Sunday, December 05, 2010

The formation of the lunar landscape

 Cappadocia is an ancient land mass. The area is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Mt Erciyes is now a dormant volcano. After a series of volcanic eruptions that strewn layers and layers of lava over the tufa land mass, the lava hardens into this dark basalt layer. Over the centuries, wind, water, heat and freezes has led to water to seep into the land mass and to carve out these weird cones, some with the dark basalt tips still on top, others have their basalt tops disappear completely. The cones with that dark basalt tip looked strange and the locals call these structures, 'fairies' hence the term fairy chimneys. When one talks about Cappadocia, one is immediately reminded of 'fairy chimneys.' What fascinated me about Cappadocia was not so much fairy chimneys but the chapels and churches that were carved into these cone shaped structures. The inhabitants began to carve into the softer tufa rock to build houses to live in, monks built little caves for themselves to meditate in, some carve bigger structures that would become places of worship, or refectories, or hospitals and even burial plots.

On the outside, one would never imagine some of the interiors looked like a regular free standing church building. We would be led into cave openings and once inside, to gape, with our mouths wide opened at the fascinating carved structure inside. Some of the cones would house structures seven stories high. No one really knows how many such churches exist, a lot have disappeared, destroyed by the forces of nature but still others are being discovered. Our guide specialises in the undiscovered churches. His website showed some 100 such unpublished churches. Some churches are not decorated but even so they have incredible architectural features. The most beautiful are those with frescoes, most of the frescoes are in various stages of disintegration. Those in Goreme open air museum have been restored to some degree and is now a Unesco World Heritage site. We spent 3 whole days here, stayed in Goreme but did not have time to visit Goreme open air museum. What it is, is a collection of rock cut churches enclosed in an area called the open air museum. Most visitors to Cappadocia would visit Goreme open air museum exclusively.
Goreme is pronounced 'ger re me.'

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