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Volcanic wonderland

Cappadocia sure is a combination of natural beauty and human construction that defies the imagination.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2010 00:22 IST
Rupali Dean

I did not quite know what to expect. I had heard of the fairy chimneys that look like elongated mushrooms, and knew that there were underground cities, I had a vague idea of the Christian history of the region, but had little context to put it in. And a visit here made me realize Cappadocia sure is a combination of natural beauty and human construction that defies the imagination.

Cave base
I based myself in the town of Uchisar, a few kilometers south and uphill from the main village of Goreme. There are several hotels in Cappadocia with interesting names such as Flintstones, Bedrock and Cave Resort, and as a matter of fact most hotel rooms and some private homes in the region are, built into caves or fairy chimneys.

A fairy tower, contrary to what I had in my mind is actually ash from a volcano explosion ages ago. Ash, when in contact with air, hardens. So, when people put Obsidian tools (in the stone age most people used these for its sharpness) to the piles of ash and carved caves, they hardened and were a safe habitation from the elements. Wind and water eroded the exterior into slender stalks, which looked awesome.

Awesoem views
Who wouldn’t stand in awe of the rock formations where Christians escaped religious persecution from the Romans over a thousand years ago? As a desert area, this region is subject to extreme temperatures but the rocks do an excellent job as insulation. This part of Turkey is truly a natural beauty filled with quaint small villages in which history is alive and intact. An expensive, but popular, excursion in Cappadocia is by a hot-air balloon, that gives you a good sweeping view.

UNESCO attraction
Most tourists like to do a short hike in Love Valley, (lazy I took a bus instead) which is enroute to the Open Air Museum, a former Christian religious complex with nunneries, churches, houses and more which was carved around the 13th century. The highlights for me were the Painted Churches, which refer to the well preserved medieval frescoes adorning the interiors of some of the churches.

Underground city
Underground City was an ant hive like network of tunnels and rooms which could hold up to ten thousand people in times of turmoil. People ran down into the caves to hide from enemies. They had also carved out churches, food storage, and sleeping quarters within these soft limestone walls, actually a full city underground. The tunnels were, at times, so small that my tall hubby had trouble fitting, though I felt that finally something was just my size!