Favorite thing: Visit the cave churches. All around Cappadocia, there are thousands of caves in the hills that were once used as homes and churches. In some of them, you can find painted frescoes dating back centuries that were created by the Greek Orthodox population living there at the time. Try to get a guide to take you to some of the out-of-the-way ones--there are plenty that are pretty overlooked by tourists. You can also see them (fighting your way through the crowds) at the Goreme Open-Air Museum. The photo here is from a cave church in the Soganli Valley outside Urgup.
Most people come to Kayseri as the departure point for a tour of Cappadocia. Once Cappadocia cut the broadest swathe through Anatolia - bordered by the Black Sea to the north and the Taurus mountains to the south, by the Euphrates in the east and the salt lakes in the west.
Today, the region we know as Cappadocia is less expansive - it is only a strip of land between the lakes and Kayseri. This is an area upon which Mount Erciyes and the lesser volcano, Hasan Dagi, showered vast quantities of mud, ash, and lava during some of the greatest eruptions in history.
Upon contact with the air, this debris was transformed into soft tuff stone, creating an otherworldly landscape made even more fantastic by thousands of years of erosion. Here one finds rough white stone columns that turn ochre when the sun goes down, and fretted valleys marked by the evidence of centuries of human habitation.
These inhabitants have been of varying lineage. The Bible insists that the Mushki and Tabal tribes living in Cappadocia were the 'coarsest people on earth'. Other ancient writers noted that the women were of unrivaled beauty. It was an area that attracted diverse migrants. The Tabal Kingdom, which occupied nearly all of the area of modern Cappadocia, fell in the 8th century B.C. to the Assyrians, and later to the Persians. They were drawn to a land of rich resources: gold and silver, as well as sheep, goats and fine horses.
Its most famous residents came not in search of wealth, but of solitude and refuge. Although the horses of Cappadocia are not as numerous or famous as they once were, it is nonetheless fitting that it was on horseback that, in 1907, French cleric Guillaume de Jerphanion rediscovered the monasteries which the Byzantine Christians had left behind.
The monastic invasion of Cappadocia was set in motion by St. Basil, the 4thcentury Bishop of Caesarea, who chose withdrawal into a natural environment. For the next thousand years the region became one of the centers of the Greek church and a destination for pilgrims. The monks first settled in the Goreme Valley - an area bordered by the market city of Nevsehir and the town of iJrgiip. Nevsehir is a modern, uninviting place topped by the ruins of a Seljuk fortress and site of a statue of Ibrahim Pasa, a local man who, in the first half of the eighteenth century, became grand vizier to Sultan Ahmet III.
Much more interesting to visit is Urgiip, where some of the local farmers still live in their traditional rock-cut dwellings above the town. Most of them now inhabit an attractive chaos of beige stone houses that jostle for space along the cobbled roads leading towards the central market square.
In stark, provocative contrast to the ostentatious wealth of the jewelry and carpet shops that line the arcades of the square is the poverty of the townsfolk themselves - subsistence farmers for whom the donkey, rather than the tractor, remains the most common means of transportation. Many of the locals are vine growers, tenders of the unique Emir grape that has given the wines of the town a deserved international reputation. Every year there is a festival here attended by vintners from many nations.
There are 350 churches in the vicinity of Goreme, six kilometers from Urgup. Most date from between the 9th and 13th centuries, the heyday of monasticism in Cappadocia: It was a period of tranquillity after continuous Arab invasions and sectarian infighting. Some of the best preserved churches are in the open air museum just outside the contemporary town of Goreme. Many feature simple barrel-vaulted naves with an apse and a horseshoe arch.
Most contain frescos; many have sadly been marred by (often piously-motivated Muslim) vandals who have scratched away the faces in the paintings. Even so, these frescos constitute one of the finest collections of Byzantine art in existence.Their style embraces the whole span of medieval Christian art beginning towards the end of the 6th century and reaching its peak during the 11th and 12th. Artists were drawn from the community of monks or imported from Byzantium by wealthy monastic patrons.
It was an exuberant devotion. The beauty and the brilliance of the frescos that adorn the churches betray the monks' commitment to bringing the beauty of holiness into their stone retreats: From the typical portrayal of Christ being crucified against a deep aquamarine sky in the Tokali Church, to the detail of the shepherd playing on pan pipes in the Church of the Virgin. All these extensive, figurative illustrations amply demonstrate the monks' immense knowledge of the saints of their religion.
In the Yilanli Church, probably a funerary chapel, is a rare and highly provocative 11th-century depiction of St. Onophrius, a woman who, having repented her sins, became a man with a long white beard and breasts. Then there are the portraits of St. George, said to be of Cappadocian origin, fighting with a great white snake rather than the usual green dragon. The soldier is a dominant image in many of the paintings. This is perhaps most striking in the 9th-century Church of St. John above the nearby village of Cavusin, where many villagers still live in caves hewn out of rock. They are a reminder that the Byzantine monks, although under the protection of a local, wealthy, warrior aristocracy, were constantly under threat from Arab invaders.
While no one can deny the frightening desolation of the environment in which the monks chose to live, theirs were busy, thriving communities. Perhaps Zelve, four kilometers from ~_avusin, provides the best insight into the way in which they managed their domestic affairs. The complex is riddled with interconnecting tunnels which link together churches and monasteries.
From Zelve it is a short journey to Avanos, renowned for the skill of its potters. The town lies on the shores of Kizilirmak, the longest river in Asia Minor.
The monks also settled in the Soganli and Ihlara valleys, to the south of Goreme. On the right side of the Soganli valley is the intriguing Monster Church, in which naked women suckling snakes are depicted.
Although many of the monastic settlers left Cappadocia after the Ottoman invasion of the 15th century, the region continued to have a significant Greek population until the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. At that time they were all forced to return to Greece.
Prior to that exchange, the long-standing co-habitation of Greeks and Turks in Cappadocia had for the most part been peaceful. In the Ihlara valley, the 13thcentury Church of St. George boasts a portrait of the saint flanked by a male and female dressed in Seljuk Turkish costume. The names of the ruling Seljuk sultan and the Byzantine emperor are engraved into the wall next to each other.
Hacibektas, 60 kilometers to the north of Nevsehir, is another tribute to the peaceful coexistence of Muslim and Christian. It was the home of the Bektasi dervish order, founded in the 13th century by the mystic Haci Bektas Veli. His mausoleum and the seminary of his order have been beautifully preserved.
The small hamlet of Mustafapasa is an example of peaceful ethnic relations. Before Ataturk, the village known as Sinasos was dominated by the presence of Greek farmers and traders. In the center is Little Istanbul. Now a hotel, it was formerly the home of a rich Greek jeweler who spent much money and effort lining the interior with vibrant fresco decoration. The Greek villagers also made efforts to decorate their own houses with smaller paintings, perpetuating the old traditions of the first monastic arrivals. Every year, eldery Greeks return to Sinasos from Greece to visit their former homes, now inhabited by Turks. The 9thcentury monastery of Aya Vasilos is on the edge of the small, lazy village.
But conflict was also widespread in Cappadocia. The underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli were both places of refuge for the local community. The rock chambers were fitted with great millstones that could be rolled across entrance ways to block the path of aggressors like the iconoclasts, marauding Arabs or Mongols. Kaymakli was last used in the early 9th century during the invasion of the Egyptian army. It is an eight-level city complete with chapels, funereal chambers and carefully constructed air shafts.
.With thanks to Trav Wizard.Com Travel And Cruise Consultants: Cappadocia Vacations
West of Cappadocia, over the mountains, lies Kayseri, known as Caesarea in Roman times. The city spreads out at the foot of the extinct volcano Mt. Erciyes (3,916 meters).
In the winter months the ski center has excellent runs for downhill skiers, and several pleasant hotels cater particularly to skiers. Close to the Byzantine fortress, the 13th century Huant Hatun Mosque and Medrese, with the Mahperi Hatun Mausoleum, comprise the first Seljuk complex, the Huant Hatun Complex, in Anatolia. The Medrese is now an Ethnography Museum. South of the complex, stands the beautifully decorated Doner Kumbet of 1276, a Seljuk mausoleum of classic simplicity.
A major Seljuk city, Kayseri was an important center of learning and consequently, there are many medreses among the remaining historical buildings.Those interested in the Seijuk architectural form should see the Cifte (Giyasiye and Sifahiye) Medrese, the first Seljuk school of anatomy, and one which today is now the Gevher Nesibe Medical History Museum. And nearby is the lovely Sahabiye Medrese. Near the city's bedestan is the restored 12th centurv Ulu Mosque.
The Haci Kilic Mosque north of the Cifte Medrese dates from 1249. In the Cumhuriyet quarter, the 19th century Resit Aga Mansion houses the Ataturk Museum which displays Ataturk's personal belongings. Across from the Ataturk Museum, the historical Gupgupoglu Mansion is now an Ethnography Museum.
South of Kayseri, in Develi, stand three more important Seljuk buildings: the Ulu Mosque, the Seyid-i Serif Tomb and the Develi Tomb. Nearby, the Sultan Marshes, the habitat of many bird-species, are of interest both to ornithologists and nature lovers.
North of Kayseri, Kultepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh or Karum was one of the earliest Hittite commercial cities Dating from 2 000 B.C, Kultepe was also one of the world's first cities of free trade. Today, however, only the foundations remain. Many of the finds can be examined in the Kayseri
On the same road is Sultanhan, a caravanserai built by the Seijuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the early 13th century and a favorite stop for tourists.
Kapuzbasi Waterfall is 76 km south from Kayseri. In this beautiful natural site, seven different springs on the mountainside fall from heights ranging between 30 and 70 meters.
Kayseri is one of the most important carpet and kilim production centers in Anatolia. Bunyan is the most famous carpet production center and Yahyali is the most famous kilim production center.Rugs woven in finely knotted floral patterns continue a centuries-old tradition. Local production can be purchased in any of the Kayseri carpet shops
Source and thanks to About_Turkey.com>