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A more intimate exploration of the beautiful Cappadocia
Everywhere you travel, you'll find signs of long forgotten peoples.
Today I'm going to take you further on my exploration of Cappadocia in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. Promoted as one of the cradles of civilization, this land has seen great civilizations come and go. Everywhere you travel you'll find signs of long forgotten peoples, from ancient cities to fairy tale cave dwellings.
Sometimes known as the Anatolian Plateau, this region stretches inland from the Aegean sea. I was not surprised to learn that it is the second largest region in all of turkey, covering around 94,000 square miles or 19% of the entire country. The Central Anatolia Region is a land of extremes with temperatures soaring in the summer and plummeting below zero in the winter. In the beautiful heat of summer it was amazing to think that much of the area is covered with snow during the winter months. The unique landscape of this land that I've fallen in love with must look so magical while covered in a layer of white!
ATV Quad bikes get to places otherwise unreachable
Kapadokya is the Turkish name for the area which translates to 'land of the beautiful horses'. In times past, the local people would traverse this barren landscape on rugged horses, specially adapted to survive in this difficult place. I wanted to experience travelling as the people once did, but I can't ride a horse and they are a bit scary to me! So to get more in touch with this wild land I decided to do an ATV tour instead. I suppose it's a tiny bit similar, like a motorised horse?
Anyway, when I got to the tour I was very surprised because I didn't think I would to get my own quad bike. In my head I thought that there must be someone to drive you because I didn't really know how to ride a quad bike. But after some simple information on how to control our bikes, we drove off in to the plateau, each with our own ATV! As you can imagine it was quite scary at first but after a while you start to feel more comfortable. They are quite stable and easy to control and you always followed you guide on safe paths.
I had enough time to get used to my ATVs, driving carefully to follow my guide towards the first destination. I felt like a bit of a wild woman out in the dessert! Once I had got used to being on the quad bike I was able to start looking around and admiring the scenery of Cappadocia. Moving through the landscape you started to get a small idea of what it would be like to live in such a place. The contrast between lush green trees and bushes and the red, orange and yellows of the rocks was beautiful. The local economy of the region is primarily based on growing apricots and squash, and of course a little from tourism, so much of the greenery spread around the land are the crops that are nearly ready to be harvested.
My first stop on my little tour was Sword Valley, or Kiliclar Vadisi as the locals call it. It is one of the smallest valleys in the region but has some of the best examples of the famous fairy chimneys that makes this region so special. The valley was named for its clearly formed sword shaped spires. They are distinctly smoothed into sword like shapes that rise high in to the sky. As you can see, even some the vertical chimneys have man made holes cut in to them. Can you imagine climbing the spires without ropes to hollow out the rock?
The ancient peoples of this region used every piece of rock that they could to build their cave homes. Hundreds of people used to live here and you can see that their dwellings rise high up the side of spires and cliffs, over looking the valley. We weren't able to visit the cave dwellings up high that you see here, but I loved to try and imagine their view. You must be able to see for miles and miles, tucked safely in your snug cave in a fairy tale spire. I was amazed by how big the spires that surrounded me were as I walked up close to them.
Human habitation in the region dates back as far as the Palaeolithic period but the more recent habitation and man made cave dwelling started from the Hittite era between 1800 - 1200 BC. After this time, the region became a haven for Christians fleeing persecution. Nearly every cave settlement has a church carved straight out of the rock for the Christian people to worship while still being able to hide and defend themselves from being attacked.
The small holes, set high in the rock face, are called dovecotes which were carved by ancient settlers for the birds to live in. I wasn't sure why they kept such small birds but I like to think it was so they woke to bird song every morning!
The rock formations were formed over millions of years by a mixture of land and sky. This area of Turkey once had many active volcanoes, whose explosions of rock, gas and ash had a big impact on the development of the landscape and rock in the region. Over millions of years, the contrasting weather of the plateau caused much of the softer rock that was formed of volcanic ash to be weathered away. Over the millennia these spectacular rock formations were exposed. You can see the natural waves in many of the rocks where they have been weathered by the elements.
These were some of the best examples of the fairy chimneys that I saw in Cappadocia. Their uniformity looks man made but the actual rock formations are completely natural. The man-made doorways and caves into the interior of the spires show a beautiful congruity between humans and nature. Usually, we mine and quarry stone to build houses, where we destroy the landscape and cause much harm to the environment. Here in this beautiful landscape, early man decided to live at one with their surroundings rather than destroying it by building their homes into the natural rock formations.
The next stop on my tour was the Love Valley. When I got there I was wholly embarrassed to learn that the name of the valley was a bit of a euphemism... I'll just say that I didn't want to take too many close ups of the rock formations here! I was glad to learn the Turkish name for the valley was Bağıldere which relates more to the stream that runs through this area, rather than the shapes of the rocks, so I decided to call it that in my head from then on.
Though my cheeks were still glowing a healthy pink through most of my time at this stop I must say that these formations were probably the most surreal to look upon. Some of the spires stood as tall as forty meters high and were almost vertical. It seemed like at any moment they should just fall over even though they have stood here like this for thousands and thousands of years. I was very glad of my guide because there were so many soaring rock chimneys that I felt certain that one wrong turn and I might get lost in a fairy tale!
As my day on my ATV began drawing to a close, I had one more surprise in store for me. The tour finished in the Red and Rose Valleys just as the sun was setting and we all parked I parked my quad bike ready to be washed and serviced by the tour company. As you can see, this is where many different quad biking tours finished and it took a little while for all of the tours to finish and park so that peace could once again return to the valleys.
I thought this must be the end of the tour because the men started parking the quad bikes safely and even cleaning off the dusk from tourist's legs with a little air gun, however I was wrong. My guide took me on a short walk up to the top of the rock formation that you see below called Aktepe Hill.
Once I reached the top I was amazed because the view was truly breathtaking and I now knew why the valleys were named the Red Valley and the Rose Valley. In one direction spread the Red Valley and in the other the Rose Valley and they were both coloured by the sun in the same colour as their name. I learned from my guide that the unique types of rock that these valleys were formed from caused them to be these beautiful red and rose colours, but that in the sunset their colours were magnified more vividly. The greens of the apricot trees show off the red of the rocks even more and it was a truly special atmosphere to be here to see this place.
The sunset from this vantage point was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen and the silence that had settled across the valley once the ATV tours had all finished was really quite magical. You feel like Cappadocia cannot get anymore special and then you sit in the quiet of the arid landscape and look out on what both nature and man has created and it becomes even more so.
Turkish food never ceases to amaze
Once I returned to the main local city of Goreme, I just had to try some authentic Turkish cuisine. As I walked the short distance to Seten Anatolian Restaurant in the cool of the evening, the town looked so pretty lit up by different coloured lights. Even in this area more touched by modern architecture, you can still see rock spires rising in to the sky with the buildings built in to and around them.
Seten maintains its rustic charms with its exposed stone walls, intimate courtyard and tasteful interior design using locally made rugs, art and pottery.
The restaurant is located on the hillside in Goreme with panoramic views of the town and is part of the Kelebek Cave Hotel. Seten Anatolian Restaurant maintains its rustic charms with its exposed stone walls, intimate courtyard and tasteful interior design using locally made rugs, art and pottery. Opened in 2010, the restaurant is one of the best in the area and prides itself on delivering authentic Anatolian cuisine. There is even a cookery school here so you can learn how to make the local food. Seten gets its name from the Turkish word for the ancient round stone mill that was used to grind grains. The restaurant also has an ancient cave room that was used for hundreds of years for turning grapes in to wine, that they have now converted in to a Wine Cave Cellar where they produce their own homemade wines. I have to say I was intrigued to go and visit it but then the food arrived and my tummy and tongue became too engrossed in the delicate and interesting flavours and so I forgot to go and see where they made their wines!
As I have come to expect from Turkey, the food was fresh and diverse with contrasting sweets and sours. What Seten Anatolian Restaurant did better than any other restaurant that I've visited here in Turkey, though, was that each dish felt like it had four or five different smaller dishes on the plate at once. You could try a little bit of everything and each mouthful gave you different bursts of flavour. When you combined these different elements of the meal they still complimented each other and I have to say I was sad when it was over, though I was also extremely full!
Thank you for travelling with me once again. It was so lovely to have you on the back of my quad bike with me to see all of the stunning scenery to be found in the many valleys of Cappadocia. I think my favourite part of my tour would have to be the sunset at the Red and Rose Valleys because there was something so magical in the atmosphere that it made everyone that was there go quiet. We all knew that there is something special about this place with the sun kissing the rocks that have seen humans live in harmony with them for thousands of years.
Thank for you all of the kind comments on my last post after a small gap since my last posts. I'm so happy that you could all come back and travel a long with me once again. Don't forget to upvote if you liked the post, follow me if you love travel blogs and leave a comment to let me know what you think!
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