During the Bronze Age, (3,000-2000 years BC) Cappadocia was populated by Assyrians, then Hittitie, Frig, Pers, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations. Alexander the Great captured a big part of Cappadocia in 33BC.
In the prehistoric period, the first human settlements constructed underground cities in the volcanic rocks for protections from wild animals. In these cities, they had wine production places, kitchens, churches, abbeys, water wells, toilets, meeting and storage rooms and ventilation chimneys.
Christine and I visited Kaymakli underground city a few kilometers from Cappadocia. The rooms are connected to each other by tunnels accessible to only one person which could be closed with one a big stone when necessary for security. The biggest underground city is Derinkuyu, but I have heard that the area accessible to the public is not as big as Kaymakli, with its six underground levels.
Goreme, one of the bases to explore Cappadocia, which spans over the provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir, is located in the Central Anatolian region.
Cappadocia was one of the most important places for spreading Christianity in the early days. The first Christians trying to escape persecution from Roman soldiers settled in Cappadocia where it was easy to hide in the thousands of caves and several underground cities. I visited several caves, even stayed in one for a night. Many caves were transformed into churches or monasteries by the early Christians. I visited all of the ones at the Open Museum, including Azizi Barbara Sapeli, Karanlik Kilise with its well preserved frescoes and Rahibeler Monastiri. Tokali Kilise down the road from the Open Museum was also a very well preserved site.
But the best part of Cappodocia was to discover the sites by foot. Christine, Stephan and I went for a few hikes around a maze of tuffs, caves and chimneys. It was like walking around wonderland, a fairy tale site, completely different from anything I have ever seen. It was impossible for us to know which cave to enter to find a church, or monastery completely carved out of rock, if it was not for our guide, Ibrahim, who also happened to be the owner of our hotel. In one of the sites, I could see that the present day cathedrals were inspired by these early churches. All of them had domes and some had columns carved out of the rocks. The frescoes were also similar in some ways to the later ones we see in churches all over the world, depicting scenes from Jesus life. Some paintings of the apostles, Angel Gabriel, the exodus to Egypt and the Virgin Mary were still very visible, the colors still very bright. But other frescoes were very unique and very different, more esoteric, almost like mandalas, with geometric designs similar to some flowers we saw in the area. You can see some of these frescoes in the picture gallery of this post.
Walking around Cappadocia sites during early Spring was also a bonus. The fields are covered with green grass, flowering trees, flowers, birds, animals and insects waking up from the long Winter slumber. The colors were vibrant and the fields energized with new life. We munched on green peaches, walnuts , dandelion and radicchio along the way. One day it rained off and on but we had many caves for protection.
Six days later I got into another night bus to Antakya, the closest city I could get to the Syrian border in one bus ride. But this time I had two seats for myself and could sleep almost the whole seven hours trip. The next place in the itinerary is Aleppo. I hope the recent troubles in Syria will not interfere too much with my travels there.