Of Fairy Chimneys and Moonscape
Of Fairy Chimneys and Moonscape
Kawsari Malek Ruponti
When I heard about Cappadocia last year, I had no clue what was in store as I don’t have much knowledge about Middle-Eastern countries. After a lot of googling and online research I was curious and convinced enough to explore more of the Eastern side. Some million years ago this entire city was a result of volcanic eruptions. I was about to witness a traditional human habitat, with a history as remarkable as its landscape. I was excited.
Literally meaning “the land of beautiful horses,” Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Anatolian Turkey. It is best known for its unique lunar landscape, hot air balloon ride, underground cities, tall-cone- shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley, distinctive “fairy chimneys,” and other wonders. Notables include Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers). There is this 100 meter deep Ihlara Canyon house is home to over 100 churches and an estimated 4,000 dwellings sculpted into the soft rock face of the valley.
How to get there
There are many ways to get to Cappadocia depending on where you’re coming from. There are direct flights from Istanbul to Kayseri in Cappadocia that take about 1.5 hours. One can also travel by the overnight bus from Istanbul, which takes about 11 hours to reach.
Things to do
Go on A Hot Air Balloon Ride
Ok, so the first reason that made me curious to visit Cappadocia was to ride my first hot air balloon. Without any doubt, riding a hot air balloon over this alien landscape is the most epic thing one can do in Cappadocia. It’s like once-in- a-lifetime experience to see the landscape within a wicker basket and there are few places in the world to do it better than here. Sure, it isn’t cheap, but sometimes you just need to forget about the money, these flights start at €150. This is one of those times.
Travel Tip: Flights may get cancelled and delayed to the next morning, if weather conditions do not permit. However, if you do not have another day to fly, your money will be refunded.
Discover the land of the Fairy Chimneys
Cappadocia is most famous for its fairy chimneys. Thousands of years ago these rock formations caused by volcano eruptions are now playing a vital role in the town for architecture and tourism. One can spend days on walking in and out of these chimneys to discover homes chiseled from the rocks. Start from the town of Goreme and keep walking…
There are underground cities beneath Cappadocia’s rock formations, not just one or two, but 36 of them. Believed to have housed up to 10,000 people in each. To escape the harsh winter and wild animals, these were used by the first inhabitants of Cappadocia. Later, these became the place of hiding of the first Christians who escaped persecution from the hands of Roman soldiers. I got to visit Kaymakli Underground City, believed to be the widest one, consists of eight floors below, out of which only four are open to the public. I was astonished by seeing architectural masterpiece and the excellent engineering. There was a winery, storage rooms, bedrooms, ventilation shafts, stables, even a church; hard to imagine how they could have built all this with hand tools and no electricity.
Travel Tip: Between rooms, to get through, there are tunnels where you would need to bend and crouch, so be prepared.
Goreme Open Air Museum
This open-air museum listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely on my list of top things to do in Cappadocia. From being an important Byzantine monastic settlement that housed monks, to a pilgrimage site from the 17th century, the museum houses have some of the finest rock cut churches. Dating from 900-1200 AD, these are beautifully painted from inside with murals. Even today these wall frescoes retain their original freshness.
Travel Tip: Visit the Dark Church whose walls were long protected by pigeon droppings. Here you will get to see the best examples of Byzantine art, including scenes from the New Testament.
Pasabag (Monks Valley)
Pronounced Pah-shah- bah, the place is famous for its peculiar fairy chimneys. These stunning natural structures are the result of erosion that took place millions of years ago and locals often refer these as mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys. According to folk tales, the area was inhabited by fairies who lived underground, hence the name. Later, monks took refuge there in the early period of Christianity, around 4th to 5th Century AD.
Travel Tip: In one of the three-headed fairy chimneys, there is a chapel and a seclusion room dedicated to St. Simeon. You can visit the inside of this fairy chimney and even climb to the very top.
A traditional Turkish night marks the perfect end to a day of sightseeing in Cappadocia. The show highlights the dance traditions of Turkey, complete with traditional costumes and of course scintillating belly dancers. Most of the shows take place in Cappadocia’s cave restaurants. It was fascinating to watch the dancers as they perform different traditions of Turkey.
Travel Tip: To add to the entertainment the belly dancer invites volunteers from the crowd to replicate her dance moves. Join in if you want to be part of the fun!
Well that’s just from my experience. I’m sure I have missed out on many more attractions throughout the region. The magic of Cappadocia still pulls at me. Definitely going there again the next time my schedule clears up.