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Cappadocia situated in central Turkey, is a remarkable destination distinguished by its lunar-like landscapes, underground cities, mushroom-shaped rock formations, rock-carved houses, and cave churches. It spans across the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri, and Kirsehir in central Anatolia, nestled between the Taurus Mountains and the Black Sea region. The name “Cappadocia” originates from the Persian term meaning “the land of beautiful horses” and dates back to the 6th century BC. According to Herodotus, the Persians referred to the locals as “Cappadocians,” while the Greeks called them “White Syrians” or simply “Syrians.” Biblical sources also make mention of this region.

The extraordinary terrain of Cappadocia, shaped by natural forces like wind, rain, and floods over time, has transformed into the breathtaking and enchanting landscape we witness today. The tuff, a volcanic rock, eroded by water and wind, has given rise to the iconic mushroom-shaped rock formations known as fairy chimneys.

During prehistoric times, the inhabitants of Cappadocia sought refuge in underground cities to protect themselves from wildlife and harsh weather conditions. While numerous underground cities exist in Cappadocia, the largest among them is the Derinkuyu underground city. These cities were interconnected chambers, often accessible through narrow tunnels allowing passage for only one person. Massive stone rollers secured the entrances.

Throughout its history, Cappadocia has been home to Assyrians, Hittites, Phrygians, Persians, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans. The Assyrians were the initial settlers who established trade colonies in the area. We gain insights into the social and political environment of ancient Cappadocia through the Assyrian Cappadocian Tablets, inscribed in the cuneiform script. Subsequently, Cappadocia became a significant part of the Hittite Empire, followed by the rule of the Phrygians, Persians, and Romans.

In the 2nd century AD, the first Christians sought refuge in Cappadocia to escape persecution by the Roman Empire. They formed a vibrant Christian community, and notable figures like Saint Basil from Kaisera, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus settled in the region. These early Christians discovered the underground cities and used them as hiding places from Roman soldiers. They expanded these underground spaces, creating provisions rooms, ventilation chimneys, wine production areas, churches, abbeys, water wells, toilets, and meeting rooms.

Cappadocia experienced Arab invasions in 647 AD and later became part of the Seljuk Empire in 1072. In 1399, it came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Yildirim Beyazit.

Notable Sites in Cappadocia:

1. Goreme: Situated among the fairy chimneys, Goreme has been referred to by various names throughout history, including Korama, Matiana, Maccan, and Machan. It was initially established during the Roman period and showcases both Roman and Christian historical influences. The area is designated as “Goreme National Park” and was inscribed asย a “UNESCO World Heritage Site” in 1985. The rock churches are among the most significant historical remnants in Goreme. While there are numerous small churches, some of the notable ones include Durmus Kadir Church, Yusuf Koc Church, El Nazar Church, Virgin Mary Church, Tokali Church, The Elmali Church, Saint Barbara Church, Yilanli Church, Karanlik Church, Sakli Church, and Carikli Church.

2. Uchisar: Renowned for its castle, Uchisar occupies a central position in Cappadocia. It overlooks Goreme and the fairy chimneys. The village boasts chambers, houses, shelters, storerooms, cisterns, tombs, and cellars carved into the rocks. Uchisar Castle, strategically located where both Mount Erciyes and Mount Hasan can be seen, once served as a control point on the Royal Road during the Persian period and the Silk Road during the Seljuk era. It functioned both as a watchtower and a defensive fortress. Other rock-carved castles can also be found in the area.

3. Urgup: As the largest town in the Cappadocia region, Urgup serves as a prominent tourist hub. It showcases numerous houses and cellars carved into the rocks, along with remnants from Assyrian, Hittite, and Persian civilizations. Urgup offers a vibrant atmosphere with its range of hotels, nightlife, and activities. Moreover, it holds significance in wine production, making it worthwhile to visit a wine cellar and taste some of Turkey’s finest wines.

4. Devrent Valley: Unlike other areas in Cappadocia, Devrent Valley has never been inhabited. Its uniqueness lies in its moon-like landscape, earning it names like “Imaginary Valley” or “Pink Valley.” The valley is characterized by fairy chimneys with intriguing shapes, some resembling animals or specific objects. One remarkable rock even bears a resemblance to the Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ. Exploring Devrent Valley invites visitors to let their imagination run wild, providing an unforgettable experience.

5. Pasabag: Situated between Goreme and Avanos, on the road to Zelve, Pasabag is often referred to as “Monks Valley” due to its cone-shaped rock formations. The area also housed the hermitage of the Simeon monks. These Cappadocian hermits lived in seclusion, carving dwellings into fairy chimneys and residing there to detach themselves from the outside world. Pasabag stands out with mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys, some adorned with two or even three rock caps, making it one of the most visually captivating locations in Cappadocia.

6. Avanos: Serving as the capital of Nevsehir province, Avanos is geographically separated from the rest of Cappadocia by the Kizilirmak River, the longest river in Turkey. Its ancient name was Venessa, and Avanos is renowned for its earthenware pottery-making tradition, which dates back to the time of the Hittites. The town’s ceramic trade and pottery factories utilize the red silt from the Kizilirmak River, resulting in a wide range of pottery products, from ashtrays and mugs to ornate plates and flower pots. Exploring Avanos allows visitors to witness the rich heritage of pottery-making in the region.

These are just a few of the remarkable sites to explore in Cappadocia. Each location offers its unique charm and historical significance, contributing to the captivating allure of this extraordinary region. In conclusion, Cappadocia stands as a testament to the wonders of nature and human ingenuity. Its lunar-like landscapes, underground cities, mushroom-shaped rock formations, and cave churches create an otherworldly atmosphere that leaves visitors in awe. Steeped in history, this region has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, from the Assyrians to the Ottomans, and has served as a refuge for early Christians escaping persecution. Today, Cappadocia remains a captivating destination, inviting travelers to explore its hidden treasures, immerse themselves in its rich cultural heritage, and marvel at the extraordinary landscapes that make it a true marvel of the world. A journey to Cappadocia is not only a feast for the eyes but also a spiritual and historical odyssey that will leave an indelible mark on every traveler fortunate enough to experience its enchanting allure.

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