Cappadocia – Caves and Ancient Civilisations

We wrote about the cave monastery we visited in Bulgaria earlier.

We almost missed Gordium, in fact we cycled past the little brown sign for it and ended up backtracking the next day in a taxi. The Gordium citadel is roughly contemporary with Stonehenge, but rather more clear in purpose; being the hub of the Phrygian civilisation. The “Midas Mound” tomb is impressive, although now reckoned to be Midas’s father. And there’s an informative museum, too.

After Gordium, we were cycling along a minor country road, with a mix of rough grass and fields around,  when we saw a knobbly outcrop, greatly undercut with caves. But we pressed on, until a few hundred metres later, saw another knobble, this time with an obviously carved-out and decorated entrance. Clearly we had to investigate. These were abandoned cave dwellings (or possibly graves), with interconnecting tunnels, and chambers. After an hour we resumed travel. In ancient Turkey, this didn’t even merit a roadside sign.


Later that day, passing through an ancient looking village, we saw above it extensive cave holes, mostly now used for storage or abandoned. It seems this whole region is riddled with them. It’s the volcanic tufa rock, that’s so soft it’s easy to carve out. Unfortunately, there’s clear evidence the caves often have a fairly short life – collapses and eroded remains abound.


The same day, already late, we saw another little brown sign “Tatlarin Underground City”. Wiser now, we knew we had to follow it up … dump all our hard-won height, down to the city and up again. But stunning though. Free admission, there was a caretaker who let us in (and a school group just afterwards, aaargh!). The site had a well-preserved cave church with frescoes, and extensive tunnelled chambers, of which enough were open to give us  backache.  Time being the main constraint, the tunnels were  both long (100m) and low (ouch).



Then we got to Cappadocia. Well, it’s a region, and the above (and us) maybe were already in it. In tourist terms, it’s often reduced to just around the tourist hub, the large village Goreme. At this place, the weird rock formations make the tufa into “fairy chimneys” which are extensively dug out for churches, houses (?) and graves. Of course there’s an underground city too, and nearby the citadel, also dug out, of Uchisar. Some of this we were fortunate to view from a balloon.

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