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Aksaray

 

Aksaray is a center in the Cappadocia region. The province has many things to show in addition to wonderful surroundings. There are important historical buildings from Seljuk times, mostly from the 14th century, such as the Ulu Mosque and the Kızıl (Eğri) Minaret. The brickwork of the Kızıl Minaret is elaborate. The Sultanhan caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat is well-preserved and the Ağzıkarahan Caravanserai is the second important and famous monument from the Seljuk period.

Aksaray possesses the most frequently visited regions of Cappadocia, all of display which natural beauties mingled with the mysticism of history. Viranşehir (Nora), which was the military center of Byzantines and Romans because of its strategic position, carries historical remains from Roman and Byzantine times. Ihlara is a 14 kms-long fascinating canyon, formed by the Melendiz River. In this valley can be found Byzantine rock chapels cut into the canyon walls and decorated with frescoes. From these chapels the Ağaçaltı (Daniel) Church, the Yılanlı (Apocalypse) Church, the Sümbüllü (Hyacinth) Church, the Pürenli Seki Church, and St. Georges Church are the most interesting. In the Güzelyurt valley, there are dwellings from the prehistoric periods and they are in an underground city form. In addition to these there are chapels and buildings carved into the rock. The Manastır valley, and the Sivisli Church which is one of the most interesting churches in the area, are the other attractive places.

Accompanying these you will also find guest houses, restaurants and good hotels in the region. The Zinciriye Medresesi dates from Seljuk Turkish times, when it was built by the local dynasty of Karamanoğulları. It has been restored several times over the past seven centuries.

A caravanserai on the way from Konya to Aksaray 40 km before the city. It was built by Sultan Alaattin Keykubat I during the Seljuk period, in 1229. It has two sections, one open with a courtyard and another covered. It is the largest of all Seljuk caravansaries in Anatolia with an area of 4800 m². Sultanhan is a monumental caravanserai which looks like a fortress. The entrance is through a huge, geometrically decorated portal. The courtyard is surrounded by an arcade of rooms on the left and covered places on the right. In the middle is a small mosque. The entrance to the second part is through another portal which is located on the fourth wall.

Avanos

Avanos is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Göreme. The town has a lively shopping center with all the usual amenities including a modern, tourist orientated hamam (Turkish Bath). A travelling market visits Avanos on Fridays.

Starting just outside the shopping center the old village of Avanos winds up the hills leading away from the town and is a beautiful maze of old stone houses, some restored, some converted and some sadly abandoned to their fate. In some of the abandoned houses the features of traditional Ottoman architecture can be seen along with ancient decorations, motifs and murals.

About 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Avanos is the underground city of Özkonak and the 13th century Seljuk caravaserai, Sarıhan (which is now a museum), is only about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away.

The Kızılırmak (red) river separates Avanos from the rest of Cappadocia, and is the longest river in Turkey. It is by this river that the red pottery clay is found from which Avanos derives it's main livelihood and it's foremost claim to fame.

Pottery has been produced in the Avanos area for several centuries and some of the techniques still used date back to Hittite times. Avanos is a mass of family run potteries, most of which are only too pleased to let visitors have a go on the potters wheel and give them a full history of the many and various pottery goods on offer. Avanos pots make wonderful souvenirs and are available at a wide range of prices from simple ashtrays and mugs to ornate plates and chess sets.

Avanos is also famous for carpet weaving and, more unusually, for knitting. Hand knitted garments can be found on sale along with wool, needles and all the other equipment you might need if your holiday is incomplete without that familiar click click !

Avanos really specializes in handicrafts, there is a permanent handicrafts bazaar and a three day Handicrafts Festival in late August.

 

ÇAVUSIN, PASABAGI & ZELVE

CavusinÇavuşin is a village about 4 kilometres from Göreme. The  old village is largely deserted because the area has been plagued by rock falls. For this reason it is best to take a guide if you want to visit Çavuşin and to watch your step. At Çavuşin you can visit the Church of John the Baptist which probably dates from the 5th century with paintings from the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries.

Quite nearby another church contains frescos commemorating the passage of  Nicephoras Phocas (a Byzantine Emperor) through Cappadocia in 964 to 965 during his military campaign against Cilicia. Nicephoras may have visited the Church of John the Baptist which was an important centre for pilgrimage at that time.

 ZELVE

Zelve, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region is an amazing cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, religious and secular chambers. Here, the Christians and Moslems lived together in perfect harmony, until 1924.Then Christians had to leave the Valley because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, and the Moslems were forced to evacuate the Valley in the 50’s when life became dangerous due to risk of erosion. They left the site to set up a modern village, a little further on, to which they gave the name Yeni Zelve (New Zelve).Now old Zelve is a ghost town and the erosion still continues.

The three valleys in the Zelve region are a paradise for the rock climbers. It takes at least two hours for a good trekker to walk through these valleys, which also house the oldest examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.

Start your excursion by visiting the first valley on the right taking the stamps in the second valley, then turning right. While walking along the path, you will see on the right some paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings are what remain from the now totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer) and afford examples of the oldest paintings displaying the principal religious symbols of Christianity, like the Cross, the deer and the fish.

On entering the first valley you will see a rock-cut mosque on the left, with a lovely minaret obviously influenced by the bell-towers of the monasteries, (Byzantine ciboria) which consist of a baldachin of four collonettes supporting a pinnacle. You will then notice a monastery complex on the right resembling an upside down bowl cut of the rock. Immediately opposite, there is a rock-cut complex accessible by a metal ladder and connected to the second valley by a tunnel, but safety considerations make any attempt to go thought it inadvisable. On leaving the first valley you can enter the second valley by following the path in front of the Mosque.

Before leaving this open-air museum, be sure to pay special attention to the rocks at the entrance of the third valley. Here you will find a rock-cut mill with a grindstone which remained in use until the 50’s. Recently, its entrance has collapsed. Then follow the path to the Üzümlü Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself, in a country famous for its Dionysiac rituals. Just next to Üzümlü Kilise is the Balıklı Kilise (The Church with Fishes).On the apse above you will be able to discern paintings of fish in a very faded red.

 The nearby Paşabağ area contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps.

 

ÇAT

map of ÇatThe initial settlement in the region is estimated to have started in Neolithic Era between 8000-5500 B.C. Being the homeland of Hittite civilization during 17-12th century B.C, the region was inhabited by the Phrygians. After it had been ruled by the Meds, Persians, Cappadocian Kingdom and King Dikran respectively, the region was connected to Romans together with the entire Cappadocian region in 17 A.D. Following the attacks of the Sassanian and Arabians in 11 th century, the Anatolian Seljuks established their dominance in the region. Afterwards, Ottoman State declared their rule overe the region in 15th century.

Known as Çat at present, the region is located at the junction point of the Güvercinlik, Karayatak and Fırınasma valleys covered with the assorted hues of green during the spring times. Composed of 650 houses, the current population of the region is 2700. In the course of millions of years, the land was exposed to various volcanic explosions as a result of which layers of tuff were formed. Then on, these layers were exposed to erosion by rain and the waters of lakes and rivers, resulting in fantastic formations that we see today as Fairy Chimneys. The most peculiar feature of the Fairy Chimneys in Çat is their difference to that of the types-columnar, hat-like of fairy chimneys located in Göreme, Zelve and Ürgüp. The shapes of these formations exceed the widest imagination since they have been resembled to a lion, a bird, a crocodile or a fish, and sometimes to a stone dinosaur...

Throughout the valley, there are several churches that were engraved into rocks. Furthermore the graves of those who lived in Örenönü-Koyak locality 3km from the region can also be seen. Besides the bewildering fairy chimneys and rock churches, Çat valley also receive great attention with the dovecotes built into the slopes. Having being adorned with cultural decorations by the artists of the region during the previous centuries, these dovecotes were built to be benefited from the dungs of the doves.

The rich panorama is not the only opportunity that the region offers to those who come to enjoy the beauties of the area. Çat also provides promenade areas and favourable paths for horseback riding and cycling. The people of the region make their living through agriculture, in which viniculture has an important place among the others. Due to the fertile vineyards of the Çat region, the exquisite grapes of the Cappadocian region and our country flourish here. As a conclusion if space seems so remote, a conclusion, if space seems so remote, come to experience the ethereal and un worldly miracles of the Mother Nature in Cappadocia.

THE TUMULUS OF ÇEÇ

Çeç Tumulus near AvanosThe city of Nevşehir and its neighborhood is very enriched and famous for tumulus tombs. Because of some of them becoming too flat, it is very difficult to understand if it is a tumulus or not. In case of this, some of them are just like a second magnificent mountain bulk. There are lots of small tumuli tombs in Ürgüp, Avanos and Özkonak. In addition to these places, "Tumulus of Çeç" which is in the west of Avanos is very famous in these areas. Between 1968-1969 archaeological excavation was made in two of the small tombs on the way to Kayseri-Aksalur. According to the president of this excavation Mr. Gürkün Toklu, they belonged to Galata's people. A tumulus which is excavated by Mehmet Eskioğlu and the tumulus of Beştepe, by Hamdi Kodan is dated to the Hellenistic period in Kayseri. As its seen, all these tumuli are built in different times and some of them are built from soil and the others from stones. And all these show different cultures.

In addition to all these things, we can see the tumulus of Çeç as the biggest tomb of Nevşehir but there is also some uncertainty surrounding the tombs. Because nobody knows when or who built this tomb. The diameter is 300 - 350 and it's height is 30 m, and because it's that magnificent, it's very important to history.

cec.jpg (34871 bytes)It is too difficult to understand some historical mysteries in this area. Because there is only one tomb as measures and stone blocks. According to the people who live around this place: "years ago there was a king... " and as understanding it was built for a king. Even this tomb is a subject to some stories and legends. It may be the tomb of King Andros. . . looking at its dimension it's understood so easy. But all the scientific evidences are different from each other. It is said, these tombs were a place for religious meetings or a meteorological station to search the sky's movements, as well as being a kings tomb. When you look at this tumulus of Çeç, it is understood that it was built for an important man or thing and also that the death anniversary was very important in those times.

In our opinion, to understand of mystery of Çeç it is necessary to search culture's material which was about at that time. We're sure that the history of Çeç and Avanos is written in those cultural material. And also it can be easily understood that these tombs are not belong to Phrygians or Lydians. Because, Phrygians were used soil just like these tombs and the tomb of Alyattes in Sardis, is also very different from Çeç. Perhaps Çeç was built for the prayer of Zeus but we can also think that this tomb can be for a Cappadocia's king. If it is so, we can say that this Çeç tomb is for Ariobarzane II who lived in Cappadocia in the years of BC 63-52.

VOLCANOS

Mount Erciyes - Mount Hasan

Mount Erciyes

erciyes4.jpg (11911 bytes)Feeling the cold snow beneath my feet, it was hard to believe that Erciyes was once an active volcano. The streams of red-hot lava which poured from its crater over the ages formed the soft tuff rock which wind and rain then sculpted into the surrealistic cones of Cappadocia. Coins discovered in excavations of the ancient city of Mazaka at its foot depict flames emerging from its summit. The view of Erciyes from Tekir will be inscribed so deeply in your memory that you will immediately recognize it if you see it again in a film or photograph. Erciyes is a mountain that can never be confused with any other. Erciyes ski resort is located on the alpine pasture of Tekir 30 km from Kayseri Airport and 25 km from the city centre. The Develi road which leads here is kept open by snow clearing teams who wage a constant battle. If you drive here, remember that chains are obligatory. There is only one hotel on Erciyes, and two ski hostels, one belonging to the Department of Physical Education and the other to the State Water Authority.

erciyes5.jpg (15857 bytes)Erciyes Dedeman Hotel is one of a chain which built some of the first hotels at several Turkish ski resorts. It has 60 rooms, an indoor swimming pool and sauna. You can hire skiing equipment from the hotel, and take lessons from its team of professional instructors. There are also other places to hire skiing equipment in the area, and shops where it can be purchased in Kayseri. Many of those who ski on Erciyes come for the day from this city. Erciyes has several ski slopes suited to skiers of all levels, from beginners through to advanced. The longest slope is 3.5 kilometres, and the total length of all the slopes at the resort is 12 kilometres. There are five ski lifts. Zümrüt 1 is a 1530 metres long chair lift, and Zümrüt 2 is the longest in the region at 1570 metres. The 1500 metre First Lift is the t-bar type, and leads to the Second Lift which takes you a further 1400 metres. At the end points of both the First Lift and Second Lift are cafés where you can warm up with hot drinks and get snacks.

erciyes-ski_s.jpg (9504 bytes)The 200 metre Dedeman Lift takes you to the top of the beginners' slope. Erciyes was first climbed by W.J. Hamilton in 1837, and is still popular with both Turkish and foreign mountaineers.

The 3917 metre summit is permanently under snow. Mountaineers begin climbing at Tekir and after passing the first and second stations camp at 2800 metres. From here they continue to the summit, passing through Şeytan Boğazı (the Devil's Pass) where the towering Hörgüç Rock comes into sight. The next stop is the summit, where in fine weather there is a spectacular view across Cappadocia as far as the Toros range to the south. This view makes all the exhaustion of the climb worthwhile. If you have time, spend a day visiting Kayseri. The city's most famous sights are Kayseri Castle, Honat Hatun Mosque and complex, the Archaeological Museum and Keykubatiye Palace.

Kültepe (the ancient Huand), a tumulus 22 kilometres from the city, is a remarkable archaeological site where large numbers of clay tablets have been discovered which throw light on the life of the Assyrians who established a trading colony here.

Sultan Sazlığı marshes is a famous beauty spot and bird sanctuary, home to many species of birds, particularly in spring and autumn when migrant species halt here in large numbers.

The skiing season at Erciyes begins in November and continues through to May. When you leave, you will see the mountain watching you go every time you turn to look back. This elderly volcano which has seen so many people arrive and depart over the millennia will live on in your memory when you reach home.


Hasandag (Mount Hasan)

mount-hasan1_s.jpg (12497 bytes)High peaks within large mountain systems, set amidst a scattering of more humble summits, are like kings or lords surrounded by their retinues. But most volcanoes are not like that. In their solitary splendour they are far more striking as anyone who has seen a photograph of Fujiyama in Japan will know. However high they might be they are always alone, and you can feel this fact whether looking upon them from afar or climbing on the mountain itself. And when you go to Hasandağ you feel this loneliness with extraordinary intensity.

Looking from the west the mountain rises in a single and perfect cone from the flat central Anatolian plateau. Approaching from Ankara to the north-west on a sufficiently clear day the mountain is visible from a distance of 60 kilometres, and as you draw nearer the view becomes increasingly spectacular. We had been planning to climb this magnificent mountain just south of Aksaray on the Ankara-Adana road for a long time and one May day we set out. The month of May is probably the loveliest time of the year everywhere in Turkey , but for the Anatolian plateau with its freezing winters and blazing hot summers, this month is undoubtedly the loveliest, an exquisite interval when the gray-brown steppe rolling into the distance is transformed into a brilliant green.

We got out of our car at the village of Yukarı Dikmen amidst just such greenery. At an altitude of around 1700 the three of us put on our backpacks and began walking. A crowd of children from the village insisted accompanying us for a while before bidding farewell. At 2000 metres we were alone with our mountain.

As we ascended, the greenery of the lower slopes gradually made way for volcanic boulders. The trees thinned out and became steadily smaller until finally nothing but a few spikes of grass remained.

mount-hasan2.jpg (49879 bytes)By evening we had reached a height of 2600 metres and the landscape was a truly familiar mountainous one. We set up camp and then watched the sun sink between the clouds, realizing what it meant to be on a truly lonely volcano. Towards the west the plain far below stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was like looking down from an airplane. I was reminded of a wall painting found at Çatalhöyük, one of the oldest cities in the world dating from 8000 BC. in which Hasandağ, together with its secondary peak to the east, is depicted with smoke emerging from the summit. It was hard to believe that this serene mountain had still been erupting at a time when our prehistoric ancestors were around to witness the event.

The second day began with sunshine. Since we were on the western face of Hasandağ we watched its triangular shadow fall on the plain. Then we packed up and began to trek over the snow, which each day melted in the warmth of the spring sunshine and then froze over once again at night. Towards noon it clouded over and the incline became steep. We no longer felt like mountain hikers but now faced the business of serious mountaineering. At one point we even considered getting the ropes out but before long we were at the 3260 metre summit. Later we realized that we had been lucky, and unknowingly reached the highest point of a crater whose diameter was approximately 500 metres. Following a tradition on Turkish mountains we found the summit book and recorded notes about our climb. It was curious to come across a notebook at a point no one else would be likely to find and to read the account of others as mad as yourself and write your own account for others who come after you. With all the solemnity of an ancient ritual of antiquity the three of us signed the book.

As evening was falling on the second day we noticed a patch of snowless ground on an interesting ridge in the centre of the crater. We mountaineers boast about camping in the most severe conditions but still do our best to find the most comfortable camping place. Thousands of years ago the obsidian rocks which might be described as natural volcanic glass were extremely important materials useful for much more than making decorative ornaments for the mantle piece. In the stone age before metals were discovered the sharpest knives arrow heads and even mirrors were made of obsidian and the highest quality least flawed obsidian in Anatolia and the surrounding region was to be found at Hasandağ. As early as 7000 BC this precious mineral is known to have been carried on people's backs to sell at places hundreds of kilometres away. What do three mountaineers talk about when crowded in a single tent inside the crater of an extinct volcano? Actually the topics of conversation are not much different from those of people in the cities. The real difference lies in the speed of speech. Within this narrow space the speed of life is regulated by the flame of the tiny butane stove. The snow slowly melts the tea simmers tranquilly and the sausages brown ever so gradually You are not in a hurry to get anywhere and there is no urgent business to be done. The pressure of time which pursues you furiously in the city evaporates here overnight. This is a marvelous reward for the trouble of climbing so high carrying a load of 22 kilos on your back.

d3_s.jpg (9728 bytes)At daybreak on the third day we set off eastwards. From this direction Hasandağ does not preserve such a perfect conical shape. Several secondary summits can be seen and beyond them another mass which almost deserves to be called a separate mountain. Descending rapidly we piled up our camping equipment between the two mountains. So as to enjoy the hard snow of the early hours to the full we took only our ice axes and crampons and set off to climb the second mountain taking a snowy route which seemed to be the steepest. When we reached the summit and looked northwards all of Cappadocia was spread out below our feet. Perhaps we would never get the opportunity to see the hidden beauties of the region's narrow valleys from such a height ever again. We just stood and watched. Half a hour later our visit was over and we set out downwards again. Hasandağ had proved far more fascinating than even we had imagined.

 

Göreme (Maccan / Avcılar)

Göreme as seen from balloonGöreme has the most beautiful setting in Cappadocia, the hotels and pensions fade into the village and the village fades into the fairy chimneys, hills and valleys.

Göreme has seen many changes particularly over the last 20 years as tourism has developed in the area. Nevertheless this small town still has a thriving community working the fields tucked away between the fairy chimneys and carrying on community seasonal activities such as autumn harvest of pumpkin seeds and the preparation of pekmez (made of wine) and village bread to see them through the long winter months. In Göreme you can see the old and new Turkey side by side (my personal favorite is the donkey tied up for a rest outside the Internet Cafe) and as you wander through the winding village streets you will probably be invited to to the tea in one of the ancient cave houses still lived in by local families. Göreme has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere but there is cafe society and nightlife in the center of the village for those who fancy something more lively.

There is plenty to see in Göreme itself, and that famous Göreme Open Air Museum is just up the road, but Göreme also makes an ideal base from which to explore the rest of Cappadocia. Walking maps are available and just about every other form of transport can be hired (including camels for the really adventurous) for longer trips and tours. There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Göreme from basic camp sites right up to the beautiful Ataman Hotel, set at the edge of the old village in the Uzundere valley and offering a complete range of service in a traditional setting

Gülsehir

Gülşehir is a lovely town, once inhabited by the Hittites and the Romans, known as Zoropassos during the Persian epoch and Arapsun before the Ottoman conquest, the town flourished under the patronage of Seyit Mehmet Paşa, better known as Kara Vezir (Black Vizier), who was born in Gülşehir and became a minister of state in İstanbul.

The most outstanding historical monument in the town is the Külliye built by Kara Vezir Paşa in 1779 in the Ottoman Baroque style. It consists of a mosque, a medrese and fountain.

 ÇAT VALLEY

Çat, to the north-east of Nevşehir, is another valley famous for its rock-cut caves and stone houses which were built in the last century.

AÇIKSARAY

15 km outside Nevşehir, on the Nevşehir-Gülşehir road (route 765), you will come across a deserted cave-village with rock-cut dwellings and chapels, to which the local inhabitants have quite recently given the name Açıksaray (Open Palace). The village is remarkable for its facades and the weird-looking formations, some resembling huge mushrooms, trees, even human faces.

This small settlement can be dated back to the 10th or 11th centuries. It covers an area of one square kilometer and contains eight complexes gathered around three-sided courtyards, each with a decorated main facade.

The first complex on the right when you enter Açıksaray from the Nevşehir-Gülşehir road has an elaborate facade one of the best in Cappadocia. The complex has two irregular rooms and one rectangular, in which a large equal-armed cross is carved on the interior wall above the entrance. Their heads are lost, because a window-like opening has been cut on the wall. The motif of the bull, which is regarded as sacred by the Neolithic communities in Anatolia and the Hittites, can only be seen in Açıksaray.

THE CHURCH OF St. JOHN (Karşı Kilise)

The Church of St. John is at the time of writing being restored, with beautiful frescoes appearing as its blackened walls are cleaned. Check with Nevşehir tourist information office to find out whether the church has yet been opened to visitors.

ÖZKONAK

The underground city was discovered in 1972 by muezzin Latif Acar, who was trying to find out where the water disappeared to when he watered his crops. He discovered an underground room which, later excavation revealed, belonged to a city with ten floors up to a depth of 40m. At present only four floors are open (up to 15m), but throughout the village can be seen parts of rooms belonging to the first and second levels. These first two levels were used for food storage and wine fermentation, and a press and reservoir are labelled, as are mangers for stabled animals. Another typical feature is the stone doors, moved by wooden levers; above them was a small hole, through which boiling oil would have been poured on an enemy trying to break the soft sand-stone door.

BELHA

Belha monastery is a religious center built around a courtyard in the 6th century. The complex comprises a refectory, a cellar, a kitchen, bedrooms, a large meeting hall, burial chambers, a church and rooms for monks.

Hacıbektas

hacibektas2_s.jpg (9563 bytes)Hacıbektaş 46 km from the city of Nevşehir might look at first sight no different from any other central Anatolian town. Indeed, if you are driving from Ankara, in your eagerness to see Cappadocia, the Ihlara Valley and the underground cities, you might easily pass through Hacıbektaş without even realising. But if you halt here before continuing on to Avanos, and spare an hour or so to visit the dervish dergâh (lodge) in the centre of the town, you will be able to make the acquaintance of the Alevi order, one of the heterodox branches of Islam.

hacibektas-festival_s.jpg (9460 bytes)If your visit is timed for august, you will be able to watch the international commemoration ceremonies, and get an idea of the living traditions of the order’s followers. Hacıbektaş is the sacred centre of Alevi Islam, and every year on 16, 17 and 18 August, tens of thousands of people flock here, not just from Turkey, but from Bulgaria, Albania and other Balkan countries.

hacibektas-semah_s.jpg (11119 bytes)They come from communities which follow the teachings of Hacı Bektaş Veli, whose emphasis on peace and tolerance make his a universally relevant doctrine still widely popular today. During the three days of the ceremonies, people from far and wide: from the Deliorman villages of Bulgaria, Albania, and the Turkish provinces of Isparta, Tokat, Tunceli, Mersin, Antalya, and Erzincan come together here. Teams of Alevi semah dancers from different regions and in colourful costumes perform these ceremonial dances, each of which represents a separate thread in the rich cultural tapestry. The last representatives of the folk ministrel tradition take the stage, sharing it with modern-day theatre companies and music groups. Book and souvenir stands are set up, and for three days the small town is transformed by the festival mood. The life of Hacı Bektaş Veli is shrouded in mystery. All that is known are stories and legends passed down by word of mouth until they were written down several centuries after his death in a book entitled the Velayetname by a Bektaşi dervish. It is believed that Hacı Bektaş was descended from the Caliph Ali (Alevi means those who follow in the footsteps of Ali), and his date of birth is given variously as 1209 and 1247. The Velayetname tells us that Hacı Bektaş came from Nishapur in Turkistan, where he was the student of Lokman Perende, one of the followers of Ahmed Yesevi. He later migrated to Anatolia, where he settled in Sulucakarahöyük and began to spread the teachings of the Alevi mystic tradition in Turkey.

These teachings, which came to be known as Bektaşi, address the heart, and urge friendship and humility instead of strife. Much later his teachings were given systematic form by the 15th-16th century Bektaşi dervish Balım Sultan, and so the Bektaşi dervish order gained its body of tradition over the centuries.

hacibektas_s.jpg (8777 bytes)The dergâh or dervish lodge of Hacıbektaş became a museum in 1964. The entrance leads into a large courtyard, to the right of which once stood buildings accommodating the dervishes who worked the land and farm labourers employed by the lodge. These buildings were demolished when the lodge was being converted into a museum, and a wall built here. At the far end of the wall is the Üçler Fountain symbolising the Creator, Muhammed and Ali, a fundamental concept of Alevi faith. An open space on the left is like a small park, and originally there were stables for the horses of guests, barns and other outbuildings here. At the end of the courtyard a gate leads into a second courtyard, where there is a pool with a border of flowers. If it is not too crowded you can drink from the holy water of the Lion Fountain. The inscription over this fountain explains that the lion statue was brought from Egypt as a gift to the lodge in 1853. The second courtyard was the busiest part of the lodge, with the aşevi (refectory), pantry, hamam (baths), guest house, hall where the sacred services known as cem were held, and the pavilion where the lodge’s leader, the Dedebaba, received guests. The final gateway leads into the third courtyard where the tomb of Hacı Bektaş Veli stands. On the right are the graves of dervishes belonging to the lodge, and in the small mausoleum just beyond lie Balım Sultan and Kalender Şah, two great figures of the order. The ancient wishing tree in front of the mausoleum is one of the places which visitors never fail to stop at. Before entering the mausoleum it is customary for visitors to embrace the cylindrical marble stone in the right-hand corner. If you can embrace it with two arms, then it is regarded as proof that your heart is clean and your intentions pure. The tomb was built by Şeyhsuvar Ali, lord of the Dulkadiroğulları principality, in 1519 following the death of Balım Sultan.

The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with painted kalem işi, and there are examples of Bektaşi calligrapher. The door is original. The mausoleum of Hacı Bektaş Veli himself is known as Pir Evi, and at the entrance are the graves of the baba’s of the order, dervishes who attained the highest degree. As you walk towards the Kırklar Meydanı hall, on the right you pass the çilehane, a cell where the dervishes spent time alone in the presence of God. If you wish to see inside you must bend almost double, and a few minutes alone in that dark cell gives you an impression at least of what it must have been like for the dervishes who came here. On the raised platform to the left of the Kırklar Meydanı are buried the descendants of Hacı Bektaş who sat on the ceremonial fleece of office and were known as çelebi or bel evlatları. In this hall where the dervishes performed the ceremonial dance known as the kırklar semahı, are now exhibited the twelve sided stones known as teslim taşı which the dervishes hung around their necks as symbols of the Bektaşi order, earrings worn by unmarried dervishes who devoted their lives to serving their lodge, handwriting of the Caliph Ali on gazelle skin, beautiful examples of calligraphy, torches, censers, and the Kırkbudak Candelabra which according to the Velayetname came from India. Finally a small door on the right leads into the tomb chamber of Hacı Bektaş Veli, where visitors perambulate three times around the sarcophagus before offering up a supplication to Hacı Bektaş Veli. Near the lodge is Dedebağı, an open park scattered with trees, where visitors who have come for the commemoration ceremonies gather to picnic and drink the ice cold spring water from a fountain known as Şekerpınar.

Another important holy place is the Çilehane, a cave where Hacı Bektaş Veli spent forty days and nights alone in prayer to God. A narrow entrance leads into the cave, inside which is an aperture through which it is said that those who manage to pass have pure hearts, so many people can be seen attempting to do it. But it is quite a feat, not to be recommended for people with high blood pressure or heart complaints. Every evening in the amphitheatre next to the Çilehane you can listen to musicians playing wonderful traditional folk music and watch theatre plays. Monuments to the 16th century poet Pir Sultan Abdal and 14th century poet Yunus Emre are also near here. The town of Hacıbektaş continues to be a fount of the mystic concept which sees God in man, and it is this idea which brings people who believe in peace between men and forbearance towards others flocking here from all over the world

Kayseri

Kayseri, which has a history of 6000 years, is one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia.

Being on the silk route, Kayseri has maintained its importance throughout history due to its strategic location. It used to be known in its past as the center of commerce, but with appropriate investment it has become one of the leading industrial cities. Recently, Kayseri has also attracted attention not only for its natural beauties but also its financial possibilities/ opportunities.

There are direct flights to Kayseri from İstanbul. It is also possible to reach Kayseri by rail or bus within a few hours from various centers.

Part of delight of Kayseri is that it centres around its most beautiful old buildings, and that these still play an important part in the everyday life of the place. The nature of buildings that have survived bears witness to the social conscience of the early Muslims, particularly of the Seljuks. Koranic teaching forbade excessive concern with private houses, and very few of them have survived. Instead the buildings of real notein the city are those which served public welfare and communal activities, especially exemplified in mosque complexes that included schools, soup kitchens and hamams.

Other buildings still integral to Kayseri’s life are the covered markets, where commercial activity- as conspicuous now as it was for the first Assyrian settlement-is most obvious. The prominence of commerce can be ascertained by the fact that there are three covered markets in the town center, all dating from different periods. The Bedesten was built in 1497.The Ulucami or Great Mosque is constructed under the Danişment Turkish emirs in the first half of the 13th century. The mosque, which can be entered from three sides, is still remarkably good condition. The best known of the mausoleums in Kayseri is the Döner Kümbet, a typical example probably dating to around 1275, built for Şah Cihan Hatun. Mysteriously the name of the monument means turning tomb, although it doesn’t turn and never has done. The tomb is decorated with arabesques and palmetters, and a tree of life with twin-headed eagles and lions beneath.

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The Museums

Near the citadel in the town center, the külliye of Hunat Hatun was the first mosque complex to be built by the Seljuks in Anatolia. It consist of a mosque (1237-38), and one of the most beautiful examples of Seljuk architecture in Turkey, the thirteenth-century medrese. This former theological college has an open courtyard and two eyvans (vaulted chambers open at the front) and nowadays houses the city’s ethnographic museum Hunat Hatun, Greek wife of Sultan Keykubad.

The archaeological museum certainly the best museum in the region, containing some of the most interesting artefacts to be found in Cappadocia. The first room deals with the Hittites, their cuneiform writing and hieroglyphics, and includes a fascinating Hittite rock relief from Develi and the head of sphinx. The rest of the museum is mainly dedicated to finds from the excavations of Kültepe.

The Güpgüpoğlu House, just inside the city walls is a restored Ottoman family home dating from the fifteenth century. It’s been arranged as a museum of ethnography.

The surroundings of Kayseri

Mt. Erciyes is only 30 km away from Kayseri, which has one of the nicest ski-runs in Turkey.

Sultan Sazlığı, which is world famous for birdmatchers and 301 different species of birds and is one of the bird paradises in the world, is in Kayseri.

Aladağlar National Park, whose major parts are also in Kayseri, is visited with great interest by an increasing number of people each year.

The Kapuzbaşı Falls, The Hacer Forests and the Seven Lake District are wonders of nature with their diverse natural features.

Soğanlı Valley, which is an important extension of Cappadocia region, is famous for its churches carved into rocks. Authentic hand made linen dolls in the region also attract attention.

Kırsehir

kirsehir1_s.jpg (10608 bytes)The research and excavations of the recent years have shown that human settlements in Kırşehir started in 3000 B.C. Ceramic pieces from that period are found in the tumuluses of Kırşehir. The archaeological excavations undertaken at Hashöyük, a village of the central district of Kırşehir, in 1930 by Turkish and Italian archaeologists has revealed pieces of pottery from 3000 B.C.

In 2000 B.C we see the start of Assyrian Trade Colonies period and the Hittite period. Two altars with cow heads from Old Hittite Period brought to the Hirfanlı Dam Operations from the shores of the Kızılırmak River, Malkayası with hieroglyph inscriptions and known as Hittite road inscription located between the villages of Sevdiğin and Kale, also the seals, ceramic kitchen utensils, public buildings with walls etc found at Kaman Kale Tumulus are important traces of the Hittite period.

Current archaeological excavations and surface investigations also reveal that, after the Old and Late Hittite Periods, the Old and Late Phrygian Periods were also lived in a most dense fashion. In 550 B.C, Anatolia was completely under Persian dominance. Within this period, Kırşehir was part of the Central Anatolia history, a region which became well known as Cappadocia (Beautiful Horses). As Persians sufficed with only military invasion of Anatolia , significant ruins or remains cannot be found in Kırşehir, but Persian seals were found at excavations of the Kaman Kale tumulus. Persian dominance came to end in 334 BC when the armies of Alexander the Great came to Anatolia and defeated the Persians. Kırşehir and environs experienced severe pressures due to lack of authority during the period of the Cappadocia Kingdom which was established in 333 BC. In the year 18, Roman Emperor Tiberius officially annexed Cappadocia to the Roman Empire and converted it into a provincial status.

Roman period was a period of strong paganism as well as a period where Christianity was fast expanding. About 15 underground cities of varying size are known to exist from that period in Kırşehir, which were built as places of worship and sanctuary for the Christians.

Historical research shows that Kırşehir was for a while an important political center during the Roman period and even functioned as the provincial capital.

kirsehir3_s.jpg (8891 bytes)There is not much information about the Byzantine period of this area, but ruins and remains indicate that a Byzantine period did exist. Üç Ayak church from the 10th century at Taburoğlu village of the provincial center, which is one of the first big village churches in Anatolia, was a church where Protestants and Catholics worshipped together, and the church ruins at Fakıl village and Temirli are interesting.

Seljuk period is significant for Kırşehir as it is for Anatolian Turkish history as a whole, and worth investigating.

Urbanization of Kırşehir during the Seljuk period started in the early years of 13th century. Kırşehir was given to one of the Emirs of the Mengücük dynasty, Melik Muzaffererüddin Muhammed as a fief, who was defeated in battle by Seljuks at Erzincan, for his outstanding performance. During his stay in Kırşehir, Melik Muzaffererüddin Muhammed built the Melik Gazi Medrese (old theological school) in 1230.

Mongolians which invaded whole of Anatolia in 1240 after the Kösedağ defeat converted Kırşehir into a rest stop for winter (kışlak) and a summer place in the plateau (yaylak). The long lasting military presence of Mongolians in Kırşehir turned it into an important political and military center.

kirsehir2.jpg (7951 bytes)Nureddin Cibril Bin Cacabey, who was appointed as Emir to Kırşehir in 1260's, started the first significant construction activities of the Turkish period, thanks to the good relations he established with the Mongolians. Cacabey Medrese which was one of the first schools of astronomy and Cacabey Inn near Kızılırmak as well as numerous big and small buildings were all realized during his times.

In the 13th century, Ahi Evran which organized the Anatolian Turkish union in general and the organization and unification of the trade and craftsmen in particular, came to Kırşehir after Denizli, Konya and Kayseri and carried out his mission there, turning Kırşehir into the center of the Ahi movement. After the leader Ahi Evran, Kırşehir sustained its position as the center of the Ahi. The decisions taken at the lodge in Kırşehir were influential from Azerbaijan to Bosnia-Herzagovina.

In 1293, Mevlana's son Sultan Veled sent ambassadors to certain centers in Anatolia, with the aim of spreading the Mevlevi belief. The person assigned to Kırşehir was Şeyh Süleyman Türkmani. Süleyman Türkmani established a lodge in Kırşehir and spread Mevlevi belief from this base. His close relationship to Mevlana and Mevlana's appreciation of him are apparent from his letters.

It is also known that Mevlana's son Alaaddin fled to Kırşehir after his name got involved in the case of Şemsi Tebrizi murder in Konya. All this show that Kırşehir was one of the important centers of the Mevlevis in Anatolia.

Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli, who came to Suluca Karahöyük, received a great number of people there, who had a leaning towards his ideas.

Kırşehir continued to be one of the most important political, social and cultural centers of Anatolia from 13th to the middle of the 15th century.

In the beginning of the 14th century, Famous Sufi Aşık Paşa who was one of the prominent people which brought progress to Anatolia wrote his Garibnâme of 12 thousand couplets. After Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey who wanted to establish Turkish as the official language, Aşık Paşa became the most important advocate of the Turkish culture and brought it into the language of literature in the most successful way.

Great Sufi scholar Ahmet Gülşehri who translated Mantık-ut Tayr by Ferideddin Attar who lived in Kırşehir into Turkish, is known as the greatest poet after Yunus Emre.

In addition to all these, it is also speculated that Yunus Emre had lived in Kırşehir, died there and his grave is on the ziyaret (Visit) Hill in the Ulupınar District of Kırşehir.

Kırşehir Museum

The initial studies for the establishment of the Kırşehir Museum started in 1936. This was the period of Post - Republic Turkey when initiatives for new museums were strong. In Kırşehir a museum storage was formed by collecting certain stone works and ethnographic pieces at Alaaddin Mosque situated on what people a mound at the city center called the "castle" by the people. This initiative was soon forgotten until the establishment of a Commission for Historical Heritage by the Governor in 1975 and the Kırşehir Museum Directorate was established in 1980. The first listing of the coins was undertaken in 1981 and field work was started for the listing of in situ items of the future collection.

In 1985, the material collected so far was put on display in a 100 m² space at the premises of the Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate and a storage of 20 m² was arranged. With the start of the Kaman Kale tumulus archaeological excavations, the growth of the museum accelerated and in the same year first listing of the archaeological items was started.

In 1993 the material of the museum were put into storage at the Kırşehir Cultural center.

The work aimed at opening the museum to public accelerated in 1996. Kırşehir Museum which is now open to visits has more than 3300 items consisting of coins and ethnographic and archaeological materials.

Furthermore, the field work carried out by Kırşehir Museum Directorate has revealed 136 items of immobile cultural heritage and these were registered and taken under protection

Museum Display

The lower floor of what formerly was Fine Arts Gallery within the Cultural Center was opened to visits in 1997 as Archaeological Museum and a large section of the upper floor as the Ethnography Museum.

The major part of the archaeological material are from the excavations and surface investigations carried out in the region and from Kaman - Kale Tumulus and Malkaya in particular. In the archeology section the findings of the Kaman Kale Tumulus excavations are exhibited, which cover a period range in chronological order from the period of Assyrian Trade Colonies to the Ottomans period.

In one corner of the hall, marble works from Roman period are grouped. Islam period which starts with sarcophagus of children and grave stones, goes up to the Ottoman period with coin window displays.

The major part of the second floor is arranged as an ethnography museum. There are three display windows devoted to the Ahi institution which emerged from Kırşehir and various items related to Ahis or about them, including a head gear which is claimed to belong to Ahi Evran, the Ahi flag and various official documents and registers are displayed in them.

There is a rug loom in a corner, representing the rug making tradition in Kırşehir and a mannequin with local costumes weaving in front of the loom. In another corner there is an exhibition of daily life at a typical Kırşehir house.

 

Kızılırmak (Red River)

The Kızılırmak is the artery which gives life to the Anatolian steppe: to flowers, insects, people and the soil. With countless tributaries and a length of 1355 kilometres the Kızılırmak is Turkey’s longest river. It rises on Mount Kızıldağ in the northeast of the central Anatolian region and is soon swelled by a series of streams close to itself in size in its home province of Sivas. By the time it crosses into the province of Kayseri it is already several times its original volume, and continues to swallow up tributaries along its westward route past towns and cities. 

 

 

 

At Avanos the river swerves to the northwest to pour into the Black Sea at Bafra. The Kızılırmak delta, with its numerous lakes, large and small, is one of Turkey’s most important areas for birdlife.The Turkish name  the Red River  derives from the colour of the water, whereas in antiquity the Kızılırmak was known as the Halys, a name meaning ‘salty river’. This river valley was home to diverse civilisations over Turkey’s long history, and many traces of them are still to be seen today, such as rock tombs, castles, bridges and settlements.

Five of us decided to follow the course of the Kızılırmak to see this ancient heritage at close quarters along its valley created over thousands of years. We were to travel by inflatable dinghy, and chose the month of June when the river water is at its clearest. The first stage of our journey was that part of the river in the province of Kayseri, where roads along its valley are virtually nonexistent and nature barely touched by man.

This stretch of the river, approximately eighty kilometres in length, flows past no large towns.Since differences in altitude are negligible in this part of Kayseri the river is generally sluggish, sometimes appearing as still as a lake. But this tranquility turned out to be deceptive, since on occasions we suddenly found ourselves racing along and being swept over rapids as the river suddenly surged downwards. Our chosen method of travel meant that we had to be prepared for accidental tumbles overboard and struggling to stay afloat in the rushing water.

 

 

 

 

The Kızılırmak valley frequently alters in appearance with the changing geological structure of the terrain. Before reaching Felahiye Bridge the river flows through high hills and occasionally rocky gorges, but beyond the bridge this scenery makes way for volcanic rock. The river is here within range of the eruptions of Mount Erciyes, the volcano which created this unique landscape. The colour of the basalt rock constantly varies, particularly in the afternoon light, to spectacular effect. The red hue of the river water is turned an even deeper crimson by the reflections of the rock on the water. 

 

 

 

This remote and rocky landscape is a haunt of large numbers of birds of many diverse species, one that we frequently spotted all along the river being the Egyptian vulture.The red waters of the river flow amidst white willows with olive green foliage, and sometimes reeds and willows together. We saw anglers in the welcome shade of the willows fishing for sheatfishes. Some were fishing with rods but others with nets, despite this being illegal. The great number of fishermen was an indicator of the teeming wildlife for which the river and its banks are a habitat. Colourful dragonflies were plentiful all along the river.  

There are many historic bridges over the Kızılırmak, and during our journey we passed a halfruined bridge near Çukur, and the Çokgöz and Tekgöz bridges. The latter was built in 1202 during the reign of Rükneddin Süleyman Şah, son of the Seljuk ruler Sultan İzzeddin Kılıç Arslan II. Çokgöz is another Seljuk bridge which is still in use. It has no less than fifteen arches, hence the name Çokgöz (Many Arched). Past this bridge the river makes a sharp turn alongside cliffs, marking the start of a stretch of spectacular beauty. Near Çukur, on a high rock rising from the river is the awesome Zırha Castle, perched like an eaglsdm eyrie. Past Hırkaköy is a great timber bridge  nearly 150 metres in length and broad enough for cars to cross  which harmonises perfectly with the river, enhancing its beauty.

The Kızılırmak brings life to all the lands its passes through. Wherever the valley floor widens out even a little, farmers take advantage of the fertile soil. Where the valley widens into plains several kilometres broad there are villages. If not for the Kızılırmak this region would be arid steppe land unsuited to agriculture. As we approached each village the sound of motorised water pumps could be heard. The farmers raise water from the river to irrigate their fields, relying mainly on water pumps, but where these are inadequate constructing huge water wheels like the one which we saw at the village of Kuşcu. 

The Kızılırmak reshapes the dry and harsh conditions of the central Turkish steppe, creating an environment along its course on which many living things depend. This was brought home to the five of us during our boat journey downriver.

Mustafapasa - Sinassos

Sinasos

In the strange and wonderful landscape of Cappadocia is the old, tranquil and picturesque town of Mustafapaşa 5 km from Ürgüp. Known formerly as Sinassos, this is a small town of 2500 inhabitants where originally Turks and Greeks lived side by side, and the sound of church bells mingled with the call to prayer from the mosque. The road to Mustafapaşa winds through a green valley watered by many tiny streams and is lined by rustling poplars. The old houses of the town nestle at the foot of Golgoli, a high hill of Cappadocia’s yellow volcanic rock. As you enter the central square you encounter a magnificent building on the left. This is Sinassos Hotel, originally the private residence of an Anatolian Greek who owned shops in Istanbul’s Fish Market and had this house built in 1892. Further along the road leading off the square is Şakir Paşa Medrese, an Ottoman period university college with an intricately carved portal now housing a traditional carpet centre. It was constructed in the 19th century by Mısırlı Şakir Paşa to educate the sons of Turkish families in the town. Adjoining the medrese are two houses with large courtyards dating from the beginning of this century. Over the gate of one is the date, 1900, and the name of the owner. Opposite Şakir Paşa Medrese is the Aşağı Mosque, formerly known as Camii Kebir, dating from 1600, although the portico and one minaret are recent additions. The old minaret is in Seljuk style, in interesting contrast to the new minaret.

Mustafapaşa was given tourism site status in 1981, and the 93 traditional stone houses in the town dating from the late 19th and early 20th century are under conservation order and awaiting restoration. Passing several of these brings you to a second square, on which stands the Church of Constantine and Helensinassos2.jpg (21428 bytes), one of the town’s foremost monuments. It is dedicated to Constantine the Great and his empress, Helena. The frescos date from 1895 and were executed by a Greek artist named Kostis Meletyades who had been trained in Venice. Seated at tables on the pavement outside the cafés around the square, elderly men sip their tea as they play backgammon or watch the visitors to the town with curiosity and smile in greeting. Another old building on the square houses the local library, and next to that is the Taş Fırın bakery of Mustafapaşa whose bread is famed throughout Cappadocia. The town is surrounded by apricot, apple and pear orchards, and vineyards. Wine production is a major part of the local economy, and there are two wine factories with a total output of around 600 tons per year, all of which is sold to local hotels and restaurants. As well as wine, the small black grapes of the region are used to make pekmez, or grape treacle. When autumn comes the local women tuck up the legs of their baggy şalvar and set about the task of making pekmez for the winter. The technique is the same as that used by the Hittites thousands of years before! The grapes are heaped into shallow stone pits and the women tread barefoot on them to crush out the juice, which is then siphoned off into huge cauldrons placed on wood fires in the garden. The people of Mustafapaşa are friendly to strangers and always ready for a chat or to invite them into their homes. Two of the oldest inhabitants of the town, Şabat Topuz and Süleyman Temur, are delighted to find listeners for their ancient local tales. The houses built of the soft local stone are cool in summer and warsinassos3.jpg (25102 bytes)m in winter. Some are now run as guest houses or small hotels. The hills around are filled with Byzantine rock churches, chapels and monasteries. In the Gömede valley are the churches of St. Steven and St. Basil, and 2 kilometres away is the Church of St. Nicholas. Another church of St. Basil in a nearby valley is a three story rock church whose interior is decorated with frescos depicting scenes from the bible. So if you plan a holiday in Cappadocia, do not miss visiting Mustafapaşa, or perhaps make it your base for touring this fascinating region of Central Turkey.

 

Nevsehir

NevşehirNevşehir is a modern town set very close to the wonders of Cappadocia but without much of it's landscape to be seen. It is the administrative capital of the region and has a huge market running from Friday to Monday every week.

Nevşehir was founded by Damat Ibrahim Paşa (1662-1730) who came from the village of Muşkara and achieved fame and fortune as grand vizier to Sultan Ahmet III. After producing many fine buildings to Damat İbrahim Paşa Mosqueenhance the glory of the Sultan in Istanbul he returned home to found a new city (Nevşehir in English is new city). The complex he built in what is now central Nevşehir consisted of a mosque, seminary, school, library, fountain and hamam (Turkish bath). Some of these buildings, and the beautiful paintings which decorate the interior still survive. You will see the name of Ibrahim Paşa everywhere in Cappadocia where establishments from colleges to tea houses commemorate the contribution of this local boy to his country and his home town.

Nevşehir is crowned by an Ottoman citadel. Only a few ruined walls survive but there is a fine view and local handmade lace is sold around the citadel.

Just on the outskirts of Nevşehir is the hamlet of Nar where the cave houses are still occupied by families, there are no rock churches in Nar and so very few tourists ever visit.

Nigde

nigde-kapi_s.jpg (9940 bytes)Niğde, 85 km south of Nevşehir, was built by the Seljuks. Backed by snow-capped mountains, it’s a farming centre with a small but fine selection of historic buildings, including a mosque built by the Mongols. East of the town is the ancient rock-hewn monastery of Eski Gümüşler, with the best-preserved paintings in Cappadocia.

MOSQUES & MUSEUM

The Alaattin Mosque (1223), a Seljuk work on the hill with the fortress and clock tower is the town’s grandest mosque. The Alaattin Mosque undoubtedly occupies a place of special importance among the buildings of this period. We learn from the inscription that it was built in 1223 by Zeyrettin Başara, whose very valuable contribution to the city we have already touched upon. The eastern portal comprises several elements of stone carving developed in the Seljuk period, such as the human faces included in the geometric decoration and the architectural inscription giving tee names of the master-craftsman Mahmut oğlu Sıddık and his brother Gazi.

The Sungur Bey Camii at the foot of the hill by the marketplace is one of the city’s most interesting building. Built by the Seljuks but restored by the Mongols in 1335, the Sungur Bey Camii is a curious and affecting blend of architectures. The embellished windows at ground level differ in style one from another. On the upper storey, blind lancet arches take the place of windows. The rose window above the north window bears a six-pointed ‘Star of David’, a motif used elsewhere in the building. The big, stolid, square doors are finally carved.

The Ak Medrese (1409) is now the town’s museum, where pride of place is given to the mummy of a blonde nun discovered in the 1960s in the Ihlara Valley, and thought to be 1000 years old. nigde-huand_s.jpg (5827 bytes)

The Hüdavend Hatun Türbesi (1312), built of hewn stone with an octagonal interior surmonted by a sixteen-sided pyramidal dome, was erected in 1312 during the time of the İlhanid governor Sungur Agha by the Seljuk princess Hüdavend Hatun, daughter of Kılıçarslan IV. The treatment of all the wall surfaces, beginning from the surrounds of the door and windows, and the symbolic significance of the various human and animal figures indicate that we are in the presence of a very interesting experiment. This kümbet (tomb) is a fine example of Seljuk tomb with a very beautiful portal; the Dış Cami is an Ottoman mosque with a carved mimber inlaid with-of-pearl.

 

Ortahisar

Ortahisar with castleOrtahisar, which means middle fortress in Turkish, can be reached by turning right at the 15th km on the Nevşehir - Ürgüp road, and then continuing for one more kilometer. After turning right you will notice doors on the rock surface on both sides. These doors are the best example of cool-air storages in Cappadocia. In these natural air-contitioned rooms, lemons and oranges from the Mediterranean region, apples from Niğde, local potatoes, quinces and onions are stored. Green lemons slowly turn yellow in these store-rooms.

Ortahisar is famous for its friendly inhabitants, picturesque stone houses both old and new, narrow streets and lovely churches as well as the castle-like rock formation after which the town is named. The natural fortress, 90 m high, a prominant landmark in the region, honeycombed with caves and tunnels, camouflaged by nature without the slightest indication of human presence inside, has partly crumbled away, revealing some of its interior. Today it has been restored and the peak is accessible by staircase. It offers a magnificent panorama over the fairy chimneys of Hallaçdere and Mt. Erciyes. An underground passage links it to İshak Kale (sometimes known as İsa Kale, the Fortress of Christ), which rises at a distance of about 350 m. From the foot of the castle the town descends right into a deep ravine.

If you follow the street close to the main fortress, you can visit Ali Reis Church with Christ on the main dome, situated in a private. If you keep on the main street down south you can have take in the Balkan Deresi up to the Balkan Churches.

Some churches in the vicinity of Ortahisar have been opened recently. Keep right for 2 km when after leaving Ürgüp towards Mustafapaşa, after 1 km you will see the yellow signs for Sarıca and Kepez Churches. Another kilometer will take you to Pançarlık Church which has very fine frescoes on its ceiling.

The Hallaçdere monastic complex 1 km northeast of Ortahisar is one of the best examples of the courtyard monasteries. It has vestibule, a kitchen, a large tomb chamber, five rooms of different sizes and a church with an inscribed-cross plan with four columns. The animal-head decoration on some of the column capitals and the sculpture of a human figure on the wall of one of the rooms are unique in Cappadocia. The ground level inside the complex is more than one meter below that of the courtyard level because of the silting.

 

Çavusin - Pasabagı - Zelve

CavusinÇavuşin is a village about 4 kilometres from Göreme. The  old village is largely deserted because the area has been plagued by rock falls. For this reason it is best to take a guide if you want to visit Çavuşin and to watch your step. At Çavuşin you can visit the Church of John the Baptist which probably dates from the 5th century with paintings from the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries.

Quite nearby another church contains frescos commemorating the passage of  Nicephoras Phocas (a Byzantine Emperor) through Cappadocia in 964 to 965 during his military campaign against Cilicia. Nicephoras may have visited the Church of John the Baptist which was an important centre for pilgrimage at that time.

 ZELVE

Zelve, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region is an amazing cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, religious and secular chambers. Here, the Christians and Moslems lived together in perfect harmony, until 1924.Then Christians had to leave the Valley because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, and the Moslems were forced to evacuate the Valley in the 50’s when life became dangerous due to risk of erosion. They left the site to set up a modern village, a little further on, to which they gave the name Yeni Zelve (New Zelve).Now old Zelve is a ghost town and the erosion still continues.

The three valleys in the Zelve region are a paradise for the rock climbers. It takes at least two hours for a good trekker to walk through these valleys, which also house the oldest examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.

Start your excursion by visiting the first valley on the right taking the stamps in the second valley, then turning right. While walking along the path, you will see on the right some paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings are what remain from the now totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer) and afford examples of the oldest paintings displaying the principal religious symbols of Christianity, like the Cross, the deer and the fish.

On entering the first valley you will see a rock-cut mosque on the left, with a lovely minaret obviously influenced by the bell-towers of the monasteries, (Byzantine ciboria) which consist of a baldachin of four collonettes supporting a pinnacle. You will then notice a monastery complex on the right resembling an upside down bowl cut of the rock. Immediately opposite, there is a rock-cut complex accessible by a metal ladder and connected to the second valley by a tunnel, but safety considerations make any attempt to go thought it inadvisable. On leaving the first valley you can enter the second valley by following the path in front of the Mosque.

Before leaving this open-air museum, be sure to pay special attention to the rocks at the entrance of the third valley. Here you will find a rock-cut mill with a grindstone which remained in use until the 50’s. Recently, its entrance has collapsed. Then follow the path to the Üzümlü Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself, in a country famous for its Dionysiac rituals. Just next to Üzümlü Kilise is the Balıklı Kilise (The Church with Fishes).On the apse above you will be able to discern paintings of fish in a very faded red.

 The nearby Paşabağ area contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps.

Sarıhan

plan of Sarihan
Situated 5 km east of Avanos on the Kayseri-Aksaray road, Sarı Han is on the banks of the Damsa brook. It faces west, and consists of an indoor area with 5 naves and a courtyard. Sarı Han is considered to have been built in 1238. It had a Turkish bath and a mesjid over the gatehouse and its external area (excluding the towers and portal) is 2,000 m². Repairs are now taking place, but because its future function has not yet been determined there is no way of knowing on what basis the repairs are being done. The restoration being done is technically unsuccessfull.

Sarihan

Sarıhan (1998)

sarihan-old.jpg (46365 bytes)

Sarıhan (1970)

Uçhisar

Uçhisar is a troglodyte village situated 4 km east of Göreme. It is famous for the huge rock formation once used as a fortification. This extraordinary rock is the highest peak in the region and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the whole of Cappadocia with Mt. Erciyes in the distance.

The Citadel, carved out and tunnelled by the cave-dwellers of the past, and concealed from view and used for defence purposes, has now been destroyed by erosion, revealing the inner honeycombed architecture. A secret tunnel from the castle to the river bed 100 m below, hewn out in order to provide the water supply in the event of siege, has been recently discovered.

In the Pigeon Valley in the south of Uçhisar there are the best example of the pigeon-houses in Cappadocia.

The Underground Cities of Cappadocia

Derinkuyu - Kaymaklı - Özkonak

b2_s.jpg (9747 bytes)Nobody knows just how many underground sites there are in Cappadocia although the number has been estimated at around 300. Some say that there is one for every village and settlement in the region but certainly not all of the sites can be described as cities.

This subterranean way of life resulted from several different factors. The dramatic landscape of Cappadocia is formed from tufaceous rock which is easy to work (and actually gets easier the deeper you go) but which dries to a hard surface resistant enough to allow the excavation of wide rooms with horizontal ceilings. Trees producing wood suitable for building use are scarce in Cappadocia (and apparently always have been) so even the surface dwellings are barrel vaulted using squared tufaceous stone.

This negative building culture, making use of existing formations rather than creating specialist building materials, can be found throughout the world but is particularly strong in the Mediterranean region. Cappadocia`s underground cities are however unique in their range, their complexity, their variety and possibly in the time periods in which they were developed.

The first mention of these subterranean sites occurs in the works of Xenophon written around 400 BC. Xenophon was a Greek mercenary who took charge of the Ten Thousand after the death of Cyrus, marching across Cappadocia with them:

The houses were built underground; the entrances were like wells but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals wkile the men went down by ladder. Inside the houses there were goats, sheep, cows and poultry with their young [...]
There was also wheat, beans, and barley wine in great bowls [...] When one was thirsty, one was meant to take a reed and suck the wine into one's mouth. This barley wine is exceedingly strong and is best mixed with water; but any man who is accustomed to it and drinks it undiluted enjoys its flavor to the full.

Some authorities suggest that the underground cities were created during the earlier period, as storage areas, by the Hittites and were much later extended and brought into use as refuges for Christians persecuted by the Romans. Others maintain that the cities were created somewhat later, by the Phrygians, as a line of defense against the Assyrians. The most commonly held view is that the cities were excavated during Roman and/or Byzantine times. Certainly during these years the region was often beset by internal strife in the form of persecutions of (and by) local Christian communities, and external attacks by the Arabs. After the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, in the 14th Century, the external threat abated, the Byzantines were forced to leave the area and, with the outbreak of peace, the abandonment of the underground cities began.

It is unlikely that the underground cities were ever intended as permanent, or even long stay, settlements, but they were clearly built to withstand attack and could support large

                                  Derinkuıyu

numbers of people and their domestic animals, for long periods of time. The urban organization was very complex, and there was probably always work in progress. Extensive networks of passages, tunnels, stepped pits and inclined corridors link family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship. The cities were complete with wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, stables and areas where the dead could be placed until such time as conditions on the surface would allow their proper disposal. Most importantly, carefully balanced moving stone doors, resembling mill stones, were devised to quickly block the corridors in the event of an attack. Of course, these doors operated from one side only!

underground-cities_s.jpg (6404 bytes)Cappadocia`s subterranean way of life is not all history. Around Göreme subterranean canals are still used for water regulation on the terraced farmland. In the villages of Zelve, Soğanlı, and elsewhere. there are still some semi-subterranean rooms in use. The underground storage of produce is common practice particularly around Ortahisar where large quantities of locally grown potatoes and citrus fruits brought from the South coast are stored. The underground sites are particularly useful for storage because, while the outdoor temperature can vary from minus 20° C to nearly 40° C. the internal temperature of the sites remains constant throughout the year at 7° to 15° C (depending on proximity to the air shafts).

Several underground cities are open to visitors. The largest of these, at  Derinkuyu has 8 levels open to the public, there may be as many as 12 more levels as yet unexcavated. There are about 600 outside doors to the city, hidden in the courtyards of surface dwellings. There is some speculation that Derinkuyu may be linked to another underground city,  Kaymaklı, which is 9 kilometers away.  Ozkonak is the nearest underground city to Avanos.

                          Derinkuıyu Church

Ürgüp

ÜrgüpÜrgüp is about 7 kilometers from Göreme and is a modern town catering to the needs of tourists as well as a market town for the whole area on Saturdays.

Ürgüp has grown enormously over the last twenty years or so in response to the needs of tourists, and is now a major shopping centre especially for carpets, jewelry, antiques, leather, ceramics, and hookahs. A permanent handicrafts market offers a variety of souvenirs and the Turkish Bath (hamam) is geared to the needs of tourists as well as locals. Ürgüp has some lively nightlife with a theatre, discos and bars offering Turkish evenings of food, drink and traditional dancing. Around Ürgüp the long standing Ottoman and Greek tradition of wine making continues. Many wine shops offer free wine testing all year round and a Wine Festival is held every year in the first week of June.

ÜrgüpThe old dwellings of Urgup are now principally used for storage and stabling but there are still some strikingly beautiful houses of Greek and Ottoman origin to be found and in the streets winding away from the town centre many locals are living their lives in the old traditions.

Ürgüp has a "Wishpoint" for those who require lasting benefits from their holiday. The route to the wishpoint is interesting in itself as it starts opposite the 13th century Kebir Camii (mosque) then follows a long tunnel to the top of Temenni, the hill of wishes, where you will find the Seljuk tomb of Kılıçarslan IV, a park where you can relax and admire the view and a medrese (Islamic college) which is now a cafe where you can refresh yourself and decide just what to spend your wish on.

Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake)

tuzgol1.jpg (7832 bytes)As you approach Şereflikoçhisar southeast of Ankara, glinting light to the west tells you that the Tuz Gölü is approaching. The intense whiteness and sparkle of the salt crystals look deceptively like snow and ice. Even when you reach the edge, you still brace yourself for a freezing sensation as you take off your shoes and socks. The first step is a surprise, at the second you adjust your expectations, and at the third you become convinced that it is really salt beneath your feet. And you start to think about salt, one of life’s most essential ingredients. Salt makes up 3.5 percent of the human body, which is extraordinary testimony to the balance of nature, because the proportion of salt in the world’s seas is also 3.5 percent!

tuzgol2.jpg (10982 bytes)Wearing high rubber boots you can take a long walk across the lake, if you do not mind sinking occasionally into patches of mud. The water varies from a few centimetres to half a metre in depth most of the time, but when the overflow from Lake Beyşehir pours through channels into Tuz Gölü, the depth increases by 30-40 centimetres. When the water level rises, the ecological balance of the lake is disturbed. Evaporation diminishes, and the circulation of the water between atmosphere and ground becomes erratic.

tuzgol3.jpg (9210 bytes)Tuz Gölü is fed by the Melendiz river, several small streams, and underground salt water springs. Three salt pans in the lake produce one million tons of salt a year, or 64% of Turkey’s total requirements. Saturated salt water is allowed to pour into the Kaldırım, Kayacık and Yavşan salt pans, and when the salt has precipitated the water is drained off again. Then the salt is shovelled into wagons which travel along an extensive network of rails to warehouses on the lake shore. From here the salt is taken by truck to several privately owned salt processing plants, mainly situated in Şereflikoçhisar. Here the salt is washed several times, dried, and packed into sacks for distribution to factories all over Turkey.

In Ottoman times the blocks of salt which formed naturally around the lake were broken up and sold to traders there on the lake shore. The salt was loaded onto camels and carried off in every direction. In later years warehouses were built, and then a narrow gauge railway was constructed to the lake, enabling salt to be gathered from different parts of it each year. This continued until the 1970s, when the more efficient salt pans in use today were constructed.

tuz-golu_s.jpg (5976 bytes)With an area of 1500 square kilometres, Tuz Gölü is Turkey’s second largest lake, after Lake Van. There are several new villages round the lake settled by people from different parts of the country. Stock farming and agriculture are practised here, and around the shores you are particularly struck by the fields of melons and watermelons. Despite the fact that any object submerged in the lake waters for even a short time become covered with a crust of salt, the melons grown close to the lake shores are wonderfully sweet. 

Numerous potteries here produce water jars which the craftsmen claim are made nowhere else in Turkey or the rest of the world. Known as salt jars, they are made of clay mixed with salt, The high level of evaporation which results causes the jars to act like refrigerators, and water kept in them remains cold in the hottest weather. Sufficient clay for 200 water jars is mixed with around 10 kilos of salt. If too much salt is added the jars crack during firing, and if the proportion is too low the jars do not allow sufficient evaporation and will not keep the water cool. While water stored in an ordinary pottery jar remains fresh and sweet for just five or six months, when stored in a salt jar it can apparently be kept without any deterioration of quality for four or five years.

A paved road, thought to date from Roman times, crosses the northern arm of the lake from east to west, linking Şereflikoçhisar to Kulu near Haymana. Many of the marble columns erected along each side of the submerged road to prevent the caravans from straying off and getting stuck in the mud are still standing. Today, however, soil piled on the road has raised it about one metre above the surface. On Büyükada Island in the lake is a small church dating from late Roman times, and the remains of a guard house which offered protection for travellers along the road and is thought to date from the same period. Red standing stones scattered through the area are said by local people to mark the graves of those killed during the First World War. There are also many ancient burial mounds in the vicinity.

tuz-golu_s.jpg (6673 bytes)Visitors touring Cappadocia often include Tuz Gölü in their itinerary. It is indeed worth coming to see the strange sight of the salt gleaming like silver beneath the clear lake water. When the coachloads of tourists stop on the lakeside, no one can resist paddling on the salt bottom. Disregarding the splashes of water on their skirts and trousers, they enjoy the sensation of wading through this unearthly white world. And when the water splashes dry, a fine layer of salt is left behind as a reminder of Tuz Gölü.

 

 

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