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North Texas Artists in Turkey: Cappadocia
by Anne Bothwell 19 Jul 2010

Exploring caves in Cappadocia – underground and in fairy chimneys.


Art&Seek Director Anne Bothwell is traveling in Turkey with a group of North Texas artists and writers. Read her previous post here.

Today we were in Cappadocia  and Goreme,  landscapes where lunar meets Doctor Seuss: fairy chimney after fairy chimney, dotted with cave windows.
The Hittites created underground cave communities here, when  BC had more than a  millenia left to go. They lived  underground for up to 6 months at a time, when their above ground cities were under siege. Over the centuries the caves were expanded. The largest has 19 levels. The one we explored today, Kaymakli,  had 6.  There are 38 of them in the area, and one theory is that all are connected.
It’s mind-blowing to walk through this cave, lit fairly well, crouching through passages and imagining what it must have been like to feel one’s way through in the darkness, with only linseed candles and some holes in the wall that, braile-like, helped the cave dwellers find their way.

They lived without light, yet thought of everything – ingenious ways to store dried fruit, wine, water. To ventilate the caves, to create chimneys for weekly baking sessions. Handle human waste and the dead. To seal their doors and defend themselves.

Above ground, it was early Christians carving caves into the soft rock, to be used for hermitages, churches, monestaries, nunneries and living spaces. And then decorating them with stunning frescoes, now slowly eroding, that taught an illiterate population the story of Jesus. Wish I could show you pictures of them, but it’s forbidden to take them these days, to protect the frescoes.

Gotta run now; Checking out of our hotel (in a cave). The bus is here to take us to the airport. We’re off to Antalya.

  • Kim Alexander

    Steamy herds of tourists cannot diminish the visual wonder and intriguing history of Turkey. They do, however, draw another layer of Turkish culture, the businessmen. I sometimes had trouble distinguishing whether a slick line was aimed at my dollar or at me. More than once I got suckered into a conversation that ended with a request for a kiss or a clandestine meeting, but I never got wise. The shysters were outnumbered by the sincere and the hospitable, so I kept my smile open. I had my guard up, though, when I approached the camel rides in Cappadocia. Surely this was just a two-ringed money maker, but I wanted to stand near those snorting camels and tipping tourists. I shifted my purse and prepared to passively watch the show, but a young capitalist, Mohammed, ran up to me and pulled me toward a fuzzy chick of a baby camel. I guess Mohammed is about 11 or 12, and his latte-colored camel was just a few months old. Mohammed showed me how to get a kiss from his lumpy pet and where it liked to be scratched. The camel calf nibbled on Mohammed’s ear, sucked on my fingers and shifted to be pet, while a grown camel kept shoving us from behind. At one point, Mohammed stepped away with his dust pan to scoop up some dung from the camel ring. With a grin, he offered the droppings to me as “chocolate.” Mohammed never asked for a coin, but I wish I’d thought to shove some liras in his hand. That boy is a great investment.