Facts about Cappadocia

We found 23 facts about Cappadocia

Turkey's greatest treasure

A picturesque historical land in central Anatolia is often called Turkey's greatest treasure. It is a region full of beautiful, naturally shaped rock formations, extraordinary buildings, monasteries carved into the rocks, and churches, constituting a wonderful dreamland. Because of its natural wonders, historic buildings and underground cities, it attracts thousands of tourists annually.
Cappadocia is an administrative concept. Its boundaries are not sharply defined and result from tradition, history and different landscapes.

It is located in the middle of Anatolia, in the center of Nevşehir district, and in some parts of the Turkish provinces of Nigde, Kirsehir, Aksaray and Kayseri. It covers an area of about 600 square kilometers (according to other sources, about 300 square kilometers) and is 220 kilometers from Ankara.

Anatolia is the historical land of Turkey. It covers the entire peninsula of Asia Minor and its area covers about ⅔ of the total area of Turkey. Turkey is divided into 81 provinces, which are assigned to 7 geographical regions for statistical purposes. The provinces of Nigde, Kirsehir, Aksaray and Kayseri, like most provinces, are named after the cities that are their capitals.

Cappadocia is famous for its bizarre rock formations, which were created some 60 million years ago by hot lava and ash from three volcanoes: Erciyes, Hasan and Gullu.

Hot lava covered huge spaces, and ash flew into the air. The lava and volcanic ash settled on the surrounding rocks and formed a soft and easily drifted sedimentary rock - the so-called tuff, which becomes hard when exposed to air.

Due to the action of air, winds and water for hundreds of years, the rocks took bizarre forms in the shape of mushrooms, chimneys, and pyramids, creating a fairy-tale, unreal landscape. Gradually, the people living there adapted them by creating homes, churches, and places to escape persecutors.

Currently, no volcano in Cappadocia is active.
The earliest records of Cappadocia date back to the second half of the 6th century B.C. At that time, it was the property of two Achaemenid kings of Persia - Darius the Great and Xerxes I.
The Achaemenids were a dynasty that ruled Persia between 550 and 330 B.C. The peak of their power was during the reign of Darius the Great and Xerxes I, when Persia reached its most extensive size stretching from Asia Minor and Egypt to India.
It is assumed that the name Cappadocia comes from the Persian word Katpatuk. The word was most likely a compound of two words of foreign origin.
In ancient times, the region was famous for its high quality horse breeding.
In the biblical "Acts of the Apostles," the Cappadocians are mentioned as one of the first peoples to hear of the "good news" from the Galileans on the day of Pentecost, shortly after Jesus' resurrection.
Both archaeological excavations and the writings of Josephus Flavius confirm that there were Jewish communities in Cappadocia during this period.
During the Persian Empire, Cappadocia was divided into two distinct satrapies: one centrally located still called Cappadocia or Great Cappadocia and the other called Pont.

The satrapy of Cappadocia covered the area between the Taurus Mountains and the Euphrates River, its main cities being Caesarea and Tyana. The first satrap known by name was Ariaramnes of the Achaemenid dynasty.

Under the Persian king Artaxerxes II, Cappadocia was divided into Paphlagonia and Cappadocia proper. From 301 B.C., when Ariarates II ruled Cappadocia, a separate state began to function on the territory of the former satrapy. During the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius, Cappadocia was transformed into a Roman province. After the fall of the Persian Empire, the former satrapy of Pont functioned as an independent kingdom.

In the 4th century A.D., small religious communities of anachorites began to form in Cappadocia.

Anachoreticism, is a form of religiosity known in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.  

The Anachorets were hermits living in seclusion, devoting themselves to asceticism and prayer. The most famous hermits of early Christianity are St. Paul of Thebes, St. Anthony the Hermit, St. Ammonas and St. Macarius of Egypt. The Anachoretic movement was particularly popular in early and medieval Christianity and gave rise to the oldest form of monastic life. The Anachorean communities in Cappadocia functioned under the spiritual leadership of St. Basil - the bishop of Caesarea.

The chapels and monastic rooms of the Anachorites were quarried in soft tufa rocks.
In 1907, French clergyman Guillaume de Jerphanion in the Gὃreme Valley in Cappadocia found nearly 350 churches carved into the rock.
The churches are small, accommodate a few dozen worshippers, and are decorated with frescoes, the oldest of which date back to the 9th century. Most are carved high into steep rock walls.
In the largest of the churches, Tokali, ancient artists immortalized the story of Jesus' life on the walls and placed statues of saints.
Images of saints also adorn the walls of Karanlik Church, where, in addition to the paintings, one can find, according to tradition, the footprint of Christ's sandals carved into the rock.
Among the churches in the Gὃreme Valley is also the "Dark Church," built in the 11th century, whose frescoes still retain their vivid colors today.
Light reached the church only through a small entrance door. The interior was accessed by an external ladder.
Within the valley and the city of Gὃreme is the Gὃreme National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Gὃreme National Park is one of the few places of its kind in the world to be listed by UNESCO for both cultural and natural heritage. The other such site in Turkey is Pamukkale - Hierapolis.
Surrounding the city of Nevşehir, which is the capital of Nevşehir district, there are numerous underground cities where the local population protected themselves from invasions and persecution.
Derinkuyu - the largest underground city.

The largest underground city - Derinkuyu - consists of several levels reaching 80 meters deep into the ground and could have provided shelter for up to 20,000 people.

Construction of Derinkuyu began in ancient times, probably around the 8th century BC. The builders were most likely Phrygians. After them, the underground residential complex began to be deepened and enlarged by subsequent land inhabitants.

Kitchens, dining rooms, toilets, private quarters and a hall for congregations were built on subsequent levels. Byzantine Christians created numerous chapels and a church there and expanded the city, which eventually had several levels and reached 80 meters into the ground. Construction continued for more than a dozen centuries, until the 12th century. In addition, Derinkuyu was home to wine and oil factories, stables and warehouses for storing food, as well as a cemetery.

The underground city has a ventilation shaft measuring 55 meters, which was also used to supply water. A water pipeline running along it provided water to residents in times of danger, while during peacetime, it served villagers on the surface. In summer, the temperature inside the city stayed at 15 °C (59 °F), while in winter, the air temperature dropped to 7 °C (45 °F).

The city could be accessed through hidden and scattered entrances. In strategically important parts of the city, round stone doors weighing up to 500 kilograms blocked the way of enemies. These boulders could not be pushed back from the outside.

Derinkuyu was connected to other underground cities existing in Cappadocia by many kilometers of tunnels, where archaeologists have found artifacts dating from the 5th to 10th centuries AD.

Derinkuyu was forgotten for several decades.
In 1963, it was accidentally discovered by one of the residents of the settlement established above the city when he knocked down a wall in his rock-cut dwelling. The underground city was opened to the public in the early 1970s, and today about half of the entire complex is open to guests.
In addition to Derinkuyu, Cappadocia's underground cities open to the public are: Kaymakh, Mazi, Özlüce, Özkonak, Tatlarin, Kurugöl and Gökcetoprak.
In Kaymaklı, houses are built around nearly a hundred underground tunnels, still used today as warehouses, stables and cellars.
Kaymaklı differs from Derinkuyu in layout and construction. The tunnels are lower, more winding and steeper. The town was opened to the public in 1964.
Nowadays, one of the attractions for which Cappadocia is famous is balloon flights over rocks shaped by nature and humans.
The balloon flight usually starts at 4 a.m. to see the sunrise, lasts about 2 - 3 hours, and takes place at an altitude of up to 1,000 meters above the ground.
Cappadocia's landscape is described as "lunar" due to its distinctive, unreal structure.
It is suspected that many underground cities and churches in Cappadocia have yet to be discovered.
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