“You must see Cappadocia – it will amaze you” enthused my daughter’s in-laws and boy were they right.
The region of Cappadocia is famed for its spectacular natural rock formations created millions of years ago and eroded over time by wind and weather. This geological freak show, known as “fairy chimneys” is what lured us, ignited our imagination and left us totally captivated. It is like no other place on earth, an extraordinary lunar landscape akin to something from Star Wars and it left us breathless by its beauty, shapes and colours.
We started at the Devrent Valley also known as Imagination Valley that is famous for its rock formations. Our guide had us guessing what they were, some saw a camel, others a hen, some saw rabbits, snakes even elephants, we just let our imagination run free. Some of the suggestions were positively outrageous, others quite unprintable!
From here, we moved on to Pigeon Valley and the Panoramic Viewpoint of Esentepe. Although very touristy with its assortment of tacky souvenirs stalls (saying that I did buy an evil eye after seeing them hanging like leaves from a tree). Nothing can prepare you for the sheer jaw-dropping view. The outlandish sight of twisting, twirling turrets resemble fields of stone mushrooms. To adults, they are undeniably phallic but to children and the Turks they are fairy chimneys.
Christians carved elaborate churches, ancient troglodytes dug out rooms in which to live and some fairy chimneys have recently been converted into luxurious hotels. They were called “fairy chimneys” because early residents believed the place was home to fairies that lived underground and it feels as if they could have been right. The castle, although it doesn’t look anything like any castles we might recognise, is the most striking feature of the landscape. It is tempting to just sit for hours and just look at the magnificent Tolkienesque view with Mount Erciyes in the distance but we had to move on to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This place is admired by thousands of visitors, in high season up to 2000 visitors a day and there is only one toilet (you have been warned!)
The Museum has a collection of cave churches dating to around the 11th century and I remembered Aykut said it is one of the most photographed sites in Cappadocia. I was so taken with it I got my camera out and started taking photos in one of the churches. This prompted several “No photos” and a lot of tut tutting. Well, if I had spotted the small sign by the door I would have obeyed, instead I sneaked out with my head bowed in shame. It turned out that the flash was ruining the ancient paintings on the walls… but it didn’t stop me from bursting into the theme from “The Flintstones.”
Our day continued with a visit to a jewellery factory, the promise of trying the real deal Turkish ice cream from a man with a stall standing in the square, and lunch in a market where we were eventually served cheese pancakes. Thought they had forgotten about us but when they eventually arrived, they were good, unlike the ice cream, which was quite run of the mill. In fact, everything we saw that particular day in Cappadocia was unmemorable by comparison to the wonderful, magnificent, superb shall I go on… Fairy Chimneys these should be on everyone’s bucket list.