Cappadocia – Ürgüp, Turkey
For Those Who Think They’ve Seen It All, Think Again
A trip to the steppes of Central Anatolia is the next best thing to intergalactic travel, at a fraction of the cost and inconvenience. Centuries of wind and water have sculpted a surrealistic landscape from the soft volcanic terrain: minarets, cones, spires, “fairy chimneys,” and rocky pinnacles in shades of pinks and russet-brown soar as high as five-story buildings and cover an area of about 50 square miles.
Ancient inhabitants of Cappadocia hollowed out the tufa cones and cliffs to create troglodyte-style cave dwellings that are still lived in today. A major trade route between East and West, Cappadocia was home to a dozen different civilizations. The early Christians arrived in the 4th century, sculpting from the rock domed churches, complete with vaulted ceilings, columns, and pews. T
he open-air museum is the site of an ancient monastic colony, once said to have had more than 400 churches, hermitages, and small monasteries. Today fifteen are open to the public. Some of the simple frescoes date back to the 8th century, but it’s the rich Byzantine frescoes of the 10th and 13th centuries that are the most astonishing.
Modern-day troglodytes must head for the utterly unique and charming Yunak Evleri hotel, a romantic web of tastefully restored connecting caves dating back as far as the 5th century.