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Journey Begins with a new shoes!
The trip began in Istanbul, as soon as it was dark, after a day of long walks. I fell asleep, I think, shortly after getting on the bus and had the feeling of waking up on another planet. Literal. It is not such a long trip but the landscape changes so much that it seems that one moves to another dimension. I traveled to the east, towards the Asian part of Turkey. Istanbul was quickly left behind and the “European” features of cities were also left behind. As we moved away from its popular metropolis, Turkey became more Asian. And when he arrived, the next morning, in the Central Anatolia region, everything was very different.
The bus left me in the city of Nevsehir, when it was still night. Nevsehir is the “capital city” of a province called Cappadocia. Like so many other cities in Turkey, it has dozens of mosques that, together with the first lights of dawn, began calling the Muslim people to prayer. But, the most interesting thing about Nevsehir is not the city, but its surroundings. Nature has carved here, with the passing of millions of years, an absolutely unique landscape. Wonderful. It is difficult to describe it with words and the photos only capture a minimum part of the experience of walking through the so-called Cappadocia.
The history of these lands goes back about three million years in time. At that time three volcanoes erupted in the area (the Erciyes Volcano, the Hasandag and the Malendiz). As a result of those eruptions, the ashes, lava and mud covered the entire Central Anatolia plateau. It is believed that a mantle several meters thick was created covering the ground. But of course, when you cool all those materials that traveled tens of kilometers in the burning region, they contracted and cracked. With the passage of time and the erosion of rains, snowfall and hot summers, the landscape was taking forms really worthy of a subrealist film. But here they surprise not only the shapes, but also the colors. As the materials that came out of the earth with the various volcanic eruptions were very different, today we find different colors in the rock. There are some darker, consisting mainly of basalt and others lighter and whiter, of sandstone.
In addition, the volcanic origin of the formations that were molded for centuries in the region gave them a distinctive feature: their ability to be easily molded. That is why caves were built for centuries and centuries inside the mountain that were inhabited by people of different origin. The primitive engineering developed in the region and materialized with the most basic tools allowed authentic underground cities to be built, with homes, passageways, avenues, workshops, warehouses, churches, businesses … all inside the rock. From the Hittites to the Ottomans, through Phrygians, Byzantines and Romans, they all inhabited the depths of the land in Cappadocia and the last hermits did so until about 50 years ago. Today, many traditions of life “in the caves” remains but for tourist purposes. It is no longer necessary to hide from the enemy in the depths or profess religion in a hidden church. Turkey has changed a lot, has modernized and the traditional life of Cappadocia has been put at the service of an industry that bills millions in the region: tourism.
We arrived at Nevsehir when it was still night. I went down with a dozen other tourists at a very precarious bus stop and there we should wait for another transport, smaller, to take us to Goreme. Four Chinese, 2 Koreans, a couple of Brazilians, 2 Austrians and I were alone there in the middle of nowhere, trusting that “the transfer” was coming. Luckily it was like that, after a while a truck arrived where we all piled up and arrived in Goreme in just over 20 minutes. I stayed at the Guven Cave Hostel, the only hostel around here with rock-carved rooms and a breathtaking view of the city from its terrace.
With the people who were stopping at the hostel those days I organized to share some circuits since the distances are long between everything there is to see here and it is best to do it by car. There is public transport that links the different villages but I was going to be alone for two days, so I had to use the time as efficiently as possible and sharing the tour with several made it really cheap. Before leaving the town of Goreme, we visited one of the viewpoints of the city where you can see how the landscape caves blend with urban constructions. Between the streets and the house there are rock chimneys so characteristic of this part of the world.
We continue on our way to Avanos, a town famous for its tradition in pottery. The town of Avanos is located on the banks of the Kizilirmak the famous Red River. The city is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Goreme. The Kizilirmak is one of the most important rivers in Turkey and not only provides fresh water to the region but also clay. Therefore, these villages have been dedicated to ceramics for more than four thousand years. The Hittites, first inhabitants of the region, were great potters and the tradition of pottery is maintained in many Avanos families today. We stopped in a family business to learn a little about the process of building vessels and ceramics. It was the typical stop in the middle of the tours that nobody is interested in and the agencies do so in order for one to buy something. In this case, it failed. No one in the group bought anything.
We continued traveling towards one of the most beautiful places I saw during my stay in Cappadocia, Uchisar Castle, a gigantic tower carved in rock completely typical of a fantasy movie. Uchisar is located at the highest point of Cappadocia, on the Nevsehir-Goreme road, 5 km from Goreme, and was inhabited since the time of the Romans. Actually in Uchisar there is no castle but a huge hill with dozens of carved caves that took the name of “castle” for being crowned by a series of peaks surrounded by chimneys that look like towers. Around the castle of Uchisar is the so-called Valley of the Sparrows (Pigneons Valley) for the number of birds that nest on the rocks that were once houses of hermits and today, empty, give shelter to thousands of birds.