Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Layers in Cappadocia

Cappadocia is all about layers. Layers of rock and layers of history stretching back thousands of years. The region is known for its striking landscape and the people who made their homes under ground and within the rock faces and fairy chimineys.

Dueling volcanos many miles apart laid different types of sediment and rock over the millenia, with the hardest, the basalt, on top. Erosion of the softer stone underneath creates, in places, conical towers or even formations that look like columns with a basalt cap protecting the softer"tufa" layer underneath from the rain. Just about everywhere you turn, the cliff faces look like a swiss cheese of holes, some rectangular, some rounded. In towns, some of the dug-out places are still in use. Often, a later layer of civilization is evidenced by cut stone buildings in ruins that blend forward to concrete and contemporary buildings that could be in a city or suburb.

Let's go back to the Hittites, some 4,000 years ago, who built an underground city instead of a fortress. After the Hittites, left, others found the two-level deep development and expanded it to seven levels. Need a shelf? Carve one out of the wall. Need a place to make wine? Dig a shaft to drop grapes from ground level, dig out a crushing bin with a hole leading to a collecting area for the juice. Want communication? Dig out tubes to shout down.

Goreme is the big tourist cite for cave dwelling, mostly because there's a concentration of ancient churches dug out of the hillsides. The painted depictions of crosses, Jesus, St. Gabriel and others can still be seen. But, the "open air museum" is a bit too much, with tour busses dumping loads of international visitors.

Even along a river walk, we stopped to look into a dug out little church.

More impressive to me than Goreme was a cave monestary at Selime. The kitchen had this huge room a high ceiling tapered to a chimney to exhaust the smoke. Also carved in the kitchen (and in many places around the area) are "pigeon houses." Gotta love it. People valued pigeons for communication, fertilizer and as a food source. Maybe if people in cities developed better recipes for squab, they could get rid of their pigeon problems.

More photos here.

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