Last day in Cappadocia: churches, canyons and underground cities…

Well, here are the photos from our last, action-packed day in Cappadocia. We decided to go on a tour, because many of the sites around the area would have been pretty much impossible to reach without a car. It’s not something we usually do, but it was definitely worth it in this case. We started out at a beautiful spot with amazing panoramic view over the region and one of Cappadocia’s impressive volcanoes looming in the distance. The guide explained about the whole volcanic geography thing, which was interesting.

Then we headed for one of Cappadocia’s apparently hundreds of underground ‘cities’. The underground city idea originated with the Hittites, some of the first people to live here. Their underground constructions were usually just one or two levels below the ground. However, later people expanded these settlements and the one we visited was eight storeys deep! We visited storage rooms, a meeting hall, cuneiform church, kitchen, wine-pressing room, living rooms and even a stable while wandering around twisty defensive tunnels designed to confuse intruders and make it very difficult for them to actually attack these underground fortresses. These places were useful in times of war or when enemies were raiding the area. The people normally lived in above-ground villages, but retreated into these underground ones only in times of need. Unfortunately, it was pretty impossible to take a decent photo down there, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

After that, we headed to lunch in a cheap and cheerful sort of place near a small river in a forested canyon. This canyon was once full of cave houses and many churches. We also saw pigeon coves carved into the canyon walls at one point. People decorated these alcoves with red painted designs to attract the pigeons, who provided the people with droppings later used as fertilizer. Our guide said people only came to collect the fertilizer once a year, so as not to frighten away the pigeons. The shells of pigeon eggs were also used to make the frescos painted on all the churches stick better. I’m not sure if they were used to make a base-layer under the paintings or if the egg shell was mixed right into the paint.

We took a nice walk through the canyon and enjoyed the fantastic weather. It was warm, the sun was shining, and I loved hearing the sound of the stream as we walked along. We stopped at one of the churches and had a look inside, and then we hiked up a load of stairs to get out of the canyon so we could head off to visit a former mountain monastery, which was also pretty cool although much of it has fallen off in big chunks and been worn away by the elements over the years.

So, it was a beautiful last day, and we ended our trip with a delicious dinner and some wine. We had a local speciality, which is a vegetable and lamb stew slow-cooked in a small clay jar for five hours. The restaurant itself was great as well. It was snug and warm with an old iron stove in the middle of the room for heating, and we took off our shoes and sat on the floor, traditional style, on big, fluffy, comfortable cushions at a low table in our own little nook. I wanted to live there. It was so comfortable! And I had some of the nicest wine I’ve tasted in a long time. Sigh. It was amazing. I’d definitely love to go to Cappadocia again.



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