This miracle of nature in the middle of Turkey has rocks in the shape of witch’s hats and fairy chimneys, and underground villages and mysterious secret churches. Also, it’s an amazing area for walking.
Published in slightly altered format, with lots of beautiful pictures by Mick Palarczyk)
The freakish, bizarre landscape of Capadocia was shaped millions of years ago, when there were still active volcanoes in the area. After volcanic eruptions soft soil mixed with hard stones and formed tuff stone. Caused by erosion, over the course of centuries the so called fairy chimneys were formed, along with the beautifully shaped green valleys.
At first sight, the landscape outside the villages seems deserted. But when you walk around you can see that in fact the land is used intensively. People are working in the vineyards, shepherds walk the valleys with their herds, and in the caves there is life too. Villagers who work in the fields and orchards have decorated caves modestly with cushions. On hot days, the cool caves are an excellent hide-out for a rest.
An important part of the history of Capadocia is the time when a lot of Christians lived here. In the early years of Christianity they settled here as refugees from places where they were not welcome, and they stayed for centuries. The rock churches are the beautiful remnants of that period. Sometimes they are grouped together in former monasteries (as in the open air museum at Göreme), but you can also see them everywhere in the landscape, just as you walk around. These rock churches stand alone, are less well maintained and usually are decorated less impressively, but match perfectly their quiet and solitary niches in the landscape.
Capadocia is a wonderful place to go walking, but going out on your own is not easy. Detailed maps of the area are not available. Anyone wanting to walk with a Dutch guide can hire Evelien Boogaart, who has her one-woman trekking company in the lovely village of Ortahisar.
As a soon-to-graduate anthropologist she came to the region to research the influence of tourism on the culture of the villagers of Capadocia, and got to know the population well. “This region has been on different migration and trade routes for centuries, and several cultures have coexisted here. From long ago the people have been very hospitable.” Evelien offers guided walks and also accommodation in beautiful old and luxuriously appointed caves.
Trekking with Dutch guide
An eight day (seven nights) stay with guide Evelien Boogaart costs € 375,- per person, including five lunches, five dinners, five walks, and with a double or shared room. For families with children the prices are adjusted accordingly, and made-to-measure arrangements are also possible.
Highlights of Capadocia
* Rock churches – both grouped together and spread through the landscape
* Underground cities – there are dozens of them, and a few are accessible to the public, like those in Derinkuyu and Kaymakli
* Zelve open air museum – a city cut out of the rocks. Zelve was inhabited up until the 1950’s, when the villagers had to move because the buildings were no longer solid enough. Zelve is busy on the weekends, quieter on weekdays, and wonderful for both adults and children, who can happily clamber all over the place.
* Rocks and valleys – the many valleys are paradise for walkers.