The name Cappadocia derives from the Persian word Katpatuka, which translates to “land of beautiful horses”. That is because, since the days of yore, people used to grow horses and use them on their daily tasks, therefore there is a very strong bond between the people and their horses. And today’s horses are probably the best natural guides to lead you through the canyons and legends which linger like the mists of time.
Göreme, the place with three names
It was initially called Avcilar, which would translate by “the Hunters”. Then the name was changed into Maccan. Göreme name I was given 30 years ago, as it was considered more suitable to promote tourism. Translated, Göreme means invisible or unseen. The town lies in a valley, a natural “bowl”, being hard even to spot it from a close distance. Another interesting fact from where it received the name is that during the Arab invasion, the Christians were retreating from their path and used to hide in this “bowl”.
Hotels carved into rock
Older Turkish locals use the word “kaya”, which translates to rock when describing the basket-shaped rock formations; the youth have another term: Peri Bajas, which means Fairy Baskets – the “official” title, which is really not sure why, considering that it can be said that they have a rather phallic shape. So, initially called kaya, but with the tourist development of Cappadocia, this new term that does not accurately reflect their image was given to them – a simple new name was needed and someone chose “fairies”, go figure!
Also, the hotels located in the natural caves had a similar mistranslation. “Kaya” word was used again, which would have effectively be called “boulders hotels”, so completely illogical: no one wanted to visit a boulder; however, everyone wanted to check in at a hotel placed in a cave.
Could it be aliens?
People say that the geological formations of Cappadocia are a mystery. They even developed a theory backed by a history teacher, that they were formed by aliens. Yet the scientific explanation is quite different: the region was formed 3-4 million years ago, when a series of volcanic eruptions changed the face of the Central Anatolia plateau, resulting the spectacular scenery, including the forming of the famous ”Fairies”.
If you go through Cappadocia you will find that most of the land is owned and represent private property. The state has bought the essential tourist spots including the Open Air Museum and Paşabag, it also possesses most of the rocky formations but the greatest part of the land is owned by locals. Yet no fences, so if you get through vineyards or land pumpkins, remember that you are on private property. Without this to be a problem, however.
In ancient times, the region was a huge monastery. Lifestyle was imposed by Basil of Caesarea, who encouraged Christian monks to gather in monasteries and pray together.
Many of the buildings that are placed on high places of the Cappadocia region, such as Cavusin churches, and the highest rock formations were used in the past as part of an alarm system to warn of attacks invaders: local people lighting fires on the rock peaks when danger was imminent.
The friendly City of Roses
Gulşehir – which means the City of Roses – is probably the friendliest city in Cappadocia. It is 30 km from Avanos and, unlike the center of the region, it is not very visited by tourists, which is why locals are eager to have guests. In addition, there are many beautiful places to visit, such as the Rock Mushroom, St. John’s Cave Monastery (with ancient paintings older than eight centuries) and many other caves which are believed – according to the local legends – to have monastery a lot of treasures that have belonged to the Italian Mafia buried inside.
Old and extremely valuable paintings
The main place of worship in the area of Cappadocia was Byzantine church Tokali Kilise. It still keeps some of the more well-preserved paintings from the Middle Ages on the walls, and that’s not the only thing about it. It contains the finest rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes, whose colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and frescos technique. The Goreme Open-Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
Photo source: Picture 1: travel.india.com; Picture 2: commons.wikimedia.org; Picture 3: gulsehir.bel.tr; Picture 4: panoramio.com; Picture 5: egirdirakingazetesi.com.tr; Picture 6: fairylandcave.com; Picture 7: goreme.com