Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

This place is one of Turkey's foremost tourist destination which might seem strange as there is not a beach or an Ottoman grandeur in sight. What's special here is the geology and what people have done with it.

Volcanic stone and shedloads of erosion have created a stange landscape of gorges, ravines and above all fairy chimneys. These are monoliths of sorts that vary in size and shape from the mini mountain to the flint spearhead shape and some that look like the can opener on a swiss army knife. Some have been coyly described as looking like mushrooms as no travelguide likes to use 20 metre cock as a simile. It's snowing here hence making for even more gigglesome sights.

Beyong making me regress, the snow and the shifting light coming through the clouds give this place a, well faerical quality. The fairy name comes from (according to one source) the mystics who used to light candles around the chimneys. Locals believed these lights were fairies. At least those who couldn't be bothered to check out nightlights 500 yards away from their homes did.

The mystics were amongst many Cappadocians who carved into the chimneys. Homes, stables, churches, monasteries and strongholds were dug into the soft rock over the ages. I reckon because it's easier than to actually build a home since the rock is easily carved.

The local fetish for digging spread around the area and those who weren't blessed by cool rocks simply went straight down hence the smattering of underground cities in the region. These started as simple hidey holes for peasants in case raiders showed up and then got expanded by various people particularly the early Christians who needed somewhere to lay low when they had pissed off someone. The end result is a huge network of caverns on 8 levels connected by narrow tunnels.

These cities are one of the reasons Cappadocia gets my thumbs up. The sights are big playgrounds with a bit of culture thrown in. As the prospect of freezing myself on a rented scooter didn't appeal to me I hopped on a tour bus full of Koreans. The guides were 2 youngish girls one of whom was doing a bit of on the job training. I kindly helped her training by giving the chance to deal with the reckless cretin amongst docile Asians.

I started to annoy the lass by diving and crawling into any tunnel, cave and crevice in the underground city that didn't have a grill on it. I got more annoying in the open where the sight of any byzantine scribbling sent me scrambling up the rocks. Underground cities and troglodyte churhes have too much of an Indiana Jones appeal not to be jumping in, under and above them,. My concession is that I got the Koreans to witness a declaration from me to the effect that any breakage suffered as a result of my childishness would be my fault and mine only.

Playing the mountain goat was not just as a result of a Turkish coffee and baklava induced hyperactivity but was also part of a self improvement process. In a way it was aversion therapy.

Somewhere around Kyrgystan I acquired something that I never had before. A fear of heights. Before that I had the normal heightened awareness when on unsure footing at breakneck heights or above. Now I get all queasy when I am on sure ground at merely breakleg levels. This will not do.

Not that I have anything against vertigo. Some of my bwst freinds are scared of heights. I recognise and celebrate the many achievements of those with vertigo throughout history and the valuable contributions they bring to our community today. It's just not my thing hence lots of climbing and ledge walking on snowy fairy chimneys. Therapy made fun.

Anyhoo it's time to leave the cute and beautiful side of Turkey and and go and visit the grimmer, if more politically interesting, one. Off to say hi to the Kurds.

Next stop, Diyarbakir,

Take care,



Post a Comment

<< Home