the Central Anatolia Region
Cappadocia is unique in the world with its landscape
of fairy chimneys, rock carved churches
and monasteries, underground shelters, rock settlements and the rock castles.
Millions of years ago the ashes and lava spouting from the volcanoes formed a
thick layer on the Cappadocia Lake. The wind, rain and the flood have eroded the
layer of tufa, creating a beautiful landscape and those interesting formations,
the so called fairy chimneys.
Nevsehir, a provincial capital, is the gateway to Cappadocia.
In the town itself
are the hilltop Selcuk castle, perched on the highest point in the city and the
Kursunlu mosque, built for the Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha. The mosque is
part of a complex of buildings which includes a medrese (theological college), a
hospice and a library. An ablution fountain in the courtyard still bears its
original inscription. The Nevsehir museum displays local artifacts.Violent
eruptions of the volcanoes mt.Erciyes (3916 meters) and mt. Hasan (3268 meters)
long ago covered the plateau surrounding Nevsehir with Tufa, a soft stone
comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock
and created a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles
and fretted ravines, in colors that range from warm reds and golds to cool
greens and greys. Locals call these fascinating capped pinnacles ‘’peri
bacalari’’ (fairy chimneys).The Goreme national park, known in Roman times as
Cappadocia, is one of those rare regions in the world where the works of man
blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings. Dwellings have been hewn from
the rocks as far back as 3.000 B.C. During Byzantine times, chapels and
monasteries were hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting
the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today cave dwellings in rock cones
and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape.
Urgup, a lively tourist center at the foot of a rock ridge riddled with old
dwellings, serves as an excellent base from which to tour the sights of
Cappadocia. In Urgup itself you can still see how people once lived in homes cut
into the rock. If you wish to buy carpets and kilims, there is a wide selection
available from the town’s many carpet dealers, who are as colorful as their
carpets, offering tea, coffee or a glass of wine to their customers and engaging
in friendly conversation. If sightseeing and shopping haven’t exhausted you, the
disco welcomes you to yet another kind of entertainment. At the center of a
succesful wine-producing region, Urgup hosts an annual international wine
festival in October.
Leaving Urgup and heading south, you reach the lovely
isolated Pancarlik valley
where you can stop to see the 12th century church with its splendid frescoes and
the Kepez church, which dates from the 10th century. Continue on to the typical
village of Mustafapasa (Sinasos), where traditional stone houses with carved and
decorated façades evoke a former age. Travel on in a southerly direction, just
past the village of Cemil, where a footpath on the west side of the road leads
to Keslik valley and you will find a monastery complex together with
the churches called Kara and
Meyvali, both decorated with frescoes. Back on the main
road you will find the village called Taskinpasa where the 14th century Karamanid mosque
and mausoleum complex and the remains of a medrese portal on the edge of
make for a pleasant diversion. The next village is Sahinefendi where the 12th
century church called Kirksehitler, adorned with beautiful frescoes, stands at the end
of a footpath 500 meters east of the village.
Soganli valley, 50km south of Urgup, is picturesque with
chapels, churches, halls, houses and tombs. The frescoes, from the 8th to the
13th centuries, trace the development of Byzantine painting. Four kilometers
north of Urgup is the wonderful Devrent valley, where the weather has eroded the
stone into peaks, cones and obelisks which are called the fairy chimneys.
Two kilometers west, in the Catalkaya valley, the fairy chimneys have a peculiar
mushroom-like shape, which has been adopted as a symbol of the town.
The Goreme open-air museum, a monastic complex of rock churches and chapels
covered with frescoes, is one of the best-known sites in central Turkey.
Most of the chapels date from the 10th to the 13th centuries (the Byzantine and
Selcuk periods) and many of them are built on an inscribed crossplan with a
central cupola supported by four columns. In the north annexes of several
churches are cut-rock tombs. Among the most famous of the Goreme churches are
the Elmali church, the smallest and most recent of the group, the Yilanli church
with fascinating frescoes of the damned entwined in serpent coils, the Barbara
church and the Carikli church. A short way from the main group, the Tokali
kilise (Buckle church), has beautiful frescoes depicting scenes from the new
The town of Goreme is set right in the middle of a valley of cones and fairy
chimneys. Some of the cafes, restaurants and guest-houses are carved into the
rock. For shoppers, rugs and kilims are plentiful.
Continuing on the road out of Goreme, you enter one of the most beautiful
valleys in the area. Rock formations rise up before you at every turn and entice
you to stop and wonder at their creation. For those who climb the steps to the
top of the Uchisar fortress the whole region unfolds below.
Rugs, kilims and popular souvenirs can easily be purchased from the shops which
line Uchisar’s narrow streets.
At Cavusin, on the road leading north out of Goreme, you will find a triple-apse
church and the monastery of St. John the Baptist. In the town are chapels and
churches and some of the rock houses are still inhabited. From Cavusin to Zelve,
fairy chimneys line the road. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to visit the
churches in the Zelve valley because erosion has undermined the floors.
The charming town of Avanos, on the banks of the Kizilirmak river, displays
attractive local architecture and is known for its handicrafts. Every August the
town hosts an art and tourism festival where a creative and friendly atmosphere
Pottery is the most popular handicraft and it is usually possible to try your
hand at making a pot in one of the many studios. Rug weaving and knotting is
also making a come-back. Leaving Avanos in a southerly direction you come to an
interesting Selcuk Caravanserai, Sarihan.
On the Nevsehir-Urgup road you can’t miss Ortahisar and
fortress. The churches in the Balkan valley are some of the oldest in the Goreme
region. In the neighbouring Hallac valley, the Hallac monastery displays
decorations from the 10th and the 11th centuries. North of Ortahisar, the
Kizilcukur valley is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at sunset. In this
valley is the 9th century Uzumlu church.
The underground cities of Kaymakli, Mazi, Derinkuyu, Tatlarin and Ozkonak were
all used by Christians of the seventh century, who were fleeing from
persecution. They sheltered from the iconoclastic strife of Byzantium as well as
other invasions in these safe and well-hidden complexes. These cities were a
complete and self-sufficient environment, including rooms for grain storage,
stables, sleeping chambers, kitchens and air shafts. Today they are well-lit and
an essential and fascinating part of a Cappadocia tour.
West of Avanos, Gulsehir has Hittite rock inscriptions and nearby at Gokcetepe,
there is a bas-relief of Zeus. South on the Nevsehir road is the 13th century
church of St. John and farther along is Aciksaray, were the carved rocks hide
churches and chapels.
West of Cappadocia over the mountains, lies Kayseri, known as
times. The city spreads out at the foot of the extinct volcano mt. Erciyes (3916
In the winter months the ski center has excellent runs for downhill skiers and
several pleasant hotels that cater particularly to them. Close to the Byzantine
fortress is the 13th century Honat Hatun Mosque and the Huand Medrese (theological
college) and also the Mahperi Hatun
mausoleum altogether forming the Huand complex, the first Selcuk complex in Anatolia. The
medrese is now an ethnography museum. South of the complex, stands the
beautifully decorated Doner Kumbet of 1276, a Selcuk mausoleum of classic
simplicity. A major Selcuk city, Kayseri was an important center of learning and
consequently, there are many medreses among the remaining historical buildings.
Those interested in the Selcuk architecture should see the Cifte (Giyasiye and
Sifahiye) medrese, the first Selcuk school of anatomy, which is now the Gevher
Nesibe Medical History Museum. Nearby is the lovely Sahabiye medrese. Near the
city’s bedesten (covered bazaar) is the restored 12th century Ulu mosque. The
Haci Kilic mosque, north of the Cifte medrese, dates from 1249. In the
Cumhuriyet quarter, the 19th century Resit Aga mansion houses the Ataturk museum
which displays Ataturk’s personal belongings.
Most of the historical buildings in Aksaray, such as the
Ulu mosque, date from
the 14th century. The Kizil minaret is noted for its attractive decorative
Two of the most famous Caravanserais from the Selcuk period are
in the area;
40km west of the city is the well preserved Sultanhan Caravanserai built by the
Selcuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat and 15km towards Nevsehir is the Agzikarahan
The Melendiz river at Ihlara valley, has eroded the banks
into an impressive
canyon. Byzantine rock chapels covered with frescoes pierce the canyon walls.
Some of the best known are the Agacalti (Daniel) church, the Yilanli
Pick up from the hotel at sunrise. There are over 30 different departure points
to ensure the most interesting flight path. Preparation of the equipment takes
20 minutes and the passengers are welcome to help or to take photographs as they
wish. The flight time is between 1-1,5 hours and includes both low contour
flying and also going high enough to see the landscape from above. After the
landing and pack up of the balloon, an excellent local champagne and the flight
certificates are offered before returning to the hotel for a late breakfast.
This central region is now the heart of modern
Turkey's political life and has been the centre of many significant societies
and civilizations throughout history. The main cities in this region are Ankara,
Cankiri, Eskisehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Konya, Nevsehir, Nigde, Sivas, Yozgat,
Aksaray, Karaman and Kirikkale.
Ankara, the modern-day capital, is located squarely in the middle of Central
Anatolia and has been planned and developed for a contemporary society. The most
visually impressive structure here is the Anitkabir mausoleum built for Ataturk,
who founded the modern Republic of Turkey by winning the War for Independence
and then made Ankara its capital. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is among
the best museums in the country and has exhibits from Anatolia dating from
50,000 BC to the 2nd century AD. In the surrounding areas, there are important
settlements from early Anatolian civilizations. The Hittites migrated to the
Anatolian plateau from the Caucus Mountains and set up the first kingdom in
history to encompass the whole of Anatolia, from the Black Sea to the
Mediterranean and from the Aegean Sea stretching to the east.
The capital of the Hittite Empire Hattushash, with massive walls and
temples, (now Bogazkale) and the second largest city Shapinuva are both located
northeast of Ankara in the province of Corum. Reliefs of all of the Hittite gods
and goddesses can be seen in the open air temple in nearby Yazilikaya, which was
an important pantheon of the Hittites. Alacahoyuk is another important
settlement and is known for the sphinxes which can be seen at the city gates.
Around the time of 1200 BC, the Phrygians came to the Anatolian Plateau from
Europe and established their capital, Gordion, near Polatli west of Ankara.
Alexander the Great was supposed to have become the ruler of Asia by virtue of
'undoing' Gordion's knot with his sword. The tomb of the Phrygian King Midas,
who according to legend turned everything he touched into gold, is located near
Gordion. Near Eskisehir and Afyon there are a number of Phrygian cities and
places of worship. South of the vast fertile Konya plane on the northern slopes
of the Toros Mountains, Catalhoyuk is one of the world's oldest cities.
Dating back to the Neolithic Era, it was an important cultural centre with many
temples decorated with frescoes by city artisans. Konya and the surrounding
regions would later be ruled during the Chalcolithic, Bronze, Hittite, Phrygian,
Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. It became the capital city of
the Selcuk Empire in the 12th century and consequently experienced the most
important Renaissance period of its long history. In the 13th century, Konya was
completely transformed with Selcuk architecture.
The great Turkish philosopher Mevlana, who believed in human love and said that
mystical unity with God could be reached by the Sema, a whirling dance to music
performed by the dervishes, lived in Konya and established a following here.
Every year in December, Konya holds a Mevlana Week which includes performances
of the Sema. Mevlana is buried with his father Bahaeddin Veled in the Green Tomb
(Yesil Turbe), which has become the symbol of the city. The Dervish Lodge and
the Mevlana Museum adjacent to the tomb are open to the public.
Southwest of Konya is the Beysehir Lake, a relatively undiscovered paradise full of
natural beauty and nearby is Kubad Abad, the summer home of the Selcuk rulers
and a castle on Kizkalesi Island. The Esrefoglu Mosque and Tomb in Beysehir
are important examples of the wooden architecture of the Selcuk. Northwest
towards Aksehir is the home of Nasreddin Hoca, the famous 13th century folk
philosopher whose brilliant wit, quick retorts and stories with subtle meanings
is renowned far beyond the borders of Turkey. This much-loved icon died in 1284
and his tomb in Aksehir is the symbol of the city.
In the Eskisehir region, the great poet Yunus Emre is buried in the village
named after him. He was considered to be an eminent pioneer of Turkish poetry,
who used language, idioms and concepts of the ordinary man in an unpretentious
fashion to convey divine justice, love and friendship. Many people pay respect
to his work by visiting his grave.