Cappadocia, Turkey Hot
Cappadocia is located in the heart of central Anatolia, a historic region of Turkey that has been home to humanity as far back in history as 322BC. Walking into Cappadocia is like walking into a living history book - a slumbering, ancient community built into the natural hulking rock formations across the landscape.
Cappadocia is a sobering reminder of humanity's smallness and oldness. The nooks and crannies of primitive rock dwellings, the stunningly preserved frescoes of Goreme's ancient churches, even the still rock giants that hulk over the landscape - they all hide open secrets for the curious traveller.
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Turkey's natural beauty
Cappadocia captivated me with its quiet beauty. Unassuming, inobtrusive – yet so naturally breathtaking with its undulating landscapes of rock formations. On a recent school trip to Turkey, we took a flight from Istanbul city to Cappadocia for a short two-day break from city life.
The Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities, two of the largest preserved underground cities some 150 metres below ground were a real treat for my adventurous alter-ego. To avoid detection from invaders, early Christians burrowed deep within the landscape and lived in these sprawling underground cities for up to three months at a time. Replete with wineries, stables, living spaces and even churches, it was mind-blowing to me that these manmade wonders have withstood the test of time. I felt like Alice wandering down the rabbit hole in this maze of interlinking tunnels. Imagine an entire HDB flat, buried underground. Take away the corridors, regular partitions and sunlight – that's how I visualise the entire place now.
Of course, nobody can leave Cappadocia without visiting the Goreme Open Air museum, a UNESCO world heritage site. A reminder of the humble beginnings of Christianity, it is a vast monastic complex with 11 churches hollowed out from rock. I would suggest to head straight to the Dark Church - so named because the entrance is a dark winding tunnel that blocks out sunlight. The additional fee of 8TL (SGD $4.70) is well worth your money as the church is covered from floor to ceiling in stunningly preserved frescoes. My friends and I stood in the centre of the church, heads up, mouths agape as we marvelled at the intense colours of the hand-painted frescoes depicting the birth of Christ. The colours of the frescoes in this particular church are more vivid as sunlight is completely blocked out from the main chamber.
These days, the only people living in caves are tourists staying in one of the many boutique hotels scattered around the sleepy town. I stayed in Temmeni Evi Hotel, a homely inn furnished with traditional Ottoman furniture. If you've ever wondered how it feels like to stay with the Flinstones, look no further. I was filled with child-like wonder as I entered my room – one of 32 uniquely furnished ones. Fashioned much like a LOTR-esque hobbit hole, my home for two days was warm and cosy. Here's a tip – ask the hotel staff to take you into the basement of the hotel where an ancient 150m tunnel lies, burrowed deep into the cliff. The tunnel opens into a space with a panoramic view of the Urgup town and you can even enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner there in secluded privacy.
Cappadocia was, for me, a welcome escape from the chaos of Istanbul's city life. I highly recommend a visit if you're planning a visit to Turkey. My only gripe? The lack of public transport. That means you should probably rent a bus or a car to take you places.