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The Forgotten Civilisation

27 November 2016

In the heart of Anatolia lies Cappadocia, a region forged by thousands of years of brutal weather, volcanic activity... and war

Deep in the heart of central Turkey lies a remarkable land that brings to mind a world of sci-fi comic book moonscapes. This is Cappadocia, a region with terrain carved into the earth by over 70 million years of volcanic activity, wind, floodwaters and, for the last 2,000 years, human hands.

Found in Central Anatolia, it’s home to stunning natural wonders and warren-like cave dwellings that burrow through the rock, the result of a layered, and often gruesome past. Historically, this was a danger zone between the warring empires of the Persians and Greeks, and so the inhabitants of this region sought refuge deep in the rocks. Later, some of the first Christian converts also found the cave dwelling a perfect hiding place, and came here to escape Roman oppression during the Byzantine era.

So fearful of the Romans were the early Christians that they resorted to building entire cities deep underground. The complex networks contain living quarters, workshops and places of worship, and are ingeniously devised to offer the maximum protection from invaders. Some of these underground cities are so well hidden that they continue to be discovered to this day, and it’s assumed that there are more still, just waiting to be unearthed.

The landscape is littered with cave houses. So much so that it’s possible to find yourself the lone explorer of long abandoned troglodyte villages. Many of them, perched high in steep canyon walls or on cliff faces, offered extra protection from attack.

Not all of the cave houses have been abandoned, however. Many continue to be occupied by locals to this day, and visitors keen on the complete troglodyte experience can stay at homes that have been transformed into cosy boutique hotels and quaint restaurants.

What’s truly amazing about Cappadocia is that, despite all that it contains, it’s still possible to step off the well-trodden path. Here you can discover long-forgotten cave churches and ancient frescos created hundreds of years ago. And although the region is firmly on the tourist map, there’s no museum or entry fee... simply the remnants of a civilisation left to return to nature.

Words / Images: Geoff Brokate