Göreme Milli Parki, Cappadocia, Turkey
GPS: 38.653505375572, 34.86366499267
The historic region of Cappadocia (Kapadokya) is is known as the “Land of Wonders” and is located in the heart of Turkey, on the Anatolian peninsula. Shaped by wind, water and erosion, it is distinguished by its lunar landscapes created from major volcanic eruptions. These occurred several million years ago by Mount Hasan (Hasan Dağı) and Mount Erciyes (Erciyes Dağı), the two most important volcanoes in the area. Criss-crossed by fabulous valleys, Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia have curious rock formations of limestone and soft stone, volcanic tuff. These take various forms of cones, needles, pinnacles, arrows, pillars, pyramids, mushrooms or fairy chimneys.
Despite its inhospitable appearance, Cappadocia has been inhabited for several thousand years. The Hittites were the first to develop underground living and cities in the 2nd millennium BC before the region was coveted for its mining resources. It was conquered by the Assyrians, the Luwians, the Phrygians, the Achaemenids, the Medes and the Cimmerians, attracted by its deposits of silver, copper and gold. Occupied in turn by the great ancient civilizations (Persians, Greeks and then Romans), Cappadocia was Christianized in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It became an important religious and monastic centre from the early Middle Ages under the impetus of the Bishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia (corresponding to the present-day city of Kayseri). Numerous churches and chapels were built in the tuff in the Göreme Valley and decorated with magnificent interior decorations (frescoes, bas-reliefs, domes, columns, arches, vaults…). A trade route linking the West to the East prospered for several centuries despite wars, earthquakes and series of plunders. The Turks made several incursions into the region and were victorious in the battle of Manzikert in 1071 against the Byzantine army. The Sultanate of Rum was then founded by the Seljuk leader Suleiman I, but Christians and Muslims managed to live in harmony in order to preserve the many richness passing through the Silk Road. It was during this period that Cappadocia was adorned with its most beautiful architectural achievements. Despite an invasion by the Mongolian army in the 13th century, the Ottomans finally settled permanently in Anatolia (Asia Minor) in the 16th century and built many mosques while living with the Christian and Orthodox communities. The latter were forced to leave massively the region after the conflict of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
Throughout history, the inhabitants of Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia have taken advantage of their singular environment to build an underground network of remarkable troglodyte cities as well as churches and monasteries dug directly into the rock. These complex developments allowed the inhabitants to hide for several months with their livestock and food reserves in case of an external attack. Some of these rock dwellings are still occupied today by families or transformed into charming hotels for tourist purposes.