Cappadocia

Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia is typified by its bizarre, semi-lunar landscape with the unique 'fairy chimney' rock formations. Caused by the wind and rain erosion of ancient volcanic lava, there is nowhere in the world quite like this. The tall chimneys stand proud in the valleys and are a living geography lesson. The pliable rock that causes this phenomena has also played a large part in the history of the area. Many early Christians inhabited the area and built churches and monasteries directly out of the rock. Many of the chapels and churches are adorned with beautiful frescoes and each tells a personal tale of devotion.  As the Romans (and other invading forces throughout the centuries) the Christians went, quite literally, underground, constructing and burrowing subterranean systems in order to hide from their persecutors. Whether you are of a religious nature or not, you can't help but be in awe of nature's beauty and mankind's ability to adapt to the landscape. 

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The caves and malleable rocks weren't just used as hiding places. They were used over the centuries as dwellings for families and their animals. For a time, pigeons played an important role in rural life here, first farmed for their meat and subsequently for their excrement, which was used as fertiliser.  Large cave villages were inhabited until the 1950's when the government ordered the re-housing of residents to more contemporary housing after fears about erosion and concerns about falling rocks. 

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It is still possible to visit the deserted villages, the larger ones have become museums, but there are many more that can be visited on foot. Likewise, in nearly every valley you will discover hidden rock churches and pigeon lofts, abandoned to nature but still very much forming an important part of the landscape. 

The majority of people visiting Cappadocia do so in guided groups, travelling by bus. Don't let the popularity of Cappadocia put you off, but aim to discover it on foot. Most of the groups stay close to their bus and don't venture very far. By going out on a trek, you will have a chance to explore lesser visited valleys and get a sense for both historical and contemporary life in Cappadocia.

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