Fantasy Fairyland of Cappadocia
Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
7Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Scott and I welcomed the chance to better document the first part of the trail and, as soon as the group had checked into the lodge we’d call home for the next three nights, we hopped back on the bus and drove to the trailhead in nearby Red Valley. It was getting late, the sky was threatening, and dark would soon be upon us. Still, the panoramas were magical; I’d forgotten how mesmerizing the Cappadocia volcanic tufa landscapes could be, and was once again enchanted with the fantastic formations and colors, painted in hues of yellow, red, white, and brown, according to the temperature of the eruption that birthed them, and the mineral content of the lava flow.
We found no problems on the trail, but as we returned to the bus, a driving wind pelted us with drops of rain and grains of tufa sand. As we climbed out of the valley onto the plateau where the bus awaited, the sun broke through in the west and provided a strange and beautiful badlands sunset.
We spent the next two days exploring the region, a task we could have easily expanded to a week. Still, in the past two days we’ve:
- walked the Red Valley, where walkers got their first taste of the wonders of the Cappadocian landscape;
- explored remote Soganli Valley in the south, where we entered our first rock churches, tiny chapels carved out of the soft tufa rock 1000 years ago and adorned with frescos blackened by the years yet still vibrant in their message, and where local women hawked homemade dolls and handicrafts;
- visited the underground city of Kamalki where, deep below the surface, centuries of local Christian communities took refuge from marauding Arabs during the era following the genesis of Islam, then again from Seljuk Turks in the late middle ages;
- been tempted by the showmanship of Turkish carpet salesmen, unfurling their colorful carpets before us with a flair and a flourish;
- enjoyed crystal clear skies on an early morning hot air balloon ride through the Cappadocian countryside;
- trekked through Pigeon Valley, a more challenging, but even more beautiful fairyland of fantastic formations, some dripping like over the edges of a stone layer cake;
- paid our respects at the Goreme Open Air Museum, a collection of about 30 rock churches from around the 12th century, decorated with late-Byzantine era frescoes even more vibrant than in Soganli;
- been delighted by a bonus walk offered by Bihter through Sword Valley – afternoon light illuminated this fantasyland of rock towers and made us wonder what other delights lay awaiting us in Cappadocia’s remaining valleys;
- attended a solemn, swirling performance of the whirling dervishes in a 14th century caravanserai (Silk Road rest station).
What is Turkey? Is it Asian or European? Will it remain an Islamic Republic or an autocracy or theocracy? Is it secular or Islamic, or can both world-views coexist in harmony? Will it succeed as bridge between the Islamic Middle East and the post-Christian West? Can it sustain its robust economic growth while dependent on outside sources for its fuel?
And what else remains for us to explore in this amazing cradle of civilizations – perhaps a walking adventure to eastern Turkey and the Black Sea is in the works?!