Sunday, 18 August 2013

It's a long night bus to Cappadocia - Part 1

Earth's second moon, also know as Cappadocia, lies in pretty much the center of modern day Turkey. Let me just repeat how massive Turkey actually is and it's when you jump on a bus to get to Cappadocia from anywhere in Turkey, the never ending bus ride really puts the size into perspective.

The traditional name "katpatukya" means land of beautiful horses.

The view of Zemi Valley in Göreme.
If you look at the rock tower on the right you can see the window at the top. In this photo we are still standing a way back from it and so you can't quite grasp its size. It is however a 3 story house with a 360° lookout at the top. Each level is connected by a vertical shaft that has little foot holes dug our for climbing up and down. Despite the ladders being mostly worn away we somehow successfully climbed up to the lookout and down without breaking our necks (I'm sure that day I used up my 8 spare lives).
The view of Red Valley in Göreme.
The formation of this strange landscape started during the third geological period, when three volcanoes located on the edges of this region began erupting frequently. The deposits of volcanoes ash, lava and basalt laid the foundations for today's landscape. Earthquakes and ongoing effects of erosion have contributed to form the valleys and the "fairy chimneys" that can be seen today. As the rock below the top layer of basalt is extremely soft, it can be easily carved. Communities took advantage of this to make their home in the rock pillars and under the ground.

Cities, empires and religions have risen and fallen in the unique underground havens of Cappadocia. These strange and eeire spaces were once used by early Christians to hide from Roman armies. The entire landscape of Cappadoccia is a maze of over 200 underground villages and tunnel towns complete with hidden passages, secret rooms and ancient temples that have a layered history as each new civilisation that occupied this area continued to build on the work of the last. In part due to their secret locations and the naturally temperature-controlled nature of the cave interiors, many religious artifacts and artworks have survived for over a thousand years.

So how did Cappadocia become such an interesting place? In short, because of its location in old Anatolia (the location of today's Turkey during the Ottomon Empire). It's location was heavily desired by surrounding empires who continually fought over this area for its control. This happened for hundreds of years and consequently because Cappadocia the became stuck in a border area of conflict for its control, this forced the people living in the area to hide in the fairy chimney rock formations or underground for protection.

We still can't work out how they got to their front doors.
They must have been a generation of Olympic climbers.

I can't explain the history very well but here is an exert from Wiki that gives a good summary:
Kingdom of Cappadocia
After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, Alexander the Great tried to rule the area through one of his military commanders. But Ariarathes, a Persian aristocrat, somehow became king of the Cappadocians. Ariarathes I (332—322 BC) was a successful ruler, and he extended the borders of the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as to the Black Sea. Then you know as history goes he is killed by someone who then takes over, who then himself is stabbed in the back by his friend who takes over, who then is defeated by the original guy's son who then takes over again and yes its all quite confusing but then anyway we get to...... Ariarathes IV taking over control. Under his rule Cappadocia came into relations with Rome. At one point they were enemies but eventually when leaders changed they became friends.

Roman and Byzantine province
The Cappadocians, supported by Rome against Mithridates VI of Pontus, elected a native lord, Ariobarzanes, to succeed (93 BC); but in the same year Armenian troops under Tigranes the Great entered Cappadocia, dethroned king Ariobarzanes and crowned Gordios as the new client-king of Cappadocia, thus creating a buffer zone against the encroaching Romans. It was not until Rome had deposed the Pontic and Armenian kings that the rule of Ariobarzanes was established (63 BC). In the civil wars Cappadocia was first for Pompey, then for Caesar, then for Antony, and finally, Octavian. The Ariobarzanes dynasty came to an end, a Cappadocian nobleman Archelaus was given the throne, by favour first of Antony and then of Octavian, and maintained tributary independence until AD 17, when the emperor Tiberius, who he had angered, summoned him to Rome and reduced Cappadocia to a Roman province.

Enjoying another great find with our new traveling buddy, Martino.
The detail of the cave churches is remarkable.
One of many hidden rock churches.
Cappadocia contains several underground cities largely used by early Christians as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. The underground cities have vast defence networks of traps throughout their many levels. These traps are very creative, including such devices as large round stones to block doors and holes in the ceiling through which the defenders may drop spears. These defense systems were mainly used against the Romans. The tunnel system also was made to have thin corridors for the Roman fighting strategy was to move in groups which was not possible to do in the thin corridors making it easy to pick them off.

The Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th century were integral to much of early Christian philosophy. For most of the Byzantine era it remained relatively undisturbed by the conflicts in the area with the Sassanid Empire, but was a vital frontier zone later against the Muslim conquests. Then heaps more happens after this but you don't want to know, it's so confusing your head will implode (I know, I tried to read the rest). It doesn't matter anyway because up until the end of the Byzantine era is when all the caves were created and used.

What is interesting: Before the new urban center, Nevşehir, was founded in the early 18th century to serve as regional capital, many former Cappadocians had already began to make a shift due to the pressures of a new Turkey. They changed to a Turkish dialect of their Greek language, known as Cappadocian Greek. Following the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the language is now only spoken by a handful of the former population's descendants in modern Greece.


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