Journey to Cappadocia

Cappadocia is a wonderland where the nature displays a pastoral scenery with the curved and erected figures of the rocks. Cappadocia is a site where the human beings in amazement and admiration watch how the nature eroded those tuff rocks and formed an extraordinary scenery. Here, one can almost see the life of hundreds of years extending by the green valleys. It feels as if someone will come out of his home or church and start cultivating the surrounding gardens.

Definitely, Cappadocia was explored also by the early human beings. The hand made axes of Paleolitic age excavated at some locations are the evidence for that. It’s known that human beings lived here during Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Hittite ages. Even then the nature used to go on forming Cappadocia, and the life would continue here, as it does today. However, during Byzantine ages that region was densely populated. The people who came away from the Arab attacks, built the amazing underground cities.

The Christian population in that region were free in their religious practices even after the Seljuks dominance on Anatolia following the defeat of Byzantians. During that period, by the tolerance of the Seljuks, they lived securely in that region. As the Kervansarays in the region served as an outpost guard, the life for the people was under protection. The evidence for that is the portrait of Seljuk Sultan II. Mesud, at the Kirkdamalti Church in Ihlara Valley. The population in that region led their lives in Ottoman ages as free and secure as they used to and even today it’s very much the same way in that aspect.

Today the Moslem inhabitants do their gardening near by a church, however the life shifts out of caves in the rocks, into the modem houses. Until recently, besides the Christian population, Moslems also used to live in that caves. In some spots, one may still witness people living on the caves next to the churches. Now, let’s briefly talk about how we will travel through-out that wonderland. Let’s enjoy getting to know the region; let’s meet the nature walking along the ancient paths and hear the mockingbirds sing among the green trees; let’s proceed to see a marvellous fairy chimney and a church far ahead. Hereafter, we will be away from the modem world and our problems and we will be absorbed into that marvellous scenery and the only sound we hear will be the sound of nature.

One can walk along the Ihlara Valley from one end to the other. Zemi, Gorkun and Kiliclar valleys in Goreme, Gulludere and Kizilcukur valleys in Cavusin can be walked along within 3-4 hours. When you arrive Cappadocia from Ankara direction, Hasandagi welcomes you with its snowy, extinct volcano peaks (3253 m). The region is formed dur- ing the activities of the two volcanic mountains known as Hasandagi and Mt. Erciyes (3916 m). As you drive closer to Aksaray, Hasandagi is right in front of you with snow covered peaks like a bride in white. We would recommend you to pass through Ihlara Valley before you go to Nevsehir. The Valley is at the North-east of Hasandagi and is 34 km away from Aksaray- Nevsehir road. First you pass by Selimiye village. Yaprakhisar is in the scenery of tuff rocks and soon afterwards passing through the Ihlara village you get to the valley. There are many churches carved in those rocks. The Agacalti Church is the first one in the 382 steps deep valley. You can see Yilanli Church against the bridge and when you pass accross and climb the rocks you can see Sumbullu Church. If you have time, after you have seen the other churches in Ihlara you can visit Direkli and Bahaeddin Samanligi churches in Belisirma. Those stand nearby the asphalt road. Guzelyurt which is 34 km away from Aksaray is also a place worth to see after Ihlara. In Guzelyurt, stone construction Yuksek Church where Gregorius of Nazienseus used to be the bishop and Sivri Church on the way to Nigde, closer to Sivrihisar are the significant ones in the region for their distinctive features. There are also two underground cities and lots of churches carved into the rocks in Guzelyurt. The integrity of the ancient and the modern city is worth to see. Turning onto the Nevsehir direction, it’s possible to see the Seljuk Kervansarays (Inns) like Oresin Han and Agzikara Han along the way to Nevsehir. Nevsehir used to be a village known as Muskara in the early 18th century, until it was cultivated by the Ottoman Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha of Nevsehir (1718-1730) and in 1726 the name of the modernized city was changed as Nevsehir meaning new city. The castle up to the city, was build during Seljuks period. Damat Ibrahim Pasha complex in the centrum, contains a mosque, medresse (Moslem theological high school), library, bathhouse, imaret (public kitchen) and sibyan mektebi (primary school). We can start our Goreme tour, after visiting the museum in Nevsehir. Lets start our tour, watching the scenery from the Uchisar Castle.

The beautiful view lays beneath us from where we are standing. As we proceed towards Goreme, the view behind the Uchisar Castle is also something worth to see. Both the castle and the rigid silhuettes of rocks are combined into an impressive scenery. Short after the departure, we arrive the sight-seeing platform. Guvercinlik valley lays far below. Farther is the Goreme (town). There’s another marvellous valley on the left of the asphalt road. This valley known as Baglidere is also worth to see with its eroded landscape that reminds missiles like the ones in Gorkundere. For the tours on foot, Goreme down town, Zemi, Gorkun and Kiliclar valleys are the perfect choices. With places like Goreme open air Museum Tokali, Sakli, Elnazar, Kiliclar and Yusuf Koc churches, Goreme gradually attracts more attention. After tour- ing Goreme and the surroundings the next place to see is Cavusin. Having visited the Cavusin Church on the way, we can walk to Gulludereand Kizilcukur valleys from Cavusin village.

If the time is enough, it takes 3,5 hours to visit those places on foot. Departing from Cavusin to Avanos, if we take the Zelve direction, the way first leads us to Akgedik passage on the right of which we see the beautiful silhoutte of the hills towards Aktepe. Leaving Akgedik behind, we arrive at a very interesting place known as Pasabagi or Kesisler Valley. Here, it’s possible to see the fairy chimneys in groupes of two or three next to the single ones. It’s known that those fairy chimneys used to be inhabited by the monks once upon a time. For example, the three headed fairy chimney in the middle of the valley used to be the residence of the monk Simeon. Now, the next place to go is Zelve. From Zelve we arrive to a wonderful place known as Dervent which is located closer to Avanos-Urgup crossroads. That place is distinctive among the others with the pink fairy chimneys.

As this area is uninhabited we absolutely feel the touch of nature. Especially a cluster of rocks in the from of a camel is very attractive in the area. We can visit Avanos, Urgup and Ortahisar by the Kizilirmak (river). Besides watching the scenery from the platforms, we can walk through as well. It’s a heavenly pleasure to be entirely surrounded by nature and walk through it listening the singing birds. This experience is special for Zemi, Gorkun, Kiliclar and Ballidere valleys in Cavusin closer to Gulludere Kizilcukur, Aktepe or Goreme. Presently, there are 155 underground villages, towns and cities found out in Cappadocia. Those underground settlements are the most interesting and attractive places in the region. Besides the most famous Kaymakli and Derinkuyu underground cities, some new ones are found out in Acigol, Igdeli and Ozkonak. Yalidami underground village 3 km. far from Ozkonak is 500 m. below the Belha monastery and shelter. The city and the monastery was built in IV. B.C. Moreover, in Yesiloz, 10 km east of Kaymakli underground city, there are new-found underground cities at Mazi and Ozluce villages. Ortakoy, Urgup, Avanos and Soganli Valley are distinctive sight-seeings in Cappadocia. If you extend the tour up to Gulsehir, it’s possible to see the church and monastery at Acik Saray. Kara Vezir Pasha Kulliyesi dated 1779, is also worth to visit. In the surrounding cities, Kayseri and Nigde, the magnificent Seljuk masterpieces greet us. In Kayseri and Nigde lots of underground cities are found out as well. Ancient Gumus Church is worth to visit in Nigde. That’s how we end up with our Cappadocia tour. We leave that wonderland, feeling relaxed and joyful