The name Cappadocia, derived from the ancient Hittite word ‘Katpatuka’, is commonly believed to mean ‘Land of the Beautiful Horses’.
During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Cappadocia became a refuge for early Christians and, from the 4th to the 11th century, Christianity flourished here. The Christians built churches, monasteries and underground cities.
Today, the region is best known for its amazing geological rock formations known as fairy chimneys:
On my first day, I went to the Göreme Open-Air Museum. You can visit there an interesting legacy of rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries. It is a common feature throughout the Silk Road to find caves with religious motifs, but these are Christian instead of Buddhist, as found further East along the route.
Another interesting feature of Cappadocia are its underground cities. Yes, that´s right! These are not family caves or monasteries, they are fully-fledged cities built underground. There are 37 cities open and many more not excavated, some of them hosted up to 10,000 people. The Christians built those cities to hide and defend themselves from Persian and Arabic armies, who would set off to vanquish the Christians during the 6th and 7th centuries. It is interesting to visit those cities and appreciate its massive scale and many passages. But I can´t imagine actually living in such a closed space for months, its inhabitants must not have suffered from claustrophobia!! 🙂
Even the hostels and hotels in Cappadocia are usually carved in rock, so that you can actually sleep in a cave. Btw, they are always called “sth Cave Hotel”.
It is very popular among tourists in Cappadocia to take an hour trip in a hot-air balloon, from where you can see the beautiful sunrise over Cappadocia. That kind of activity clearly falls out of my budget and I didn´t have a particular interest in trying, but most people told me it was an overwhelming experience.
Instead, I went trekking through the many valleys in Cappadocia, and of course I kept finding more and more fairy chimneys and more and more caves. And, to recover from the effort, döner kebab after döner kebab, as usual in Turkey.