Hide and Seek in Caves of Volcanic Ash!

Cappadocia in central Turkey is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to.  A combination of Mother Nature and the divine spirit of the human condition conspired to build this magical place.

Cappadocia is often referred to as a lunar landscape for obvious reasons (see 1st photo above), but the unique terrain is actually volcanic ash from a now dormant volcano (pictured above) that spewed ash from its massive crater repeatedly from five million to ten million years ago.  Each eruption added a new layer on top of the last one and combined with various minerals it created the assortment of different colors you see in the photo above.

Beginning with the Roman Empire people dug caves into these stone hills to escape persecution.  First it was the Christians who hid from the Romans, then the Christians hid from the marauding Persians and finally the Muslims hid from the Christians during the crusades.

One of the cave dwellings still in use today

Only a few people still live in them today and they are typically paid by the government to keep the caves in good order for the tourists.

Images from the underground city Kaymaku

While some of the caves are simple rooms or even a series of rooms, some are entire underground cities with layers upon layers of rooms for sleeping, storage, cooking, barns and stables – all underground!

Our personal guide for the day, Suat, (a middle aged Turkish man with a  wife and two kids who was born and raised in Cappadocia, but had studied in Istanbul for several years and thus spoke excellent English), acknowledged that no one ever “lived” in these underground cities, but just hid out there for extended periods of time.  It is believed that one could live underground in one of these cities for three or four months without surfacing (excellent ventilation tunnels) although it is likely that the [insert your favorite persecuted religious group here] just hid there for a few days while bands of [insert your favorite band of marauding invaders here] passed by on the way to or from Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was known back then).

Suat concluded the tour by taking us to The Rose Valley for a spectacular sunset and a bottle of Turasan Merlot, a local vineyard that the Turks are very proud of, but that Francesca and I found to be…..well, how to put this politely…..less than pride inducing.

Then he dropped us off at a local restaurant called Panorama where we dined on a traditional Turkish meal.  Francesca had the Manta (tiny little raviolis stuffed with meat and served with a yogurt sauce) and I had the Testi Kebab which is cooked and served in a clay pot, not dissimilar to a tagine in Morocco and other parts or Northern Africa although with this one the waiter let me hack open the clay pot with a machete!  I thought I had made a pretty clean cut (got it on the first try!), but I kept having to pull shards of clay from my mouth as I ate so perhaps I need another lesson.

Then it was back to our “cave hotel” called “Meleklervi”, which means “Angel House” in Turkish.

The rooms are built into the side of the mountain which interestingly kept the room at a constant, comfortable temperature no matter what the weather outside.  This type of volcanic rock is so comfortable temperature-wise that the majority of the buildings in the area are made from shaped blocks of the same volcanic substance and they don’t need air conditioning- even in hot Cappadocia!

They also had two golden retrievers named Capkin and Sirin (pronounced Chi-rin) who we came to love.  They were so friendly and would come running to greet us whenever we emerged from our room or returned after a day of sightseeing. But they weren’t the only dogs in the neighborhood.  In fact, if Dubrovnik (as you will recall) is the cat city then Cappadocia is without a doubt the dog city – there were a ton of them, pets, strays, you name it, they had it.

The Meleklerevi was an interesting hotel on its own, but what made it more appealing for us was that it was in a lesser developed section of the town of Urgup which itself is not as built up as other towns like Goreme where all the tourists flock.

Therefore we were able to wander around the town and see how the locals live without the constant pressure of them catering to the tourist trade.  It did, at times, make us feel a bit uncomfortable (like “uh….are we supposed to be here?”), but overall it was good to see a side of this place that most visitors don’t see and probably don’t care to.

Cappadocia is truly an amazing place and worth a visit if you ever travel to Turkey.

Country Stats:

Official Name: Republic of Turkey

Native Language: Turkish

Country Name in Native Language: Turkiye Cumhuriyeti

Population: 74,816,000

Capital City: Ankara

Government: Parliamentary Republic

Current Leader(s): President, Abdullah Gul; Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

For more information about Turkey click here or about Cappadocia click here.


5 Responses to “Hide and Seek in Caves of Volcanic Ash!”

  1. Fabulous!!!


  2. am way behind in my reply to your posts…so here’s my omnibus reply: Firslty – HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY ! welcome to the club you old fart ! :)sorry i somehow missed that on the day…and sorry i couldnt join you fran and ian and john and the gang – was great to see those familiar faces on the blog – and nice to see oskar the family guy in munchen ! … picasa and microsoft moviemaker naruhodo … am also a big picasa fan, although am slightly concerned at the growing influence google has on our lives … is that google the tyrell corporation or massive dynamics (just saw new wb tv series “fringe”) …my other question is why wordpress over other potentials like blogspot for example ? …the turkish desert is definitely the mars landscape amazing … so the turkish merlot will not be making it into hugh johnsons wine compendium this year then… and i like frans thinking on the techno rave venue … also did you have to put the photo up of those scary medusa eyes from above that door …am having problems sleeping … once you leave youtube free zone turkey have a listen to this which i thought hilarious http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhofSilF05k take care jx

  3. Dear Momma and Daddy,

    Y’all are wonderful. I got teary-eyed while trying to remember the words to ‘No Rat No Jump’.


    Your gay adopted son

    • Hey Junior!! Great to hear from you. Sorry we didn’t reply sooner but email has been limited in Laos & Viet Nam. Francesca and I were singing “No Rat-a-No Jump” tonight as well and thought of you.

      Thanks for checking out the blog. Madagascar is next and should be posted in a couple of days….hopefully.

      Talk soon.
      Dan & Francesca

      Ps. hope you had a safe flight home to NC. Have a great holiday.

  4. Nice text und pictures, thank you.

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