There’s no doubt about it, Turkey is the flavour of the month – and I don’t mean the bird, although Thanksgiving is actually coming up soonish. 😉 I fell in love with both the food and the the city of Istanbul last year, and in the last few weeks at least three separate friends of mine have visited this fabulous country. My time there was limited so there’s still much I need to see, but I did take the time to visit the geographically and historically unique region of Cappadocia.
Located in Anatolia in central Turkey, Cappadocia is easily accessible from Istanbul by bus, train or plane and is well worth an overnight stay to soak up some of the culture and history of this remarkable area. The region was once the seat of the Hittite Empire and it’s name means “the land of the beautiful horses”. The surreal landscape is simply extraordinary and resembles nowhere else on earth.
It is a volcanic region, with three volcanoes nearby and the unique rock formations are the result of the regular activity of these many years ago. The subsequently deposited ash, lava and basalt, combined with earthquakes and the ongoing effects of erosion have resulted in the valleys and fairy chimneys we see today. This basalt is soft and easily carved and people quickly took advantage of this to hew out the homes, churches and whole communities which dot the area.
Cappadocia has been populated since the Bronze Era and, over the centuries, has been under the sway of the Ancient Greeks, Persians, Romans and Christians, even scoring a mention in the bible. Many of the older rock homes have now been abandoned as the lure of modern plumbing and electrical wiring became more attractive, but there are still many who choose to stay and live in these homes, adapting them to accommodate modern conveniences wherever possible.
It’s relatively inexpensive to book an overnight tour from Istanbul which will fly you into the region, carry you around by car or small bus, stopping at many of the breathtaking sites including the UNESCO World Heritage listed Goreme National Park. The tour that I took with my friend Bernadette also took in a visit one of the local homes and it’s home-owners, as well as visits to ancient temples and richly decorated old churches carved into the rocks, an entire underground city, local craft workshops, restaurants and a fabulous walk through the beautiful Rose Valley.
Cappadocia is also a very popular spot for hot air ballooning and the skies are said to be dotted with them at sunrise. I wouldn’t know, as I know my limits and was safely tucked in bed. Coincidentally (and really, we couldn’t have planned it) a group of my Adelaide Hills neighbours were in Cappadocia at the same time as we were and they bravely took a dawn flight which all agreed was stunning. Personally, I try to preserve some dignity and was not prepared to be observed cowering in the corner of a flimsy basket, half a mile up in the sky, weeping uncontrollably. But that’s just me.
Acrophobia aside, I’m utterly besotted with Turkey and can’t wait to get back there one day – I know there is so much more to see. If you want to see some truly wonderful photos of the country let me point you towards the Instagram account of my friend David Hagerman, an internationally noted photographer, who spends a lot of time there with his wife, food writer Robyn Eckhardt. If they don’t make you want to go there, I don’t know what will. I know I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit this remarkable land. I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.