Monday, May 17, 2010

Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

Volcanic ash, hardened into rock and capped by basalt from later eruptions, then eroded by water through the ages, has created a fantasy landscape in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey. Fairy chimneys, towers, and mushroom shapes became houses and fresco painted chapels as local people carved caves into the whitish tuff--but around here everyone uses the name "tufa." In our many years of telling visitors about Mono Lake's tufa towers--the photogenic limestone formed when springwater and lakewater mix--we often heard about the "tufa" formations of Cappadocia, which actually have more in common with the Bishop tuff formed near Mono Lake by the Long Valley volcanic eruption.

Beyond that terminology story, words cannot do justice to this landscape (so we've posted a lot of photos here). The fact that people still live in many of the caves and grow gardens and apricot orchards nearby adds to the Hobbit-y feel of the place.
Visitors may stay in "cave hotels" complete with windows, terraces and satellite dishes. Huge horse stables have been carved into some of the larger rocks. Where people have moved out, birds have moved in (we watched a momma bird feed her baby chicks). Entire underground cities in multiple layers provided refuge during long ago raids. A huge, snowcapped volcano stands sentinel in the distance.

Most of our time was spent hiking, seeking the high viewpoints to look down and across the valleys. Many tourists seek similar views in the dawn balloon rides that contribute significant amounts of money to the local economy.

We met Hayriye Ciner selling her beautiful jewelry in one of our favorite parts of the valley.
Wildflowers abounded, with Turkey mullein (that exotic pest at home that is native here) and irises decorating the hillside. A fox even gave us a glimpse. Camels are a sign of the historic Silk Road connections to China in this part of Turkey.

We spent 3 days here and barely began to explore the lovely spot, but our eastward journey pulls us on toward the Euphrates River region.

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