Published: October 30th 2011October 30th 2011
Today we headed out from Ankara south to Cappadocia. More quality time on the bus but it is what it is. It is much colder yesterday and today than in Istanbul but not unbearable. The Atlantic snowstorm was the major topic as we boarded the bus. The people from the Northeast were happy to be here, as long as everything clears by the time we get back.
Along the way, we verred off the highway to go through several small villages. We stopped for photo ops with a bunch of sheep and their shepherd. We saw lots of melon squash grown but they only use them for the seed, not to consume. They dry the seeds on their flat roofs for selling. Dried squash seeds are a very popular snack.
Our guide spent most of the morning giving a lengthy history background of the different cultures here and also discussed Islam with us. You really have to understand this to understand why these places in history are so important and how it shaped the people today. Don't worry. I'm not going to bore the reader with every detail. But there are some important things I learned.
of Turkey we are in (central) has a very rich history affecting many cultures. The Hittites invaded, then Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans and all left their mark. Many Christians know these ancient towns by the names of Nicea, Antioch and Cappadocia. Paul was born in this region as Saul. The Silk Road ran through this area.
During all this transition and change, Christians came here, many at Paul's request, to escape persecution. The volcanic ash of this area allowed not only rich farm land but places to hide from there enemies.
Christians built underground cities here. 36 have been found but archaeologists believe there are as many as 200. The deepest went down 17 levels but most were 7-9. They used these cities for about 100 years to hide from invading armies, mostly in the 6th century. Some of the women, children and elderly had to live underground for up to a year although it was usually 3-4 months as armies moved on. They had an underground water source that also allowed for the air to ventilate. Anywhere from 2-3 thousand people could live there although it did create many health issues.
We visited the 2nd
largest one found so far. It is 7 levels deep but tourists can only go down 4. After the 2nd level it got a little too cramped for me so I came back up. The volcanic ash was, and is, so soft that they built many chambers for animals, food storage, living and even a winery, cause how else are going to survive down there?
After leaving these underground cities, we passed by some caves visible from the road that Christians had made in the 12th century. All the ones with arches are original but some had more recent additions made.
The day ended with a trip to a pottery factory (standard sales stop on any of these tours). Turkey does have a long tradition of pottery making dating back to Hittite era and today make beautiful tiles and plates among others. E insisted we buy Maou, our cat, a bowl to eat from, but I made sure it was a sort of bargin.
Most of you know Ernest has had a rough summer with his leg. For those of you who may be thinking of Ernest and wondering how he is making it, I'm very pleased
to say that so far he has been everywhere, except the underground city today, and has managed well. His leg is a little sore at night but that is to be expected. So far, he is getting stronger every day.
Tomorrow is a very busy day starting with a 5:30 am pickup for a hot air balloon ride!
There are more photos below