The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


The name ‘Cappadocia’ dates back to Persian times, meaning “Land of Beautiful Horses’’. Since that time Cappadocia has seen the rise and fall of many different Civilizations. It is a land of vast plains, rolling hills, rugged mountains and extinct volcanoes. It is a region of the world, of which I had seen pictures and longed to visit on account of its unique geological features. What I had not realized was its cultural and religious importance.

Our tour guide Selim Gizlen, a Turk, educated in Germany and Antioch University spoke English and Arabic as well as German and Turkish. With a degree in History and a Catholic mother he proved to be a very capable and interesting person, happy to discuss the various subjects asked of him by members of our party of 42 English persons. The group consisted largely of retired teachers with a sprinkling of nurses, a lawyer, a gentleman farmer etc. Only two could be described as young and they were each assisting a parent.

Our first day after landing in Antalya was spent (to enable us to recover from the flight) going eastwards along the coast to the ancient town of Aspendos, where a well preserved Roman Theatre built in the 2nd century AD is found. It is still used for cultural events today. We also saw part of the 4th century Aqueduct and restored medieval bridge dating from the days of the Seljuk Empire. Huge pomegranates were growing and we were offered drinks of mixed orange and pomegranate juice.

The following morning involved a very early start and a 320 mile journey by coach to Cappadocia, in the heart of Anatolia. We crossed the Taurus Mountains via the 1825m Alacabel Pass before reaching Konya (Iconium in the days of Paul and Barnabas). There we visited the former monastery of the Whirling Dervishes, which is now a museum and place of pilgrimage today. Beneath a turquoise dome lies the 13th century mausoleum of Mevlana Rumi [1207- 1273] the first leader of the Mevlevi Sufic mystics.

After a three course lunch we proceeded NW and visited a labyrinthine underground village, where former inhabitants had excavated the soft rock for their refuges. It had its own water cistern deep underground. Shortly after this we went to a restored medieval caravanserai - a former stopping place on the ancient Silk Road. These hostelries, looking rather like stone churches in shape, were positioned about 40 km apart (a days walk for a camel). There sitting on cushions we sampled the refreshing Turkish apple tea, which has become a great favourite; several packets of which were purchased for home consumption.

So onward we travelled to the small town of Urgup where a welcomed dinner and a roaring fire in the lounge awaited us. We had arrived in the dark and being situated on a high plateau it was cold.

Day three and for me the highlight of our trip. As we had arrived after dark we had not been able to see the bizarre landscape which had been formed over the millennia by erosion of volcanic eruptions dominated by consolidated ash, tuff, topped by a hard layer of basalt. Communities took advantage of these formations to carve out their homes both in the pillars and underground. The boulder topped pillars are known as ‘fairy chimneys’, one of which we entered by a ladder. To our amazement this dwelling of three floors is still used in the summer months and in addition to carpets and wall hangings contained a TV set and a wash basin. (I do not think the latter was connected to a supply of running water.) These homes are relatively cool in summer and not too cold in winter, apart from the draughts.

When earthquakes occur some of the topping stones fall and dwellings collapse. People began living here 2000 years ago.

The area we were visiting was at Goreme, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In it are preserved many rock carved monasteries and churches all of which are decorated inside with the most wonderful frescoes and wall paintings of various styles, dating from the 10th and 11th centuries. Strange names are given to these churches such as Church of the Buckle, Dark Church, and Church of the Sandals to distinguish them from each other. Some churches are more austerely decorated representing the conventional themes with a simple cross, fish or other symbols whist others tell the Bible stories in glorious colours and detail.

Margaret Symonds

[To be continued.]

Christmas Edition 2013

A Visit to Cappadocia

Fairy Chimneys rock formation