Travel with me #104 : To the Caves of Cappadocia!
Dear Steemit Friends :
Today, I'll be taking us to one of the most scenic regions of Turkey where fairy chimney's and cave dwellings are a vivid reality. What magical place has fairy chimney's and habitable caves you might ask? None other than Cappadocia of Central Anatolia (Turkey)!
Cappadocia is famous for several things, but perhaps the most famous would be the hot air balloons which grace the skies from just before the wake of dawn. Today however, I will be introducing one of the other peculiarities of Cappadocia, the caves dwellings! In my own silly little mind, I always thought living in a cave was for the Neanderthals and cavemen, or even just a joke about guys and their man caves, but when I heard that people actually lived in these caves up until very recently, I had to come see and experience it myself.
The landscape in Cappadocia can only be described as out of this world. It occupies the central most region of Anatolia and stands around 1 kilometer above sea level. The dramatic landscape of this area is often described as being Martian with its slightly dyed colour rocks and of course the very distinctive fairy chimney's. With closer inspection, you'll actually realise that most of these fairy chimneys have been made into Cave dwellings forming a beautiful harmonious landscape with little evidence of human perturbation.
Arriving at the Kelebek Cave Hotel I felt like I’d walked in to a fantasy world, a fairy tale. The world kelebek means ‘the butterfly’ in Turkish, and that’s a great name for the beauty surrounding me. The cave dwellings at Cappadocia have been inhabited for thousands of years, with Persian texts telling of the caves from as early as the 6th Century BC. The hotel is a fascinating blend of authentic, ancient cave life and modern convenience.
You can almost imagine that little fairies might just poke their heads out of a window at any minute as you walk through the maze of cave dwellings that make up Kelebek Cave Hotel. As I was guided to my room I stopped at nearly every cave room that I saw because they were all so cut and magical.
The cave dwellings are everywhere across the landscape and are tucked into every part of the strange rock formations. Some have extra stone work and others are built purely out of the natural rock. In all cases it feels like the rooms, windows and doors are so organic, as if the human and natural are completely at one. The local people call the strange tower like structures ‘kales’ which means castle, though they are completely natural. I learned that these fairy chimney shapes were built by a group of ancient volcanoes, called Mts. Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz. Over the years wind and rain carved away the softer rock to leave these unusual spires behind.
Every room in the hotel is unique because you are experiencing the real caves, carved out by ancient people. Look carefully at the walls and you can see the thousands of tool marks that texture the walls. Every cave dwelling was hollowed from the rock by hand, using primitive hand tools. As I explored my room I was in wonder at the hard work that it must have taken to shape this room, and this whole area, by hand. Can you imagine trying to make a bedroom like this? I couldn't believe it.
The ancient cave dwellers cut shelves in to the walls of their homes for storage and chimneys up out of the rock so they could have a cooking fire. Kelebek Cave Hotel faithfully kept these original features, so you feel like you’re really living how the people once did. The real fire was such a treat. Of course, it couldn’t be a hotel without some modern features and, as you can imagine, I was delighted by the beautifully designed en-suite bathroom.
I was just settling down for my first night to experience this lovely room, when this very cat climbed through my window. I couldn’t hold back my delight and surprise, and at first thought I might scare the cat away with my noises of joy. Who is this little guy?
I like to imagine he was a long term guest, who’s job it is to come and welcome new guests who might be unsettled by their new environment. After all, I was sleeping in an ancient cave! My new little friend wandered up to me and rubbed himself, purring against my leg. He looked up at me and meowed and I felt like he was asking, ‘are you feeling all settled in?’
It was like a real fairy story and I was a Disney princess. After he’d checked I felt welcome at the hotel and was relaxed in my room, he hopped up on to the window sill and gave me a meow of farewell. Who knew that the hotel had such a good personal welcoming service!
The next day I just had to get up and explore this magical landscape. Every direction I looked I could see little windows and doors poking out of the rock face. Not a single place that could hold a dwelling was left without the touch of man.
The restaurant for lunch was situated with lovely views of the surrounding region. I didn’t know where to look because the food was so beautifully presented and the landscape was so enchanting, that I had trouble knowing what to focus on in this moment!
This fresh salad had such an interesting mix of Turkish spices on it. The heat of the chicken really complimented the cool juiciness of the cucumber and tomatoes.
Traditional local bread to accompany the meal, freshly baked that day.
These Turkish pastries were amazing. But I forgot to ask what they were! Does anyone know who can help tell me what they are?
The sun, the food and the view. A spectacular place to enjoy such lovely local cuisine.
After lunch I travelled to Goreme Open Air Museum where I would learn more about the historic people who used to live in the cave dwellings of this region. I was surprised how much history and differing landscape could be packed in to one area.
As I entered the museum, the dramatic spires of the landscape were clearly visible, giving an otherworldly view. The Goreme Open Air Museum stands right in the heart of the Cappadocia region and has been a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List for over thirty years. It was the first of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Turkey. The museum has thirteen different cave churches, and associated monasteries, all placed side by side to each other. Most of these churches were built between the 10th and 12th centuries AD.
The monasteries are entirely based in the caves, but they had everything needed to live, work and worship there. I was fascinated to find that the churches and their associated living areas had everything carved for them right out of the rock. Everything from tables and chairs, to shelves and storage, to alters for praying – it was all carved out of the natural stone by hand.
Life always finds a way. This little bird had built its nest on the side of the rock face by picking up mud with its beak and sticking it to the rock. Can you imagine how many hours it must have taken for this cute bird to build a nest for its baby, one small mouthful at a time? Her baby must have been very hungry because I could hear it chirping loudly as mum flew backwards and forwards to the nest. How fascinating for humans to be living in the natural rock and for birds to be building their own structures on top of the rocks.
The murals in the churches were well preserved and many are undergoing restoration, to ensure that this amazing history is not lost to weather and time. It must have taken so much time to create these patterns and images on the bare rock.
The churches found at Goreme Open Air Museum represent some of the earliest examples of Christian churches, with some dating back as far as the 10th Century AD. This region of Turkey was one of the first areas of the world to strongly adopt Christianity and the inhabitants were persecuted for their beliefs for many years.
You can see that they created church like windows from the rock too! I was in a silly mood so I just had to take this silly picture with my head sticking out the top window.
Here’s an amazing example of the ingenuity of the early people who lived here. They created many different rooms for different purposes. Some for storage, some for sleeping and some for sanitation. They carved out of the rock all of the things they needed. Even more amazing, because these cave dwellings are deep inside the natural rock, the air temperature stays the same all year round. Because the Cappadocia region can get up to forty degrees centigrade in the summer but can also get snow in the winter, this natural temperate inside the rock is important. The people who used to live here could survive the very hot summer or very cold winter without discomfort because the living areas in their caves would always stay the same temperature.
Because of the natural rock pillars, some of the monasteries rise up to seven stories high. I was disappointed to find that you couldn’t visit the highest floors but for safety reasons only certain areas of the museum are still accessible.
Check out the video!
I am so glad you could explore this hidden world with me. My favourite part had to be the beautiful Kelebek Cave Hotel because I felt like I was living inside a spire from a fairy tale. My little cat friend coming to share his warmth with me just made the experience seem all the more magical. Walking around the winding paths and seeing the different shaped caves, doors and windows made me feel like I had gone back in time. Can't wait to share my next travel experience with you all soon.
Don't forget to upvote if you liked the post, follow me for more travel blogs and leave a comment to let me know what you think!