What we call “Cappadocia” today, if only for simplicity, is only a small part of the Hellenistic Kingdom and subsequent Roman Province which bore that name. The original size of the miles further east and west.
Even now, when the valleys around eh town Urgup are relatively easy to reach (it takes about Ankara, or a similar time by car from Ankara), Cappadocia still seems like a lost world to the arriving traveller. It took the 20th century -and perhaps the invention of photography- to make people appreciate the landscape around Urgup. Several of the most important fathers of the early Church lived in this district, but none of them mentions what it looked like.
A 10th-century history tells us that its inhabitants were called troglodytes “because they go under the ground in holes, clefts, and labyrinths, like dens and burrows.” In the 18th century, a French traveler thought he saw pyramids being used as houses, and weird statues of monks and the Virgin Mary.
Three thousand rock churches: Many visitors only make a brief excursion to the cones and rock churches of Goreme, and an hour or two in perhaps Zelve or Ihlara. That’s a pity because Cappadocia is best explored in a leisurely fashion by car or even on horse. Severel local firms are now hiring out horses for trekking expeditions lasting up to eight days. No matter how often you go, no two trips need ever be the same. There are an estimated threee thousand rock churches in the area between Kayseri, Nigde, Gulsehir and Ihlara valley. New caves, new “under ground cities” and even churches are still being discovered from tme to time.
Other churches are isolated. One of the very best as far as wall painting goes is at Eski Gumus in Gumusler village just north of Nigde. Along detour via Mustafapasa and Soganli will take you there, and if you are a Byzantine art buff, it is well worth it. The church, which was restored by British archaeologists in the 1960s, has a completely preserved courtyard (the only one to survive in its entirety) and solemn frescoes in its interior which deserve to be better known. A room upstairs springs a surprise: a smoky wall coverd with non-religious pictures, mostly from Aesop’s fables. What it is doing in this monkish place is anyone’s guess.
Hacibektas: Not everything in Cappadocia is Byzantine, however one of the most impressive of all the antiquities of this region requires only about a 20 minutejourney to north of Gulsehir, at Hacibektas.
Hacibektas was the mother convernt of the Bektasi order of dervishes who served as the cahaplains of the Janissaries, the storm troops of the Ottoman Empire. They were so widespread that 200 years ago it was said that no corner of the Empire was more than half a day’s journey from a Bektasi lodge. The Bektasis were a free thinking, tolerant community. Where else in the world will you see a mosque with a drawing of man in it something normally regarded as taboo in Islam? At the tomb of the founder of the order, Haci Bektas Veli, you will usually see a group of local woman praying. In a separate shrine nearby is the Tomb of Ballum Sultan.
There are still those who remember their former homes in Crete and other parts of Greece with nostalgia and welcome those Greeks who from time to time revisit the places in Cappadocia where they were born towns such as Gelveri, now officially renamed Guzelyurt near Ihlara and Mustafapasa, famous a century ago as Sinassos, south of Urgup.
Sinassos-A Town of Paintings: Towns li Gelveri and the larger and morre magnificent counterpart, Sinassos, never really recovered from the blow they received when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
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 canstill see how people once lived in homes cut into the rock. If you wish 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 sighseeing and shopping haven’t exhausted you, the disco welcomes you to yet another kind of entertainment. At the center of a successful wine-producing region, Urgup hosts an annual International Wine Festicval In October.