Fairy Chimneys or Penises?
23-24 September 2023
The whole of Asia Minor is built on ancient, fascinating rocks. Those of the Cappadocia region of Turkey are especially so. After a very long day on good roads, I arrive in Mustafapasa, a major city of Cappadocia. I am surrounded by a unique landscape of caves, carved domiciles, and “fairy” images. My lodging for the next three nights is the Old Greek House, a massive stone structure built in 1879.
Fairy Images of Cappadocia
Having visited Göreme and Cappadocia just last October, I am more than happy to return. The entire area is a true natural wonder. I will retrace many of my previous steps through the region’s valleys, parks and UNESCO sites over the next two days. I will not repeat my impressions as not much has changed here for thousands of years. Erosion is slow, history remains unchanged. The road work in Göreme may be done but its chaos has just moved elsewhere. And the towns and sites are CROWDED !
To avoid repetitiveness, my thoughts and impressions are to be found in my October 2022’s blogs:
Cappadocia Rocks and Living Below
Uçhisar’s Pigeon Valley is named for pigeons. Feed them, as the venders do, and flocks will come. Pigeon houses into the rock can. E seen all over tne region, as can pigeons. Pigeons were a symbol of good fortune.
Earthquakes were on my mind when I visited the underground city of Kaymakli. I live in California where we often feel tremors. Since the massive 7.8 earthquake in February, I am even less enthusiastic about moving about a labyrinth of narrow and low tunnels.
The caves served as a hiding place for early Christians from the dreaded Romans. But then, these people were considered heretics by everyone so probably 6 months a year they hid from their enemies within these tunnels.
I did not go up in the hot-air balloon. Been there, done that, just a few months ago in fact. Floating above this region of rocks is an awesome experience. No doubt, when in Cappadocia, enjoying a flight from above ranks among the greatest of experiences to be had. And that is saying a lot, considering all the other incredible experiences available in this region.
Hiking Ihlara and Zelve Valleys
There is a fantastic hike along the river in the Ihlara Valley at Belisırma. We did little of it but instead went to another area where several steps were required to reach the river. High granite cliffs, tree-lined river banks and rushing river waters were highlights. We walked no more than a few yards from Belisırma before enjoying a nice lunch and cold beer along the river in one of the several restaurants spanning the river there.
I also visited the rock formations and cave churches of the monastic settlement of Zelve Valley. The hike is easy at first but to see all three valleys, stairs and climbing is involved. Furthermore, the sun continues to shine in a cloudless sky. Temperatures are around 83° and humidity low. It is still hot and challenging. The community of caves and churches are quite interesting . There may have been upwards of 200 or more monks who resided in the caves of these tufa mountains.
Open Air Museums
The Göreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and a must for experiencing one of the many monastic communities featuring carved churches and some of the best frescoes in Cappadocia. The caves and surroundings have seen inhabitants for centuries. By the 4th century, Christians arrived, fleeing persecution elsewhere. The entry for this large site has been redone with a long boardwalk from the parking lot.
When Romans, Hittites, and other invaders threatened, Christians dug in, so to speak, and carved rooms and tunnels for homes. Superstitious locals saw their twinkling flames and thought they were fairies, thus the origin for the so-called fairy chimneys. The chimneys are a result of centuries of wind and weather erosion on the soft tufa rock and their tops of harder basalt lava rock totter precariously. The Imperial Style frescoes in the 11-12th c. Dark Church are spectacular and very well preserved. The “Sandle Church” is also in the Imperial style with impressive frescoes.
Even more vibrant are the beautiful frescoes in the Tokalı Church (Church of the Buckle). The entry portico is of the 9-10th c. While the vibrant blue interior apse is of the 11-12th c. Entry is a short walk above the new parking lot.
Deviant or Imagination Valley, or the animal zoo, is an interesting stop. Our guide pointed out some sculptured rocks resembling Napoleon’s hat, a penguin, maybe a bird. I think there is a snail but then we Californians have a lot of them. Funny how wind and water sculpt while locals name rocks for us tourists.
Chimneys are everywhere around the valley but one never tires of seeing more. The Paşabağı Fairy Chimneys make for a fascinating landscape of what wind and erosion can create. Each formation is unique. It’s a balancing act. Like the pottery master who uses his wire to cut a pot from the wheel, large balsalt hats are cut from their sandstone base, teetering near oblivion. I was very interest to return and see if any of the chimneys lost their hats. They had not.
Pottery Making with Chez Galip
Found in the pottery making center, Avanos, Master Pottery Maker Chez Galip has been creating pottery and training others for the wheel for many years. While his visage may have been compared to Einstein by the local newspapers, he looked shockingly like my housesitter. His shop of pottery displays some very expensive ceramics. I still am not in the market to purchase anything so surrounding gardens are a rest stop while others are pushed to buy something.
A Plethora of Panoramas
One can find panoramic views all over Cappadocia. You never have to go out of your way. There are great views and a sign at Ortahisar Castle. Photo opportunities abound, be it with the sign, the ubiquitous heart, the “evil eye tree” or just the actual scenery. The restaurant was packed with those with the same desire for a tea or coffee. So we drove a couple miles to an overlook at Crazy Ali Red Valley. Same photo opps but the ice cream and views were good.
Cappadocia is impossible not to find fascinating. I felt relieved to see this region had remained relatively unscathed by earthquakes. The lookouts and caves are very crowded and vast numbers of large white buses are dropping off masses of scurrying tourists. How these amazing driver maneuver these narrow streets is almost as amazing as the tufa rocks! Our little van of eight is swamped by them
“What are men to rocks and mountains? … And when we do return, … We will know where we have gone—we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations….”—from Pride and Prejudice