An ancient region in central AnatoliaSituation and TopographyCappadocia, named after the Cappadocians who settled here ca. 700 B.C., is generally regarded as the plains and the mountainous region of eastern central Anatolia around the upper and middle reaches of the River K›z›l›rmak.
It was here that several ancient highways crossed and different cultures came into contact with each other. It was also the land of the Hittites. The sparsely inhabited landscape of Cappadocia is characterized by red sandstone and salt deposits of the Miocene (Tertiary) period. But the high plains of Bozok Yaylas, the karst regions of Sivas and the pastures of Uzun Yayla are also regarded as Cappadocia. However, the relatively small areas of fertile soil on volcanic tuff is where the population tends to concentrate. This southern part of Cappadocia, the more densely populated, is often spoken of as the heart of the region and yet it lies in the extreme southwestern corner. As well as cereals, Cappadocia is best known for potatoes and fruit.The origins of this unusual region can be traced to the Tertiary period some 50 million years ago, when craters and chimneys dominated the landscape. Since then, huge quantities of volcanic material have spewed out of the many volcanoes. Forces of erosion have shaped the incredible and unique Cappadocian tuff-coned landscape. For hundreds of years, men and women have dug into the soft but firm tuff to create dwellings, monasteries, churches, even whole troglodyte villages. Ürgüp, Nevsehir and the surrounding area are the main tourist centers.HistoryThe history of Cappadocia began in prehistoric times. Hatti culture held sway during the Bronze Age and in about the second millennium B.C., the Hittites settled in the region. Soon the Assyrians had established their trading posts. Phrygians probably ruled Cappadocia from 1250 B.C., but the Lydians were expelled by the middle of the sixth century B.C. In A.D. 17 the region became a Roman province, trade and military routes were built and urban centers and settlements were encouraged. As Asia Minor came under Christian influence, the first Christian communities appeared in Cappadocia and those persecuted for their religious beliefs elsewhere sought refuge in the region. Cappadocia thus became a melting pot of a variety of ethnic groups, all of which have influenced the culture and religious beliefs. Basilius the Great (329-379) bishop of Caesarea (Kayseri) inspired many religious colonies and for a thousand years an active monastic way of life endured throughout Cappadocia. Invasions first from Turkmenistan and Mongolia and then from Turkey put an end to the movement.The national park and rock sites were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
The small town of Avanos on the River Kizilirmak about 13km/8mi northwest of Ürgüp is said to be of Seljuk origin. It is well known for its pottery, polished onyx and carpet-making. About 7km/4mi to the east on the southern bank of the Kizilirmak are the remains of Sarihan, a Seljuk caravanserai made of yellow tuff dating from the 13th century it has a magnificent gate.
To the west of Derinkuyu near a Byzantine church are numerous cave dwellings, some of which are linked by underground passages with Derinkuyu monastery. Rooms with twelve columns and twelve sculptures were dedicated to the apostles.
60m/65ft walls of tuff in the village of Çavusin, about 13km/8mi north of Ürgüp, conceal numerous cave dwellings. The fifth century St John's Church with a famous pillared facade (now collapsed) is worth seeking out. The Güvercin Kilisesi Church at the northern end of the village displays some preserved greenish and red-brown frescoes. Many other sacred caves are now used as pigeon lofts. A short distance from the village in the nearby valleys, a number of simple flat-roofed chapels can be seen. The best-known is the Haçili Kilise (Church of the Cross) in the Kizilçukur Deresi valley. The 10th century paintings (Jesus and the four Evangelists) and a large cross in relief are particularly interesting. The Üzümlü Kilise (Church of the Grapes) in the same valley wasdedicated to the pillar-saint Niketas. On the ceiling at Üç Haçili Kilise in Güllüdere valley, three crosses in relief with floral decorations can be seen.
One of Cappadocia's most interesting troglodyte villages is to be found below the town of Derinkuyu. It probably dates from Hittite times, but evidence from the excavations (e.g. double millstones made of granite) have revealed that the Hittites only used the top story. So far eight levels have been discovered with dwellings, store-rooms, chapels and parts of monasteries, which can be blocked off with stones resembling millstones. The man-made caves are grouped around an 85m/280ft shaft with a cleverly-devised ventilation system comprising 52 vents. The shafts also served as wells.Cross-section of the underground cityThe underground refuge developed from Roman times to a city 55m/180ft deep and with a total surface area of 4sq.km/1.5sq.mi. Derinkuyu was attacked by Arabs on three occasions. Only the top three levels were used as living accommodation. The lower levels were for emergencies and consisted of chapels and storage areas. Every house had its own kitchen, bedroom, dining room, toilet, weapons store and water cistern (up to 30,000liters/6,600gallons), store-rooms and stables. Long underground passages linked the city with other troglodyte communities in the region. The 9km/5.5mi passage to Kaymakli allows three people to walk together upright. Unfortunately, the air vents have collapsed and this section is no longer accessible.An underground monastery at Derinkuyu, which was also used as a psychiatric hospital at the same time, was restored by Ayasozori and Ayanaryeros. The network of rooms contains workshops, holy water containers, medicine chests and a room where the mentally ill were treated (probably with strait-jackets).At the center of the complex lies a chapel, constructed of basalt and which is used today as a mosque. It dates from the 16th or 17th century and contains paintings of Jesus, Mary, angels and saints. Another chapel with a handsome bell-tower houses some notable wooden carvings with some interesting pillars by the entrance.
The famous rock churches of Göreme (or Koroma under Byzantium) lie adjacent to the village of Göreme (formerly Avcilar). Countless rock churches and monasteries can be found within a small area. The frescoes have been badly defaced, as until 1964 the chapels were not supervised and the value of the frescoes was not appreciated. A well-signed round tour now covers the various sights.
Göreme - Church of the Buckle
Outside the complex stands the Tokali Kilise (Church of the Buckle), the largest church in Göreme, which was restored during the 1960s. Of particular interest are the main nave with barrel arcading ninth century frescoes in a simple, "provincial" style, the more recent transept with three apses and 11th century frescoes in "metropolitan" style. The frescoes of the twelve apostles, the saints and scenes from the life of Jesus (963-969 and 11th century respectively) are also noteworthy. There is a crypt underneath the nave.
Göreme - Church with the Apple
The Elmali Kilise (Church with the Apple) is the smallest of the cruciform-domed churches in Göreme (temporarily closed for restoration). It contains some early 11th century frescoes showing the prophets, saints and scenes from the life of Jesus, including Jesus and the world.
Göreme - Barbara Church
In the Barbara Kilise (Barbara Church), it is possible to discern St Barbara alongside Jesus and various other ecclesiastical dignitaries on the preserved ochre frescoes. These frescoes date from the time after the disputes over Iconoclasm.In the Yilanli Kilise (Serpent Church), the Byzantine Emperor Constantine and his wife Helena can be identified and also St George and St Theodore's struggle with the dragon. The legendary figure of Onophirios, a beautiful woman is also interesting. She pleaded with God to protect her from men's advances and her wish was fulfillled. She grew a beard and her beautiful face was disfigured. The fresco shows a half man/half woman figure.
Göreme - Dark Church
Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church) forms a part of the monastery and includes a refectory with a double apse and a table and chairs carved from the stone. The 11th century cruciform dome is borne by four pillars and ranks among the finest in the Göreme valley. The walls and dome are adorned with scenes from the Bible.
Göreme - Sandal Church
The name Carikli Kilise (Sandal Church) derives from the footprint at the bottom of the Ascension fresco, said to be an exact replica of the same feature in the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem. The four Evangelists, the nativity and the crucifixion can be identified on the fresco.
Half of the village of Göreme itself consists of cave dwellings. It is here that three deep valleys lined with tuff chimneys meet. In the El Nazar ravine stand the El Nazar Kilisesi, a chapel now badly damaged after an earthquake and the Sakli Kilise (Hidden Church) with a nave and three apses. The latter houses some 12th century frescoes depicting Mary and the life of Jesus. In the 12th century monks from Göreme withdrew here when they were unable to find suitable premises.
In the Kiliclar valley stands Kiliclar Kilisesi (Church of the Sword), where some splendid frescoes from the 10th/11th century may be seen.
The regional center of Gülsehir 20km/13mi north of Nevsehir was known in Hittite times as Zoropassos. The town's modern name derives from its popular rose water (Gülsehir = Rose Town). Well worth a visit is the 17th century Ottoman complex known as Kursunlu Külliyesi. It consists of a mosque, medrese (theological college), hamam (Turkish bath), library and a number of fountains.To the south of the town lies Acik Sarayi (Open Palace), a multi-story underground monastery. Instead of frescoes, relief designs are the usual form of decoration. Directly adjacent stand two churches, one on top of the other. The upper church Karsi Kilise has some smoke-darkened 13th century frescoes, while below is a small cruciform church.
The small town of Hacibektas, some 50km/31mi from Nevsehir was the birthplace of Haci Bektas Vali, founder of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes. The famous or perhaps notorious janissaries also belonged to this order which combined Shiite, Sunni and Christian values. After 1923 the order was viewed with suspicion, but the founder's mausoleum and monastery are still visited by pilgrims.
30km/19mi east of Ürgüp in the regional center of Incesu stands the Kara Pasa Külliyesi, a remarkable complex founded by the general Kara Mustafa. Intended as a caravanserai, it comprised a large barracks, a bath, a mosque and a road with a row of shops which is still in use. A number of small stone buildings surround the town and are known as hancik or small caravanserais.
Kaymakli is situated about 20km/13mi south of Nevsehir and, like Derinkuyu, stands above an interesting underground city. Discovered in 1964, four levels are open to the public. Here as in most of the other cave dwellings, rooms and passages are kept separate and are equipped with a ventilation system, living quarters, store-rooms and water cisterns. Communication between the living quarters was via a system of small holes in the walls. Above the underground city, some simple graves were recently uncovered on a hill.
In the Bagirsakderesi valley around the village of Maziköy many cave churches and chapels have been found together with their tombstones built into the high rock walls. Their facades are adorned with pillars and gables. One rock chapel to the south of the village is well preserved. A variety of different cross motifs which are repeated on the walls can be seen on one of the load- bearing central pillars. Another underground settlement has been discovered near Mazi.
Until 1923 the village of Mustafapasa was inhabited only by Greeks and so most of the frescoes are Greek. All the old houses have balconies and window ledges carved from local tuff. Most of the homes contain frescoes which date from before this period. They depict modern themes and some are well worth inspecting. Beyond the village in Beydere is the Basileios Church, which is noted for its relief carvings. According to an inscription, the decorations date from between 726 and 780, but the paintings are 19th century The three apse crosses represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
About 50km/32mi southwest of Nevsehir in a valley near the village of Sofular lies Nar Gölü (Pomegranate Lake), a small lake with a water level some 70m/230ft below the surrounding hills. To the east and south of the lake, water from hot springs is used in the treatment of rheumatism. Numerous rock chapels can be found around the lake, many of which were until recently inaccessible. Their frescoes have become darkened by the shepherds' fires.
The history of the modern provincial center of Nevsehir stretches back into the prehistoric era. The town grew in stature when Ibrahim Pasa was the Grand Vizier between 1718 and 1730. He moved his garrison here from Nigde and Yesilhisar, renamed the town Nevsehir (New Town) and set about building caravanserais, baths, medrese and the Kursunlu Külliye (1726) with a mosque, hospital, medrese and library. In 1967, the latter became a museum with archeological and ethnographical exhibits, including manuscripts. The village became a town and the Grand Vizier protected it with a castle. In 1954 Nevsehir became the provincial capital.
The tiny village of Ortahisar some 10km/6mi west of Ürgüp lies at the foot of weird pock-marked tuff walls from which countless cave dwellings have been carved. An underground passage supposedly runs to the northeast to the Isa Kalesi fortified rock. Some of the churches in the village were used as barns but the walls are richly decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testament. Many of the caves are used as intermediate stores for lemons. About 1km/0.5mi from the town is the unspoiled Halas Deresi valley with its rock churches and a monastery for Armenian Christians.
The chapel in Ortaköy some 35km/22mi south of Ürgüp near Güzelöz dates from the sixth century and contains paintings from 1293. The chapel is regarded as St George's local church.
47km/30mi south of Ürgüp and 20km/13mi west of Yesilhisar nestles the blind valley of Soganli, cut deep into the tuff. The area is famous for its brightly colored, hand-made rag dolls which can be seen on sale all over Cappadocia. When in the eighth century the Arab general Battal Gazi finally conquered this remote valley, he gave it the name Sonakaldi, or "left until last". Large numbers of old dovecotes are to be found in the steep rock walls, many of which belonged to the monasteries. 150 churches have been discovered here, but most of them are now reduced to ruins. The churches, some with fine frescoes, are a particular feature of this valley and have been carved out of the tuff chimneys.
Üçhisar is situated 13km/8mi west of Ürgüp and is dominated by a fortified rock, from which many cave dwellings have been carved. The top of the rock affords a fine view of the valley, while to the east of the village Iceri Dere offers an impressive view down to Göreme. Many of the old houses in the village still display beautifully sculptured facades but they are increasingly falling into disrepair as the local people move into purpose-built housing.
Viewed from the east, the regional center of Ürgüp resembles any one of the old troglodyte communities. Surmounting the tall cave-riddled fortified rock was the 13th century Seljuk fortress Kadi Kalesi, but it was destroyed in 1954 by a rock fall. As Osiana, a bishop's see, the town enjoyed prosperity in the 10th and 11th century but no ancient church remains can be seen in the town. There are, however, many attractive old houses on the slopes at the edge of the town, but their residents have moved to the less attractive modern accommodation. Relics from the Seljuk times include the Karamanoglu Camii (early 13th century), the Alti Kapi Türbesi, a tomb built by a Seljuk prince for his wife and children and the Nukrettin Mausoleum (1286) for Kiliç Arslan's daughter, which is still a place of pilgrimage. On the same hill stands the Tashin Aga Kütüphanesi, a library endowed in the 19th century by one of Ürgüp's rich citizens. The books were transported into the outlying settlements on the back of a donkey. In the garden of the Karamanoglu Camii stands the tomb of Sheikh ul-Islam Hayri Efendi, father of a former Turkish Prime Minister S. H. Urgüplü. Ürgüp, whose name derives from "ur kup" meaning "many rocks" has become a typical holiday center with shops and tourist hotels. The oldest hotel in Cappadocia can be found in Ürgüp. Fruit growing plays an important part in the local economy. Situated to the west of the town are the famous rock pyramids of Ürgüp (fine view).
About 15km/9.5mi northwest of Ürgüp between Göreme and Avanos a road leads westwards to the small village of Zelve set in a remote hollow. Two tiny valleys with steep rock sides shelter countless cave dwellings and monasteries. As the valley was and still is threatened by rock falls, the cave-dwellers were moved to a new settlement. The rock mosque with a simple prayer recess and also an interesting minaret made of tuff (formerly the bell-tower) marks the site of the old settlement. One well-known sight is the ruined Üzümlü Kilise, a basilica which dates from the pre-iconoclastic period and contains some interesting grape decorations. Just outside the village is the Valley of the Monks with the classically beautiful tuff pyramids. Simeon's Chimney with its three "protected" tips is probably the best known. A road leads from here through the Kizil Wadi (Rock Pyramid) valley to Ürgüp.