"THE LAND OF WELL-BRED HORSES" Top 5 Page for this destination Nevsehir Ili by nicolaitan
Nevsehir Ili Travel Guide: 908 reviews and 3,196 photos
Modern Cappadocia is a touristic appelation for a region mostly contained within the Nevsehir district and famed for its bizarre landscape, cave houses and churches, and underground cities. The best understanding requires a rudimentary knowledge of history and geology, which I have attempted to provide below.
Cappadocia is truly one of the most enjoyable and interesting visits we have ever made, impressing even my beloved Proserpina, who for once does not rate an upscale shopping and dining district as her most cherished memory from a trip.
The number of sites available is huge - for instance, there are known to be over 30 underground cities of which many are available for tourism. Cave churches are around every bend in the road - even our hotel had one. Several famous valleys amaze with landscape, churches, and scenery scattered throughout the region. One could easily spend four or five days and not see everything, but two days is the absolute minimum to at least sample one or two of each of the classes of sites.
Generally, Cappadocia can be divided into a northern and a southern tour. For those with appropriate weather conditions, which we did not have, early morning balloon tours of the valleys and churches are alleged to be a highlight, but on each of our mornings wind precluded the flights. Armed with a good map, independent travel is certainly possible, but bus or private tours will add greater understanding especially for the cave church frescoes. And with tours, meals are at selected restaurants. Our best meals in Turkey were lunches with guides.
The individual tips below will begin with the northern circuit and end with the southern sites.
Perhaps the most important thought I can offer is that many of the most beautiful and bizarre landscape and cave structures are not part of tours but just additional sites along the road. We made several stops in the middle of nowhere simply for photography and appreciation. These will be listed by location among the rest of the tips as "roadside wonders" - places we were alone with nature. Keep your eyes open for the best of undiscovered Cappadocia as you travel.
Ancient Cappadocia was, according to the Greek cartographer Herotodus, a huge region extending from the Black Sea to include large areas of central and eastern modern day Turkey, but more recent and presumably more accurate estimates are of about 80,000 sq km in central Turkey. Excavations have proven settlement as early as 6000BC. Under Assyrian control around 2000 BC, the region was a major commercial center. The Hittite nation ruled much of Turkey between 1800-1200 BC leaving behind evidence of advanced scholarship and art as well as commercial enterprise. The Hittites were known to have utilized caves for dwelling and storage. For several centuries there were multiple ruling nations including Croesus and the Lydians until the Persians established control from 600-400 BC.
Alexander the Great apparently never visited this region personally but his Asian conquests bequeathed Greece control of Cappadocia from the 4th Century BC. Upon his death, his successors ruled as an independent nation which gradually fell into the Roman sphere of influence. Located on the periphery of major kingdoms, it was a frequent battleground, and Rome became increasingly important to to their defense. In 17 AD Cappadocia was formally annexed to the Roman Empire as a province becoming part of the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire after the division of 395 AD.
Many of the sites visited today extend from this period forward, the most important part of history for the tourist. Christianity arrived early in this region, many Christians fleeing Roman persecution in other areas and drawn by the relative remote location. Cave houses and huge underground cave cities protected inhabitants initially from Romans but later beginning in the 7th and 8th Cs, Arab raiding armies from Central Asia. Much of early Christian philosophy, including the tenets of monasticism, developed in the 4th C led by a group of clerics collectively named the Cappadocian Fathers. The many cave churches we see today reflect their influence in developing a sort of communal monastery system, as opposed to the isolated hermit monks.
In the 900's, the first of several Turkish tribes from Central Asia, the Selcuks, gained control for several hundred years, to be followed by others including the Mongols in the 14th Century. Most Christians fled the region after the Islamic regimes took power. By the 15th Century, the Ottoman Empire was the dominant regional nation and until the end of WWI, Cappadocia was a part of this great nation. In the 18th C, Nevsehir was established as a regional capitol. With the departure of Christians at the end of the 1st Millenium, Cappadocia became an area without recognition from the Western World until it was " rediscovered " by archaeologists early in the 20th Century.
The beautiful, haunting, and often bizarre landscape of Cappadocia reflects volcanic activity estimated to have ocurred 15-30 million years ago and based on excavated primitive art perhaps as late at 10000 years ago. The eruptions covered the landscape with volcanic ash and lava which hardened into a soft rock called tufa. Erosion over the centuries created the deep ravines with steep cliffs we see today. Some areas received an overcoating of harder rock material such as basalt.
Over centuries, wind and water have eroded the soft tufa rock to created the strange cones and spires that dominate the landscape. Similar forces created the first caves, soon inhabited. The soft tufa was easily cut and shaped even by primitive hand tools and man-made caves in the ravines and larger cones and spires are dated to at least 4000 BC. Initially used for storage and animals, they soon became human residences.
The most famous variant of the cones and spires is the 'Fairy Chimney", a vertical spire of tufa wider at the base than the peak, with the widest part a cap of the harder and less easily eroded basalt, which is of a darker color adding to the striking appearance. The larger have been cut to create caves for storage or living space, which the smaller remain as created. The name derives from an early belief that only supernatural forces could have created these structures. Since fairies were known to live underground, they needed chimnies for the smoke from their fires - seems pretty obvious.
Caves provided protection from the elements, maintained relatively constant temperatures during the variable Turkish seasons, and their occupants soon realized that the cave entrances could be hidden offering safety from invading armies and marauders. As early as the Hittite era in the second millenium BC caves were used for protection. The caves expanded deeper and deeper into the earth through the centuries, some to 15 ( and perhaps as many as 30 ) levels, creating underground cities of amazing complexity and sophistication.
Caves also served as churches for Christians persecuted during both Roman and Islamic rule. These were often hidden high in cliff faces or otherwise difficult of access for attackers. Originally for acolytes, the later cave churches were larger and served small monastic communities.
The assorted landscape features, the complex underground cities, and the cave churches with their remarkable sacred art are the prime offerings for today's visitors.
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