Cappadocia

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 We owe the unique landscape of Cappadocia to Volcanic activity thousands of years ago.  The volcanic ash which covered the plateau formed a soft porous layer called tuff,  later to be topped with a layer of basalt.   Eons passed, the basalt began to crack, rainwater found it's way into the porous tuff below and the process of erosion which produced the formations we see today was underway 

 Ibrahim is an interesting man, we enjoyed his company very much.  He chatted to us for awhile to get an idea of the types of places we would like to see, then we left him to decide where we went.

Golludag  Crater   

When we arrived at Golludag Lake we found one other visitor.  A man, determined to soak his bones in the naturally hot sulphurous water was scooping out the yellow deposit which accumulates around the edge of the lake.   He invited us to join him in his natural hot tub but unfortunately we hadn't brought our swim suits!
Zelve

You don't have to go up in a balloon to view the Tufa cones from above, there are lots of lookouts beside the roads in and around Devrent and Zelve.  Of course it is a lot more peaceful in the balloon.  The roadside stops are crowded with tour buses.   They only stop long enough for a photo op so a short walk will take you somewhere you can enjoy the view in relative peace 

My favourite fairy chimneys taken from the hill above Zelve looking away from the museum.    Saw these on our first day and made up my mind to come back and take some more photos of them

Inside this fairy chimney dwell the 'fairy policemen'.

Possibly the smallest and least threatening police station in Turkey.  They  are serving out their compulsory national service as military policemen and doing a great  public relations job with visitors.  However they drew the line at letting us hold their assault rifles 

   

In order to get him to pose for a photograph outside his cop shop we had to agree to visit with him and his colleague inside.

Cave dwellings in the Zelve Open Air Museum.  This time  we enjoyed exploring on our own. Putting the  knowledge gained from our previous guides to good use, identifying the various parts of the cave churches, monasteries and dwellings.  Where the animals were tethered, monks ate, made wine, families, cooked, slept and were buried.

 

Shopping Zelve style.   Lots of interesting objects line the street opposite the entrance to the outdoor museum

We were happily surprised to be able to wander wherever we choose.  There were a few signs advising that certain areas were unsafe because of erosion but there was nothing other than your own common sense to deny you entry

If the above doesn't go with your decor or seems too bulky to carry around Turkey perhaps a little dried fruit, apple tea or a popular 'aphrodisiaque' from a roadside market.

 From the Esentepe overlook looking towards Mount Erciyes and Kayseri.  The town of Goreme is in the foreground

 

Basalt capped outcrops in Devrent Valley.

It is rumoured that  George Lucas filmed backdrops for Star Wars here.   This is an oft reported story  but I believe it is only wishful thinking and can find no confirmation

I did returned to this group of chimneys at Zelve and climbed down to the base to photograph them against the beautiful blue sky.  It was difficult to get down, almost impossible to get back.  Each time I climbed up I found a chasm too wide to jump to reach Jean, who had sensible stayed above.  I made it on the 4th attempt.

Few of the rocks resemble anything recognizable on this planet.  An exception being this much photographed 'camel'

 Kaymakli Underground City 
 The upper levels of troglodyte cave-cities may have been excavated by Hittites who inhabited Ancient Anatolia almost 2000 year before Christ.  Christian monks fleeing Arab persecution centuries later burrowed even further below ground.   Of the 36 explored underground cities Kaymakli is the widest, with only four of eight storeys opened up, it is also one of the biggest.  Based on the number of storage rooms archaeologists think the city could have supported a population of around 3500 people.  Locals with easy access to tunnels from their courtyards still use them as as cellars and stables, it is thought there are 100's of unexplored underground cities.
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Kaymakh is a small farming community where an unpretentious cave leads to an incredible underground city

 Many hidden entrances lead to a labyrinth, designed to foil a mass invasion.  These in turn lead to the living  quarters where many thousands of people and their animals could wait out trouble and religious persecution.  Air shafts served a dual ventilation and communications function.  Wells and chimneys were constructed to provide the necessities of life   

 

Whomever they were, the underground communities were built for shelter in times of prolonged danger rather than permanent living quarters.   Massive circular stones could be use to block the narrow passages in the event of discovery.

The upper levels housed the animals and people. Below were storage and wine making areas, soot blackened kitchens and of chapels.   It is possible the cities were connected underground.  Once again our $10 investment in a local guide was money well spent, 'Small' Mustafa spoke excellent English and had a passion for history - ours as well as his, making our visit much more fascinating than these photos might suggest

Ilhara Gorge

We spent a most enjoyable afternoon hiking along the Ilhara Gorge, Ibrahim dropped us off and arranged to meet us several hours later.   It's about 14 km long and we did a 7km stretch. We entered the gorge down a steep flight of steps, walking beside these women descending  to tend their crops in the river valley

 

 Although the day was very hot it was cool and shady by the Melenditz River.  Not exactly a walk in the park, we did a lot of climbing and scrambling over rocks to find our way

We were invited to join some women and children taking a break in a shady spot by the river. Their donkey was enjoying his break too. Again the lack of a common language was not a problem.  Children are great icebreakers.   Further along the river a woman was  doing her laundry Ihlara style.

By the time we reached the donkeys patiently waiting to carry weary trekkers the rest of the way, we figured the worst of the terrain was behind us.  There were a few locals tending fields and fishing and  even fewer tourists, but we felt very safe.  I have since seen warnings to tourists not to go into the gorge alone for fear of being attacked but I can only say we felt very comfortable there.

Exterior of a Byzantine cave church

There are more than a hundred cave churches in the valley, all with highly improbable  names.

 

Scenes from the life of Christ decorate the vaulted ceiling.  As is often the case these are in poor condition but it is possible to identify many biblical scenes.

Ibrahim patiently waiting. 

We spent a wonderful two days touring the area with Ibrahim.  He has a great sense of humour and a certain amount of notoriety as the village polygamist.  He tells us it is possible under Islamic law for him to have 4 wives.  As he currently had only two, Jean and I were tempted to sign on as numbers 3 and 4 so we could stay forever at Gamirasu.
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