This is it – the highlight of our trip. It’s the main reason we chose to go to Turkey. Yes, Istanbul was great. And it’s somewhere we’ve wanted to go for a while, but the reward at the end of the journey is Cappadocia. And the trip just kept getting better and better from there!
I found out about Cappadocia while reading a travel book a few years ago. It’s desolate landscape, cave living, fairy chimneys and hot air balloons immediately drew me in. We’ve been trying to plan a trip here ever since. But one thing after another after another happens and so a few years later, here we finally are!
Cappadocia is located in central Turkey, on the Anatolian (Asian) side of the country. So technically we’ve made it to Asia (a first for the kids and I, not for Josh)! It’s not Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia, but it’s still continental Asia! Cappadocia is not actually a town or city, but a region here in central Turkey that historically has been known for it’s strategic position along the Silk Road.
The earliest settlers here date back to around the 6th century BC – that they know of – it could be earlier! Some of the caves in the area date back to around this time. We went to the Kaymakli Underground City (more below) on our first day and took a journey through time to see how the Cappadocians lived not just centuries ago, but even as recently as the mid 1900s! It was only when this region became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that people were no longer allowed to live in the caves in this region, though many today are still used for keeping produce, wine and animals. Not to mention used as tourism for viewing and for hotel stays.
Speaking of hotels, before I get too far into the underground cities, I should mention that we actually stayed in a cave hotel while we were here. Located in Ürgüp, our hotel is part of a UNESCO and World Heritage Center project to renovate this historic neighborhood which was one of the first residential areas of Cappadocia. Thankfully for us, they are renovating while adding a few modern touches such as flooring, running water, electricity and internet. I can’t even imagine what it would be like living in the caves they way they used to here – I’m quite happy with my touch of luxury added on!
We stayed at the Kayakapi Premium Caves – the name literally translates as Rock Gate. You can check out the history and the renovations on their website. We stayed in room 105 which you can see on their site, though now it looks something more like this:
After settling into our hotel, our first stop was to visit one of these underground cities that we had heard about. You can’t help but be amazed at their knowledge of how to protect themselves but also with how to live “comfortably” during this time period in a cave! As time went on, many of these cave cities included wineries, churches, stables and so much more!
With many invaders coming through this area over the centuries, many Cappadocians found that cave living offered not only protection, but many other valuable assets. The soft volcanic rock made it easy for the people to dig out these cave homes. Ventilation shafts between the various floors and the outdoors ensured that there was clean air to breathe but also meant that they could be underground for months at a time if necessary. And with temperatures around 15C, it was the perfect conditions for keeping food fresh as well.
During our tour, we got to experience a little bit of what it was like to live in one of these underground cities. Narrow, low ceiling tunnels that would make anyone feel claustrophobic. Small rooms, but efficient use of space. They also made use of the materials around them to build doors (only used when being attacked as they weighed up to one ton!), mortars and pestles, benches and tables, altars and more. And let’s not forget, they even had a winery – but not for the reasons we would think in the modern day – wine was actually likely safer to drink than the water! Everyone helped and there was a shift system for who would eat and when as well as who would take care of cooking, etc.
It’s hard to imagine living in a place like this, but apparently it was quite common here for many many years! Visiting the underground city was only our first taste of Cappadocia though – there was so much more to come including a hot air balloon ride at dawn, touring the region which included the fairy chimneys and more caves and then finally, an ATV ride around the valley.
Knuffels en kussen,