I’m writing this email from a cave. It’s a delightful cave, full of Turkish carpets and hardwood floors, with little carved windows and a fireplace. Outside is a covered terrace with pots of geraniums and a pool a little farther on. This sort of lodging is common out here in the Cappadocia region of Turkey (well, most places probably don’t have pools). Cappadocia is in the center of Turkey and is a vast, open space that looks a lot like southern Utah or eastern Colorado. It’s very much a high desert, and it has fantastic rock formations. Over the millennia, the land has eroded to form what are called “fairy chimneys” — they’re these cone or pillar formations two or three storeys tall, that rise out of the land like a labyrinthine forest. Back in the early years of Christianity, when the Christians were being killed driven out of Rome (and everywhere else), many of them fled to this area to live in the rocks. And I mean that literally. They carved out the fairy chimneys into elaborate cave monasteries, with kitchens, dining halls, and many-columned churches with exquisite frescoes. Amanda and I went to an area yesterday that had approximately 14 of these chapels and the accompanying monastic rooms. Later today we’re going to explore the underground cities the Christians built. Apparently these cities are huge and go down into the ground six or seven levels. The monasteries (and, I’m told, the underground cities) were camouflaged from the exterior to avoid detection by hostile intruders; and the passages and entrances could be blocked from the inside with stones to keep people out, too. It’s all pretty amazing and feels like something right out of the Hobbit books.
We got up at 4am this morning to go hot air ballooning over the canyons with the fairy chimneys. It was a clear, beautiful morning, with virtually no breeze. We went up about 600 meters and had excellent views of the surrounding areas. I was surprised how smooth the ride was and how safe we felt. The main inconvenience was the blasts of heat that came from the burners every few minutes.
If you want to see more pictures, Amanda updates her blog daily: http://www.chitarita.blogspot.com/
I have to run now for the underground city tour. I’ll write more later!