Me Norbert. Me caveman. Caveman likes cave. Caveman likes Cappadocia!
Ok ok… back to proper English!
Before visiting Turkey, I had heard much about Cappadocia and how uniquely strange it is. Since I wanted to know more about this interesting place, I took an overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia, only to find out that interesting is an understatement. Cappadocia is a place you have to visit in Turkey.
Since I’m somewhat of a goof sometimes, after learning about all the cave formations, the rock chimneys, and the underground tunnels; I transported myself back to my former caveman self (if I ever had one). Norbert Caveman!
Well, I just kept it under control by just climbing a few chimneys, making a few “oooh, oooh” sounds, and sleeping in a cave. It would have been fun to walk with an arched back and hit people with a wooden stick, but that wouldn’t have been accurate.
In fact, the Caves of Cappadocia are not related to Neanderthal or prehistoric cavemen, but to more developed civilizations of the bronze age. (more on that soon)
Cave Norbert stayed in Goreme, the hub to go to visit the major sights in the area and where most Cave houses (or pensions) are located.
Once settled in my cave, the first order of business was to take a hike along the valleys in Cappadocia. Here I could see up close the shapes that have made this region so famous and photogenic – the unique natural chimney rock formations.
Cave Norbert presents to you… the Fairy Chimneys!
The valley is also known as the Valley of Love… I’ll let you figure it out. Caveman speak no obscenity.
Sedimentary rocks, formed from volcanic material between 9 and 3 million years ago, were eroded by wind and water into minaret and pillar forms.
Walking in the valley was a beautiful experience since I could walk along green paths and a river and be surrounded by sedimentary rock walls and chimneys on both sides.
From these the people of the region carved distinctive houses, churches and monasteries, some dating back to the Roman Empire.
Beyond the valley, Cave Norbert’s most recommended points to visit are the Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle, and Devrent (Imagination) Valley — though, they are very touristy. (you can do them all on your own)
The Goreme Open Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes that still retain most of their colors and clarity. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco techniques. It’s quite an amazing place to experience and explore.
Cave Norbert wants food here, NOW!
The Uchisar Castle is a Roman rock-cut castle situated at the highest point in Cappadocia and it was built as a fortress by the Byzantine army to shelter the town from any foreign attack. The top of the castle provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area with Mount Erciyes in the distance. The castle contains many rooms hollowed out into the rock, with most of them connected to each other with stairs, tunnels, and passages.
Also very curious are the pigeon houses (dovecuts) as you can see on the far left in the picture below (the very small holes). Farmers used these cave pigeon houses to collect the droppings of pigeons, which is an excellent natural fertilizer for the orchards and vineyards.
Devrent Valley, on the other hand, was never inhabited and it doesn’t have any cave houses or buildings. But, its lunar landscape and rock shapes makes it well worth a visit. Want to guess why it is called also called Imagination Valley? See the two pictures below that Cave Norbert took there.
Did you see any shapes? The first one is a seal and the second is a rock pillar which looks like Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ. Or so they say.
But the soil beneath Cappadocia hides other, equally intriguing sites that Cave Norbert visited – the ancient underground cities.
The Hittites were apparently the ones who began the underground cities circa 1200 BC. They were later occupied by the Assyrian, Frig, and Pers. Many of them used the underground tunels to protect themselves from wild animals, harsh weather, and enemies. Then different ancient empires ruled the area until the Romans came to the region. Eventually, the Christians moved into the underground cities to escape from persecution of the Roman Empire. For this reason, Early Christianity came to the area in the first century after Christ and remained strong for centuries, eventually developing the orthodox Christian theology. Much of what is seen today is the remains of the Christian civilizations. Then, the Seljuk established here, followed by the Ottomans.
The biggest and deepest of them all is Derinkuyu underground city. Even though the Hittites commenced the excavation of these troglodyte cave-cities, it is known that most of the levels were dug out by early Christians to provide them with refuge from persecution from the Romans and later from the invading Arabs.
This city has about 600 outside doors that serve as entrance, hidden in the courtyards of surface dwellings. Inside, there are stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc. It literally is a city!
Since they were used for protection, there are also a few trap rooms. Unwary soldiers could be caught in the many traps laid throughout the labyrinthine corridors, such as stones which could be rolled to block doorways, and holes in the ceiling through which spears and hot oil could be dropped. In addition, invaders were further outwitted by the Christian builders who made the tunnels narrow, forcing them to fight almost in a single line (making it easier to counter attack them one by one).
Cave Norbert loves smart-fighting-persecuted-Christian underground tunnels!!
Now… Cave Norbert is Tired. Cave Norbert will sleep. But Cave Norbert hopes you enjoyed his description of the sights he saw in Cappadocia and that you visit too. Now, scram!