Cappadocia, Turkey

Kapadokya, Türkiye (a.k.a. Cappadocia, Turkey) is most often associated with hot-air balloons and fairy chimneys. While this is a fine claim to fame, there is more to the Turkish heartland.



At the end of the Persian empire, this central Anatolian region became its own kingdom; and after its royal dynasty declined, it became a Roman (more specifically, Byzantine) province; and after that, a part of the Ottoman Empire. Amidst Kapadokya’s political evolution, camouflaged cities sprung up to provide religious asylum –primarily for Christians– in the mountainside and underground.

So what does the underground look like? Low ceilings and narrow tunnels. Dark passages and air shafts that seem bottomless. Pottery shelves that might resemble modern-day urinals, but are actually meant to hold ceramics for everyday food and wine.



A mountainside refuge is slightly more comfortable than living underground, but it’s also more vulnerable to attack. This is part of the Göreme Open Air Museum (it’s more historical landmark than museum).



Present-day Cappadocia incorporates its old with its new. Although not pictured here, the area is experiencing a boom of cave hotels, which are really more like bed & (yummy kahvaltı) breakfasts built into the mountainside – novel, and yet, authentic.



Of course there are the fairy chimneys: soft volcanic rock formations sculpted by the elements.



Then there are the artisans. In the mountains of Anatolia, the very rare –so rare it’s only found in Turkey– Zultanite (you guessed it: the name stems from “Sultan”) is mined by hand. The mineral, when polished into gemstones, is valued for its color-changing properties when exposed to various sources of light. In this region, you’ll naturally find a few Zultanite shops. There are also pottery makers. Two-time Guinness Word Record awardee Galip Körükçü calls Kapadokya home, and his local shop houses and educates on fine ceramics. In locally crafted wares, you’ll find brilliant splashes of color to contrast nature’s earthy shades of ubiquitous rock.



Watching a craftsman paint a design, I suddenly find I am the vessel being painted: on my arm, there is now a fish for good luck.



Good luck indeed, because, shortly thereafter, Galip himself gifts me with an autographed trinket. It’s insignificant, but greatly appreciated. And shortly after that, I meet the polyglot I aspire to become. Meet Yusuf (Turkish for Joseph). He speaks nine (nine!) languages – not dabbles, not knows a few phrases for travel convenience, but actually speaks. Fluently. I know this because we communicated in a hodgepodge of languages, starting in Spanish, briefly switching to English, and conversing predominantly in Italian…all the while sprinkling in some Turkish, German, French, Russian, Portuguese, and –surprise!– Japanese. (Turkish syntax is more Japanese than English. You know, in case you were interested.)



Let’s not forget about heritage. Whirling dervishes, traditional dances, and belly dancing. And, well, an example of what happens when you’re pulled up to dance. Yes, it can be a little tourist-y, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.



In case you’ve already forgotten about the rock formations, here’s one final reminder from Devrent Valley. See the animals? The camel is probably the easiest to spot. How many other shapes you can identify? Use your imagination (because this is also called Imagination Valley). As with most everything around here, these are all natural rock formations.



Here’s to expanding horizons in 2016,