The geological formation of Cappadocia is anatural wonder of our world and is the result of two contradicting natural forces. One of these forces is the volcanic outspurts of the region which led to itscoverage with lava, ashes, tuff, and volcanic residue. The second force then is the territorial erosion that started after the volcanic build up was over.
The Taurus Mountains of south Anatolia emerged at the Tertiary stage of the geological development just like the European Alps have been (65-2 million years prior to our time). In this stage of "mountain building", deep crevasses and subsidences occurred in central Anatoila. The molten rock (magma) at the earth's core emerged to the surface through these crevasses and formed the volcanoes of Erciyes, Develi, Melendiz and Keçiboyduran. These volcanoes formed a volcano chain paralel to the Taurus mountains and strong erruptions followed. The volcanic lava, ashes and tuff moved slowly towards the subsidences of the region and covered the formerly shaped hills and valleys, thus turning the whole region into the huge plateau we see now.
The reasons of the erosion whish rendered Cappadocia its present scenery have been the winds, the rivers, and the rains. The other factors of the scenic formation of Cappadocia are the climate of the region with its sharp temperature changes, and the melting snow of the mountains. These sharp changes in temperature gave way to splits in the rocks which were filled up with rain water. As these crevasses froze in winter, the rocks cracked and seperatedd., but the main factors of erosion have been the rains and the rivers. The Nevşehir and Damsa streams which flow into the Kızılırmak river played the major role in the formation of the famous cappadocian valleys. Particularly the area between Nevşehir, Avanos, and Ürgüp, Where the thickness of the tuffs in the old valleys reached almost a hundred meters, got extremely affected by erosions. The rain waters filled uq the crevasses on the surface of the plateau and gave birth to the streams and rivers. The volcanic residues and the eroded earth got carried away by the rivers which sometimes cut the volcanic surface so sharply, that seperate hills came into existence.
Çavuşin is a village about 4 kilometres from Göreme. The old village is largely deserted because the area has been plagued by rock falls. For this reason it is best to take a guide if you want to visit Çavuşin and to watch your step. At Çavuşin you can visit the Church of John the Baptist which probably dates from the 5th century with paintings from the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries.
Quite nearby another church contains frescos commemorating the passage of Nicephoras Phocas (a Byzantine Emperor) through Cappadocia in 964 to 965 during his military campaign against Cilicia. Nicephoras may have visited the Church of John the Baptist which was an important centre for pilgrimage at that time.
Zelve, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region is an amazing cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, religious and secular chambers. Here, the Christians and Moslems lived together in perfect harmony, until 1924.Then Christians had to leave the Valley because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, and the Moslems were forced to evacuate the Valley in the 50's when life became dangerous due to risk of erosion. They left the site to set up a modern village, a little further on, to which they gave the name Yeni Zelve (New Zelve).Now old Zelve is a ghost town and the erosion still continues.
The three valleys in the Zelve region are a paradise for the rock climbers. It takes at least two hours for a good trekker to walk through these valleys, which also house the oldest examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.
Start your excursion by visiting the first valley on the right taking the stamps in the second valley, then turning right. While walking along the path, you will see on the right some paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings are what remain from the now totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer) and afford examples of the oldest paintings displaying the principal religious symbols of Christianity, like the Cross, the deer and the fish.
On entering the first valley you will see a rock-cut mosque on the left, with a lovely minaret obviously influenced by the bell-towers of the monasteries, (Byzantine ciboria) which consist of a baldachin of four collonettes supporting a pinnacle. You will then notice a monastery complex on the right resembling an upside down bowl cut of the rock. Immediately opposite, there is a rock-cut complex accessible by a metal ladder and connected to the second valley by a tunnel, but safety considerations make any attempt to go thought it inadvisable. On leaving the first valley you can enter the second valley by following the path in front of the Mosque.
Before leaving this open-air museum, be sure to pay special attention to the rocks at the entrance of the third valley. Here you will find a rock-cut mill with a grindstone which remained in use until the 50's.Recently, its entrance has collapsed. Then follow the path to the Üzümlü Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself, in a country famous for its Dionysiac rituals. Just next to Üzümlü Kilise is the Balıklı Kilise (The Church with Fishes).On the apse above you will be able to discern paintings of fish in a very faded red.
The nearby Paşabağ area contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps.
Avanos is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Göreme. The town has a lively shopping center with all the usual amenities including a modern, tourist orientated hamam (Turkish Bath). A travelling market visits Avanos on Fridays.
Starting just outside the shopping center the old village of Avanos winds up the hills leading away from the town and is a beautiful maze of old stone houses, some restored, some converted and some sadly abandoned to their fate. In some of the abandoned houses the features of traditional Ottoman architecture can be seen along with ancient decorations, motifs and murals.
About 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Avanos is the underground city of Özkonak and the 13th century Seljuk caravaserai, Sarıhan (which is now a museum), is only about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away.
The Kızılırmak (red) river separates Avanos from the rest of Cappadocia, and is the longest river in Turkey. It is by this river that the red pottery clay is found from which Avanos derives it's main livelihood and it's foremost claim to fame.
Pottery has been produced in the Avanos area for several centuries and some of the techniques still used date back to Hittite times. Avanos is a mass of family run potteries, most of which are only too pleased to let visitors have a go on the potters wheel and give them a full history of the many and various pottery goods on offer. Avanos pots make wonderful souvenirs and are available at a wide range of prices from simple ashtrays and mugs to ornate plates and chess sets.
Avanos is also famous for carpet weaving and, more unusually, for knitting. Hand knitted garments can be found on sale along with wool, needles and all the other equipment you might need if your holiday is incomplete without that familiar click click !
Avanos really specializes in handicrafts, there is a permanent handicrafts bazaar and a three day Handicrafts Festival in late August.
Ihlara Valley, near Mount Hasan (one of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia) is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. It begins at Ihlara village and ends at the village of Selime after making 26 bends along 14 kilometers.
It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred churches. It is estimated that around eighty thousand people once lived here.
It is very pleasant to walk through the Ihlara valley by the vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees to the soothing sound if the rushing water and surrounded by a rich wildlife of lizards, frogs, butterflies, birds and sometimes eagles and other mammals like lambs and sheep.
In the middle of the Ihlara valley in Belisırma village there are good restaurants to be found.
The churches in the Valley can be divided into two groups: the Ihlara group, including the Ağaçaltı, Pürenli Seki, Kokar, Eğritaş and Yılanlı churches that reflect Oriental influences, and the Belisırma group, comprising Sümbüllü Church and others with Byzantine characteristics.
The churches of the Ihlara group display scenes dissimilar to the scenes depicted in other Cappadocian churches. In fact, they are reminiscent of the early churches of Syria and the Coptic churches of Egypt. The texts in Ihlara group churches are unusually long. In this group special emphasis was laid upon Satan, and women as the source of evil.
There are many churches in the valley. However, relying on the yet undisputed information given in Mme. and M. Thierry's book, we have chosen 11 of them for you to visit.
Important Churches from Ihlara Village to Belisırma Village
Eğritaş Kilise (Church with Crooked Stone)
Kokar Kilise (Church of Sweet Smell)
Pürenli Seki Kilisesi (Church with the Terrace)
Ağaçaltı Kilise (Church under the Tree)
Sümbüllü Kilise (Hyacinth Church)
Yılanlı Kilise (Church with Snake)
Karagedik Kilise (Church with Black Collar)
Kırk Damaltı Kilisesi (Church of St. George)
Bahattin Kilise (Bahattin's Granary Church)
Direkli Kilise (Pillard Church)
Ala Kilise (Mottled Church)
Göreme has the most beautiful setting in Cappadocia, the hotels and pensions fade into the village and the village fades into the fairy chimneys, hills and valleys.
Göreme has seen many changes particularly over the last 20 years as tourism has developed in the area. Nevertheless this small town still has a thriving community working the fields tucked away between the fairy chimneys and carrying on community seasonal activities such as autumn harvest of pumpkin seeds and the preparation of pekmez (made of wine) and village bread to see them through the long winter months. In Göreme you can see the old and new Turkey side by side (my personal favorite is the donkey tied up for a rest outside the Internet Cafe) and as you wander through the winding village streets you will probably be invited to to the tea in one of the ancient cave houses still lived in by local families. Göreme has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere but there is cafe society and nightlife in the center of the village for those who fancy something more lively.
There is plenty to see in Göreme itself, and that famous Göreme Open Air Museum is just up the road, but Göreme also makes an ideal base from which to explore the rest of Cappadocia. Walking maps are available and just about every other form of transport can be hired (including camels for the really adventurous) for longer trips and tours. There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Göreme from basic camp sites right up to the beautiful Ataman Hotel, set at the edge of the old village in the Uzundere valley and offering a complete range of service in a traditional setting.
Uçhisar is a troglodyte village situated 4 km east of Göreme. It is famous for the huge rock formation once used as a fortification. This extraordinary rock is the highest peak in the region and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the whole of Cappadocia with Mt. Erciyes in the distance.
The Citadel, carved out and tunnelled by the cave-dwellers of the past, and concealed from view and used for defence purposes, has now been destroyed by erosion, revealing the inner honeycombed architecture. A secret tunnel from the castle to the river bed 100 m below, hewn out in order to provide the water supply in the event of siege, has been recently discovered.
In the Pigeon Valley in the south of Uçhisar there are the best example of the pigeon-houses in Cappadocia.
Ürgüp is about 7 kilometers from Göreme and is a modern town catering to the needs of tourists as well as a market town for the whole area on Saturdays.
Ürgüp has grown enormously over the last twenty years or so in response to the needs of tourists, and is now a major shopping centre especially for carpets, jewelry, antiques, leather, ceramics, and hookahs. A permanent handicrafts market (the El Sanatlar) offers a variety of souvenirs and the Turkish Bath (hamam) is geared to the needs of tourists as well as locals. Ürgüp has some lively nightlife with a theatre, discos and bars offering Turkish evenings of food, drink and traditional dancing. Around Ürgüp the long standing Ottoman and Greek tradition of wine making continues. Many wine shops offer free wine testing all year round and a Wine Festival is held every year in the first week of June.
The old dwellings of Ürgüp are now principally used for storage and stabling but there are still some strikingly beautiful houses of Greek and Ottoman origin to be found and in the streets winding away from the town centre many locals are living their lives in the old traditions.
Ürgüp has a "Wishpoint" for those who require lasting benefits from their holiday. The route to the wishpoint is interesting in itself as it starts opposite the 13th century Kebir Camii (mosque) then follows a long tunnel to the top of Temenni, the hill of wishes, where you will find the Seljuk tomb of Kılıçarslan IV, a park where you can relax and admire the view and a medrese (Islamic college) which is now a cafe where you can refresh yourself and decide just what to spend your wish on.
Derinkuyu is situated 29km from Nevsehir, on the road to Nigde. The city is approximately 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc.). Apart from these, a large room with a barrel vaulted ceiling on the second floor was a missionary school, the rooms to the left being study rooms.
From the 3rd and 4th floors onwards the descent is by way of vertical staircases which lead to a cruciform plan church on the lowest floor. The 55m deep ventilation shaft was also used as a well. Not every floorwas provided with a well, however, and some wells were not connected with the surface in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. Derinkuyu Underground City was opened to visitors in 1965, but so far only 10% can be visited.
Kaymakli underground city is built under the hill known as the Citadel of Kaymakli, in the centre of the town 19km from Nevsehir, on the Nevsehir - Nigde road. It was opened to visitors in 1964. In the village of Kaymakli, the ancient name of which was Enegup, the people have constructed their houses around nearly one hundred tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards.
Kaymakli Underground City is different from Derinkuyu Underground City in terms of both form and organization. The passages are low, narrow and sloping. Only 4 floors are open to the public, in which the spaces are organized around the ventilation shafts. On the first floor of this underground city is the stable. The small size of this area suggests that there could be other stables in sections that have not yet been opened. The passage to the left of the stable contains a millstone door and leads into the church. To the right of the corridor are rooms hollowed out as living areas. The church of the 2nd floor has a single nave and two apses. In front of the apses is a baptism stone, and on the sirdes are seating platforms. The graves on this floor are located next to the church which supports the idea that these graves belonged to religious people. There are also some living areas on this floor.
The most important areas of the underground city are on the 3rd floor. Besides numerous storage places, wineries and kitchen, the block of andesite with relief-texture found on this floor is very interesting. Recent research has proved that this stone was used as a melting pot for copper. The stone was not brought here from outside but was part of the andesite layer unearthened while hollowing. To be able to use it as a melting pot, 57 holes were carved on the surface of the stone. The copper ore , about 10 cm in length, would be put into one of those holes and would be hammered using a hard piece of rock. This technique has been known since the Prehistoric Periods. The copper brought to Kaymakli Underground City was probably dug from a quarry between Aksaray and Nevsehir. (The same quarry was also used by the people of Asiklihöyük, the oldest known settlement in Cappadocia Region.) The fact that there are a lot of storage rooms and places to put earthenware jars in the wineries on the 4th floor indicates that the people living in this underground city were economically stable. Even though the whole city has not been completely opened, and since only 4 floors have been uncovered, it is certain that Kaymakli is one of the largest underground settlements in the region. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here.