Underground cities, cave houses and fairy chimneys… Cappadocia has it all. Manas and Anu explore this magical land in central Turkey which bears a somber message for humanity.
Turkey is a vast land and we wanted to see as much of this rugged beautiful country as possible within the 30 days that our visa was valid for. So we decided to ride a circle around Turkey- even though it meant that we would have to ride long distances, brave the elements and contend with the erratic traffic… and a very sore butt from staying long hours on the saddle. The ride to Cappadocia was exactly that- one where the resilience of my backside was tested to the limit over the 750+ kilometres of tarmac but it was worth every bit and more.
The Last Long Miles
It was late, almost 9.00pm when we climbed up the last hill. The sun had long since set in the western sky and even the dull-pink hue of the evening sky had been painted over by the black of the night. The road was narrow, the climb was steep and the yellow light of my headlamps revealed a countryside that was mostly barren with bald formations and little or no vegetation. We were hungry, tired and saddle sore- and all I really wanted to do was to reach our destination and get some sleep.
I looked at my GPS again: it seemed that we were stuck on “4 kilometres to destination” for the longest period of time! As I laboured up the mountain terrain, there seemed no sign of any human habitation- and I was beginning to wonder if the GPS was going crazy again. This would not be the first time it misbehaved, during the trip.
Lost in the doubts and thoughts, I finally reached the zenith of the mountain… and what did I see? Down below me, was a land bathed in darkness. And in a small corner of this dark canvas, just at the base of these hills stood a patch of human habitation bathed in the yellow of the street lights. But it was not your regular city with homes. This was a place that seemed to be sketched straight out of a child’s drawing book. Firstly, the spread was wrong- the entire landscape was black and everything seemed huddled into one tiny corner. Secondly the proportions- the hills were tall and spindly and from our vantage point they looked so thin and narrow… like sharpened pencils stacked together under the yellow street lamps. There were houses too- shanties and concrete constructions that seemed to weave in the spaces between the rock cones… the net effect was comical just as much as it was fantastic.
I must admit- this was just as unexpected a sight as seeing Santa in the middle of the desert in May. Anu and I looked at each other… our tiredness and battle fatigue had completely worn off- it was replaced by pounding hearts and utter stupefaction at such an unexpected spectacle.
Dosti in Wonderland
A few minutes later we were passing through these gawky stone structures and weaved our way through the tiny lanes, taking-in the mouth-watering aromas of kebaps, pilaf and kofte as we passed the local eateries. We meandered through Nevsehir, while the GPS struggled for over 45 minutes and finally got us to our destination: The Fairy Chimney Cave Suites run by Yuksel and his brother Abdulla.
Exotic Ballooning Experiences
The topography of Cappadocia makes for one of the most exotic ballooning experiences- and we planned to have our first glimpse of this city from up above. But ballooning is a technical topic- it requires skilled pilots and also quality equipment to ensure complete safety. Any mistake and your life could be in jeopardy… we were not taking any chances of course! And so, the next morning, while the blanket of darkness still covered the night sky, we got into a car and headed for the office of Butterfly Balloons- our research had indicated that these were the best operators by far.
A short brief over warm tea, we drove a distance in the dark pre-dawn where the gigantic balloons were getting readied for take-off. There were massive burners throwing jets of fire and it was truly a sight as all around us the humongous balloons lifted off silently into the pre-sawn of the Cappadocia horizon.
Up, Up and Away!
Soon we were floating up- higher and higher the balloon rose as shades of indigo gave way to a purple and then the sky turned pink. And there, hovering silently above the moonscape of Cappadocia, we watched the sun poke its head out of the far eastern horizon. As the light spread, it opened below us incredible panoramas- the rose valley, the deverent valley, parts of the underground city of the Cappadocia region. And thus suspended from a floating balloon we looked down below: the canyons and ravines whispered their stories, the mystic rock formations and the fairy chimneys basked under the morning sun and in the little hamlets, people arose to another brand new day. The land whispered a thousand stories while the sky was dotted with balloons- more than the eyes could count. It was a morning that will remain as one of my most spectacular memories of Turkey.
Over the next few days as we became more intimate with Cappadocia, I learnt that this land has a history just as remarkable as its landscape. Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions created this surreal landscape: it formed a cover of hard rock on top of the soft tufa. Over time, wind and rain sculpted the land into deep valleys and magnificent conical fairy chimneys. The early inhabitants of Cappadocia chiselled the underlying soft rock, and created the fantastic cave-dwelling structures. Throughout human history and especially during medieval times, Cappadocia offered a refuge for persecuted races- during the medieval times, Byzantine Christians enlarged the underground dwellings to carve out deep underground cities where they lived almost disconnected from rest of humanity for over a century.
Whispers from the past
Cappadocia is a declared a UNESCO world heritage site today- but throughout my days at this mesmerizing city, I felt that there is a much bigger lesson for all to learn from the land. The ancient relics of Cappadocia warn us all about the historical mistakes of man- greed, dogmatism, persecution and domination over fellow humans. These have driven people into hiding since the beginning of mankind- are we much different today?
The past holds a mirror for us… if only we have the eyes to see…