Cappadocia is full of historically, culturally and geographically fascinating places, yet only a few most famous of them are usually visited. That leaves plenty of the amazing sites undisturbed by crowds, standing proudly in solitary silence and natural beauty. And so today we decided to take a little trip to a couple of such quiet areas. A short drive from our village of Uchisar through Ortahisar we arrived at the higher plateau of pumpkin fields and apricot orchards. We parked the car at the edge of the dirt track and walked through the field of grapes sundrying on their vines and headed in the general direction of a valley where there were supposedly some rock churches. As there was no path, we decided to walk along the dried up river bed which winded its way through the rocks down to the valley. This was physically the most challenging and adventurous part of our hike as the river bed was narrow and at places hardly passable, deep with sharp downfalls.
We managed to get through it with only a few minor scratches and came out into a wide open space. The valley was bone dry, probably hadn’t got a drop of rain for months, the vegetation being mainly yellow dry grass and bushes with thorns. Amidst of it all jutted out into the sky the cone shaped rocks.
It was quite a desert like atmosphere as the sun was also still baking hot and the shades were few and far between. And the silence! Oh, how I loved seeing all this magnificent landscape far into horizon and not a soul was seen nor heard, except a few birds chirping. We didn’t see any churches there but the natural beauty of the valley was awe inspiring.
We had a lovely hike around the area, then went back to the car and drove on a bit. After a few minutes drive we did see sign posts for some churches and we chose to follow the track to one of them. A short drive and there was another signpost with some stone steps leading up the hill to Sarica churches from the 10th century. We stopped there and climbed up the steps. Kepez valley came into vision, we followed the path down and arrived at the clearing, dotted by fantastically shaped rocks.
Two of them clearly appeared to be Byzantine churches so we decided to get up close and take a look at them. The first one was roughly cone shaped from the outside, with carved arches, windows and pillars visible in the inside.
Indeed, as we stepped into the structure, it was an ancient church with beautiful and colourful biblical frescos painted on its vaults, domes and ceilings. Of course, not without the damage by both people and the nature, but in large part it was intact with its special atmosphere and reverence.
The second church was bigger, on two levels, and although the columns and domes and vaults were as intricately shaped as in the first church, the colours and patterns were much simpler. Mainly red geometrical patterns on white plastered background.
Fascinating, how two churches in the otherwise lone valley, standing only a 50 or so metres apart could be so different in its decorations… One can only imagine what the life must have been to the people at the times they built and worshipped in these rock dug churces. Next to churches were some underground rooms, perhaps hiding places, perhaps water storage areas. Cappadocia was a place where early Christians fled the Roman persecutions, later hiding from Arabic raiders in caves and underground cities. Hundreds of such rock dug churches have been found in Cappadocia area, Göreme open air museum containing most well-known and visited ones of them. But these churches and ancient cave dwellings are everywhere around here so you can easily take a walk in the nature and suddenly come across a fascinating dwelling or worship structure made by people living perhaps a thousand years ago.
After these visits the October sun had reached its midday height, and we felt it was time to take a respite from its relentless heat. We headed back to the car and drove to Uchisar through Ürgüp. Back at home, sitting in the cooling shade on the terrace of our cave house, I can’t help but think of the amazing history and beauty of this one of the most unique places on earth.