Although Cappadocia has some similarities to the Badlands of South Dakota and the rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park, it is an area unlike any we have seen before. A gazillion years ago volcanoes erupted and blanketed the area with ash. Some layers were more durable than others and those that had tough outer layers did not erode as readily as those that were light and fluffy. About 10,000 years ago people started carving homes inside the rock formations that look like towers and minarets. The unexposed rock is very easy to carve, but once it is exposed to the air it hardens somewhat. Churches were built into the rock formations and decorated with frescoes illustrating the stories in the Bible. Some are still in remarkably good condition.
In 400AD the area we saw today was occupied by early Christians who had normal homes above ground, but fled to underground cities they had carved that were a bit like ant farms whenever danger loomed. The underground city we toured housed as many as 1,000 people at a time and was eight stories deep. Living in the dark underground must have been a huge challenge. The loose material created as each room and passage was carved had to be lugged above ground by hand. When the people were living underground food and water had to be brought down and waste had to be brought up. They carved air holes between the floors and also used them for communication. They also brought grapes down, stomped on them, and produced wine. They carved tables and seat and crevices that held pots. A giant rock was rolled in front of the entrance preventing invaders from invading. These folks must have been remarkably well organized to make this early version of a bomb shelter work.
The above ground homes that were dug into the rock formations known as hoo doo or fairy towers housed people until the 1980's when this area was declared a UNESCO site. The locals were involuntarily moved out so that the area could be explored by archeologists and adored by tourists. The climate here is quite extreme and living inside the rock formation provided a stable, comfortable climate.
The ground here also provides clay that is suitable for ceramics and pottery and folks have been making it her since the 18th century BC. They invented the potter's wheel and powered it by kicking it. We visited a shop where this old technique is still being used to create some amazing pieces. In fact they were so amazing we bought some. They should arrive at home just after we do.
In the evening we attended a whirling dervish performance. Sadly video and photography was not allowed. The dervishes are followers of Rumi, whose memorial we visited yesterday. They whirl for lengthy periods of time as musicians play nearby and send themselves into some sort of trance as they do. One participant doesn't dance, but offers prayer in Farsi that even the local Turks cannot understand. Because I did not understand what we were seeing my mind began to wander in inappropriate directions. I almost laughter out loud when I thought about how much their tall felt hats made them look like the Coneheads on Saturday Night Live. They also had a move where they would cross their arms over their chests and hook their hands over their shoulder; in their white gowns they looked like they were in strait jackets. I'm glad we got to see it, but it was all rather inscrutable and I'd just as soon not see it again!