While the area is full of famous touristic sites, some of the most fulfilling experiences in Cappadocia come at unexpected moments, when your GPS is down and the path leads you to places not marked on your map.
This story of our trip to Cappadocia was published in The Guide Istanbul (March/April 2017) with photos by Merve Göral. Below are the excerpts from the original article.
There are some places in Cappadocia where your internet-based navigation system just won’t do. Once that happens, you have to rely on the knowledge of locals, and what you’ll often hear as an answer to your cry for directions is simply to “follow the mountain.” When approaching Aksaray, “the mountain” stands for Hasandağı (Mount Hasan), while around Kayseri, it’s Mount Erciyes. Together, these mountains make up the two highest points of central Anatolia. The eruptions of those currently inactive volcanic cones (among others that may not exist in modern days), gave birth to Cappadocia’s iconic landscape as we know it.
The relationship between man and nature is by default a story of imbalance: while nature in general remains indifferent to human presence, people constantly try to manipulate it, changing the existing structures according to their needs. Although not entirely unalike, this relationship has been taking a slightly different course in Anatolian region of Cappadocia. In a post-volcanic landscape, somehow resistant to human influence, nomadic tribes from thousands years ago used to find a reason to settle.
As if some of the first travel writers, such as Herodotus and Strabo, wanted to keep Cappadocia’s landscape a secret, they did not talk about its uniqueness in any of their early works. Even though we learn about the life of locals and their culture, the first mentions of beauty of the valleys or the pinnacles of rock begin to appear as late as in post-renaissance sources.
This secrecy seems to be a part of Cappadocia’s historical DNA. Cave shelters, built by the first settlers who dug into the soft layers of rock formations to create houses, did not protect them enough from the eyes of other people. Therefore with time, many larger settlements were sculpted entirely underground. The complexity of underground cities such as Derinkuyu or Kaymakli might surprise modern day visitors. Nearly impossible to spot above ground, the hidden labyrinths have advanced ventilation systems, stables, kitchens and food storage spaces enough for as many as 20,000 people.
Get lost to find yourself
While the most popular sightseeing locations in Cappadocia are clearly marked and explained in various languages, signs on the less traveled routes can mislead you. If you like your journey to include all points on a to-do list, you might find navigating the area quite frustrating. However, if you’re a discoverer in search for interesting experiences, you’ll find it amusing that the roads that are supposed to take you to an ancient site, often lead to a different - yet still fascinating - place. Moreover, the distraction-free, quiet land of central Anatolia is ideal for mindfulness practice.