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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Location: Cappodocia, Turkey

MapCappodocia is surely one of the most unique and interesting regions anywhere in the world. This time I was abled-bodied enough to actually see it. The geological anomaly that created this place is due to three volcanoes, now extinct, that form a triangle surrounding this highland plain, which is itself over 1,000 metres above sea level. Eons of volcanic activity has deposited layers of ash over the area, but the resultant rock is soft enough to be easily eroded and chiselled. The erosion is from centuries of weather, wind and rain, while the chiselling is from centuries of civilisations that have built underground cities into the hills. The erosion has shaped rock creations that can look like liquid thatís been frozen in time or some kind of natural pornography, and many of these rock formations have windows and doors carved into their facades.

Amazingly enough, the features of Cappodocia could be epitomised by our hotel thatís been built into the side of a hill in the lovely little town of Urgup. Our room was encased in stone, with one wall being the actual rock of the hill itself. Such large, thick, stone walls make for a perfectly quiet space, great for sleeping and keeping an ambient temperature. The hotel was spread over several floors, the top floor giving a fantastic panorama in all directions, like all the hilltops in the region would also do.

At the very bottom of the hotel are several doors, most of them lead to accommodation rooms, but one door does not. It enters a tunnel thatís been chiselled out of the rock, just wide and high enough to walk through. A few metres down, after taking a 90-degee turn, it enters a room, again chiselled out of rock, with shelves specially carved to hold several hundred wine bottles for aging. The perfect wine cellar. The tunnel then continues from this room for several more metres, with motion-activated lights strategically placed. Daylight appears in the distance, and the tunnel eventually opens onto a veranda thatís been chiselled into the side of the hill. The view from this veranda looks out over the township of Urgup from about a hundred metres above, and is totally unexpected as you emerge from the tunnel. Youíve just walked through a hill of solid rock. Simply extraordinary.

There are countless tunnels, houses, even cities, carved into the rocky hills throughout the Cappodocia region. Dating from about the 6th century AD, some of these houses are still inhabited, while others have collapsed due to the ravages of time. Underground living was commonplace here over the centuries, and thereís no need to pay an entrance fee to see a museum. You can explore a centuries old underground house by simply walking around any of the towns. And then there are the weird fairy chimneys in the appropriately called Love Valley. Itís hard to imagine nature coming up with anything more obscene or pornographic than these rock formations.

I donít think itís possible to adequately describe in words or pictures the moonscape that is Cappadocia. I think tour participant Nick said it well - ďJust tell everyone to get on a plane, get over here and see it for themselves.Ē