordinary region, a four-hour drive south-east of Ankara. An area which is so spectacular, so extraordinary, so magical, it is difficult to do it justice in pictures or words. Before moving to Turkey, I had never heard of it, and I am still bewildered why it is not more well-known to the rest of the world, nor on any "wonders of the world" lists that I have come across.
Cappadocia (or Kapadokya), is also where I lost my hot air balloon virginity. It was truly memorable ride, breath-taking and beautiful, as we floated silently through the different valleys, the silence only interrupted by the 'whooouf' of hot air being blown into the balloon every now and then.
This aerial perspective also made something else, slightly more disconcerting, quite clear. We were definitely on earthquake territory here - just look at the cracks in the ground in the image above!
It is virtually impossible to fully grasp the magnitude and size of this area, but if you focus on the trees in the image above, they might give you an idea just how enormous these rock formations are. And, dare I say, just how rude... ;-)
Cappadocia was once the heart of the Hittite Empire, then became an independent kingdom, and later a vast Roman province mentioned in the Bible. Today, despite looking quite barren, the volcanic soil actually makes it a region rich in vineyards and orchards. Main other industry: tourism, obviously.
When you, after setting foot on the ground again and attempting to mentally also land with both feet on the ground and digest this stunning landscape, you are in for your next jaw-dropping realisation. Many of these funny-looking cone-shaped rocks, so-called 'fairy chimneys' are inhabited by people (and - I wouldn't be surprised - perhaps a fairy or two) ! Many have been turned into hotels, but the locals also live in some of them, and offer a friendly wave as you walk past. We stayed in a beautiful cave hotel when went there, and as most cave hotel rooms have small windows, it is not as claustrophobic as it sounds.
Above: The village of Göreme
fairy chimneys and caves having been turned into a hotel.
Just a few miles down the road from the valleys of the fairy chimneys, are some 36 underground cities (not all excavated). Archaeologists believe that the earliest parts of these date back to around four thousand years ago, to Hittite times. FOUR THOUSAND years ago!!!
In times of peace people lived and farmed above ground, but in times when they were threatened by attackers and invaders, they moved themselves and their animals down into the underground cities, where they lived for up to six months at a time. (Source: The Lonely Planet Turkey guide)
Going down into some of the excavated underground cities requires putting your claustrophobia in your back-pack and forgetting about it for a while, but believe me, it is worth it. The Lonely Planet guide book describe going down like "entering a huge and very complex Swiss cheese: holes here, holes there, 'windows' from room to room, paths going this way and that and more levels of rooms above and below". I think the one we visited in Kaymakli extended eight levels down into the ground. As I said, no room for claustrophobia...
I only managed to visit this region twice during our year in Ankara, but if I were ever to make a list of five places I want to see before I leave this life, Cappadocia would definitely be a place to revisit. Even writing about it here makes my heart beat a little bit faster...
Tomorrow: Turkey Part II (of II), with images from Ankara and Istanbul and a few more thoughts on the experience of living in this fabulous country.