Millions years ago Erdzhiyas, Hassan and Gulludag mountains were active volcanoes. The landscape of Cappadocia is nothing but remnants of their activity: cones of volcanoes, frozen lava flows, fragments of pyrite etc. (About 70 million years ago.) Nature created a wonderful pattern of valleys, caves, canyons and hills. Violet slabs which look like teeth, smooth white tuff cliffs, huge ocher rocks, hills of frozen gray ash, black basalt pillars, pink mushrooms, green layers - all this creates a bizarre picture, reflecting the shift of geological formations which has produced this area.
Cappadocia is not only beautiful landscapes! The history of Cappadocia began with troglodytes - the cavemen. Countless caves of soft volcanic rock people turned into comfortable homes. The first evidence of their stay in the caves belong to the ancient Hittites (about 1200 BC).
The Hittite Empire was destroyed by the Phrygians. The ruins of the cyclopean walls and an invaluable collection of cuneiform is all that was left for us. After the Hittites came the Persians, who lived there until the invasion of Alexander the Great in 336 BC, they also did not leave many historical monuments. Persians are better known for their destruction, not construction. :) And by the way, the name of Cappadocia goes back to the Persian "katpatuk", which means "The Land of Beautiful Horses".
Note: Nowadays there are still lots of horse farms and horse riding schools. You can have a pleasant horseback riding tour through the valleys and gorges. And the horses are very beautiful indeed. :)
For eleven years from the date of the invasion and before his death, Alexander the Great managed to free Anatolia from Persians and contributed to the rapid spread of Greek culture. The Greek language and literature gradually began to force out the Anatolian languages, and people start to use Greek as the main means of communication.
In I AD, Tiberius made the whole area a Roman province, and the central city Matsaka became known as Caesarea. Today it is Kayseri.
But the most interesting thing began with the arrival of Christianity. Originating in Roman Palestine, Christianity quickly settled in these places. After St. Peter and St.Paul came to live and preach to the lands of Anatolia. In the III century, Cappadocia became one of the main centers of Christianity. And in the IV century, there appeared something that had a tremendous impact on the whole Christian world: monasticism and asceticism.
Christians expanded and deepened the caves. In some places they've created whole cities with population up to 10-30 thousands people. In the high-rise labyrinths there were living quarters, storage facilities, stables, workshops, and, of course, temples.
Modern Cappadocia is a major tourist center, there are more than a million foreign visitors coming every year (mainly from Western Europe, India, China, Japan and America).
THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
Exploring of Cappadocia most often begins with a visiting the amazing cave-cities.
1. Visiting the cave-cities.
Some cities were located in the towers of tuff. Very similar to modern residential complexes with skyscrapers. :)
Most interesting ones are:
1. Goreme Open Air Museum (38.640025,34.8431934)
2. Ortahisar (38.621962,34.870446)
3. Ürgüp (38.6315059,34.908156)
4. Çavuşin (38.67278,34.83944)
5. Uçhisar (38.6326276,34.8141244)
6. Zelve (38.6725769,34.8577944)
2. Visiting the underground cities.
Some of the cities were underground, like skyscrapers but upside down. According to various sources, underground cities were built 8-25 floors down. Underground cities were a kind of a different World. There were chimneys and excellent ventilation, canalization and a wide tunnel system. Each sector of the tunnel could be locked with round stone doors (like on the picture).
There is an assumption that the underground cities were used by Christians as a refuge from the persecutions of the Roman emperors, from nomadic Arabs who often raided these lands in the 8th century, and then from the Seljuk Turks.
We've been to Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities (the largest and most interesting of the 40 underground cities and towns which've been found in Cappadocia). Fantastic experience!
3. Visiting the Holy Places.
In 360, the Cappadocians Basil of Caesarea and Gregory the Theologian wrote a set of rules for emerging monasteries. These rules are still valid in the Greek Orthodox Church; and they also formed the basis of the rules of St. Benedict in the West.
There are at least three thousand rock churches in the area between Kayseri, Nigde, Gulsehir and Ihlara valley. Some of them have ancient frescoes with the images of saints and scenes from the Gospel.
It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, a walk through the places filled with positive energy will adjust your energy balance.
Besides, to walk with a flashlight through the narrow tunnels of old churches is a very exciting quest.
4. Walikng throug the crazy landscapes.
There are several options to explore the valleys: walking, quadricycle safaris, horse riding tours, jeep safaris.
Most popular destinations are Ihlara Valley, Ortahisar Kanyon, Open Air Museums in Zelve and Urgup, Pink Valley... But you literally can just stop your car or walk out of the hotel and just stare around and walk to the direction of each stone or cave that you like. :)