About 19 km from Nevşehir, hidden from view, are a total of 36 underground cities.
Built in the soft volcanic rock by the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, in the 8th–7th centuries B.C.; they consist of hundreds of tunnels and decent to as much as 8 floors below ground! Through the deep miles of tunnels, Kaymaklı was connected with much the older and deepest underground city of Derinkuyu. Currently only 4 of the cities are open to the public.
These cities were developed so entire populations could hide from the relentless waves of conquests that travelled through the Turkish passageway linking Europe and Asia.
Kaymaklı was used in the Byzantine era, for protection from Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780-1180).
During the XIV century it was used for protection from the Mongolian incursions of Timur; entire populations cowering underground as the hordes of Genghis Kahn rode past!!!
Even as late as the 20th century the underground cityes of Cappadocia served as refuges from the periodic waves of Ottoman persecution
As you pass through these warrens, you can’t help but imagining them bustling with life – as entire lives began and ended out of site of the sun!
Ballooning is one of the activities one must do in Anatolia, no matter how touristy you think it is!
There are a few companies, and they all work with the hotels. So it is better just to have the hotel organize the excursion for you. You leave at sunrise, before the winds have a chance to pick up form the sun.
An awesome experience in both beauty and photography!
A short and pleasant walk, about 1.5 km, southeast of Göreme town lies the “Open Air Museum”, which is Cappadocia’s principal attraction; for good reason! The Göreme Open Air Museum is a monastic complex of medieval cave churches, carved out by Orthodox monks, and embellished with Byzantine frescoes dating from 900-1200 AD.
We recommended that you follow the path in the set order, to better take advantage of the museums organization. Don’t let Open Air become “Free Form” – until after you have done the circuit – then wander freely 🙂
There are over 10 cave churches, along with rectories, dwellings, and a religious school. A convent with six stories of tunnels, of tunnels, corridors, stairways and chambers is an architectural and historical marvel.
While there, it is worth visiting is the Buckle Church Just outside the museum exit on the right; it isthe largest of the cave churches at Göreme – restored in the 1960s. The frescoes give a comprehensive account of the life of Christ – from the Annunciation, through the Baptism and Miracles, ending with the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension.
Elmalı Kilise, or Church with the Apple (below), dates from the 11th century and has well preserved frescoes of biblical scenes and portraits of saints. The name, thought to derive from a red orb held by St. Michael the Archangel, is depicted in a fresco near the entrance.
Karanlık Kilise, or Dark Church (below), is named aptly named for the lack of light that penetrates the interior. It was subsequently used as a pigeon house until the 1950s; It took 14 years to scrape the pigeon feces from the walls! After that it was extensively restored by UNESCO to reveal vividly colorful frescoes of New Testament scenes with the the painting of Christ Pantocrator on the dome dominating.
These are considered the best-preserved frescoes in all of Cappadocia as the absence of light has preserved the colors which are still vivid and beautiful.
above right side The Betrayal of Judas
Chapel of St. Catherine 11th century The frescoes depict: a Deesis (in the apse)
Azize Barbara Kilisesi (below) The Church of Saint Barbara late 11th century dedicated to their patron saint Barbara was an Egyptian martyr who was imprisoned by her father in order to protect her from the influences of Christianity. Barbara nevertheless found a way to practice her faith and her father tortured and killed her. The church is distinguished by simple geometric designs and Maltese crosses painted in red directly onto the stone.