Friday, September 04, 2009

Cappadocia and the End of Traveling

The end of my trip was imminent. I was on my way to the middle of Turkey to explore Cappadocia and then the plan was to head further East to climb Mt. Nemerut, but as I arrived in Cappadocia everything changed. I had spent no more than a few minutes in this strange landscape before realizing that it would be impossible to leave here so quickly. What started out as a three day excursion quickly turned into a week stay. By now you must be wondering either what is Cappadocia or what is so captivating about it. I struggled the whole time I was there to put into words and images what Cappadocia is, but everything I attempted to relate paled in comparison to the reality of this bizarre landscape.

Cappadocia is a region that covers approximately 100 square km in the middle of Turkey. It is a lunar landscape created by eroded volcanic ash. The end result is vistas like the one above that resemble the american Southwest.

In addition to this it is also an area that has been inhabited for thousands of years by Christians in isolation. What these people created out of these surreal rock formations is what truly makes this place spectacular and like nowhere else in the world.

Churches were built straight into the rock and underground passageways were carved connecting the structures, creating an intricate set of tunnels and valleys that are an explorer's dream. Above you can see a church that has been ripped open by years of wind and water erosion.

Also found on this landscape are towns like Goreme, pictured above, which are both modern and quaint. I stayed here in a pension that was half house and half cave dwellings.

Each day I explored different parts of this region wandering in and out of valleys, sliding down ravines and scrambling up cliff faces.

Everyday I found myself in places that people rarely set foot, on paths that may have only been traversed thousands of years prior. I felt like Indiana Jones stepping into a world from the past.

One day while wandering I stumbled upon a festival.

Here men practiced spear throwing, charging full speed at each other with horses attempting to hit one another as onlookers cheered for their favorites. These war games were both new and exciting to me.

Then to top it all off, I took an early morning hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.

From this vantage I saw ravines and valleys that I had traversed.

It was amazing to see the land as a whole, stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.

We landed as the sun was rising in the sky and watched the other balloons floating across the horizon.

I finished my time in Cappadocia watching the sunset over these conical monoliths. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

And thus the sun set on my Middle Eastern trip. I never made it out to Eastern Turkey, but since it was so beautiful here, I am confident that I will be back one day to finish the trip.