Monday, October 5, 2015

Turkey | Cappadocia | Güzelyurt

After viewing the Super Bloodmoon in Göreme I wandered off to the town of Güzelyurt, thirty-five miles to the southwest. Güzelyurt, as you probably know, was once the home of Gregory of Nazianzus, a.k.a. Gregory the Theologian (c. 329–390), who is credited, along with St. Basil of Kayseri, with laying the theological foundations of the Greek Orthodox Church. Gregory himself was largely responsible for formulating the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—that continues to befuddle the less enlightened right down to the present Day. 

Güzelyurt (roughly translated as “beautiful home”), population about 3,750, could hardly be more different than Göreme. While Göreme supposedly has a permanent population of only 2000, it has some 370 hotels, guesthouses, and hostels (many of the employees of the hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. live in nearby towns). It is an international tourism hub teeming with visitors of every stripe. Güzelyurt, on the other hand, is a laid back old-fashioned Turkish town that appears to have not a single restaurant or shop that caters specifically to tourists. There are a dozen or so hotels, most of them occupying old Greek mansions or cave dwellings, but they have their own restaurants where their clientele eat. I saw a couple of Russians, a couple of Germans, and a group of Chinese, but I would say ninety per cent of the tourists are from other parts of Turkey.

The main street of laid back Güzelyurt (click on photos for enlargements)

The town square. This photo was taken early in the morning. Later the tables are filled with local tea-coolers. 

My hotel

Another view of my hotel

Patio of my hotel

My hotel from the bottom of the canyon

The town is centered around Monastery Valley, a high-walled valley—or a low walled canyon—about 3.4 miles long. The extinct volcanic cone of 10,722-foot Mount Hasan, the second highest mountain of central Anatolia, looms fifteen miles off to the southwest. During the time of the Roman Empire the settlement was known as Karballa and in Seljuq times as Gelveri. The town was inhabited mostly by Greeks until 1924 when the Greek population was deported to Greece where they founded a town known as Nea Karvali. Turks deported from Greece moved into the town but not enough to fill all the homes. The abandoned ruins of many Greek-era buildings can still be seen. The town was not given the Turkish name of Güzelyurt until the 1960s. The current town is determined to retain its traditional character. By law local stone must be used in the construction of all new buildings, and new buildings must conform to traditional styles of architecture. 

Lower part of the Monastery Valley

Quiet streets of Güzelyurt

 Quiet streets of Güzelyurt

Quiet streets of Güzelyurt

Old Greek building

The canyon walls are riddled with cave dwellings 

Another view of the canyon wall

The original church associated with Gregory of Nazianzus was built around 385 a.d. In 1835 the church was remodeled and enlarged. After Turkish people moved into the town it was converted into a mosque. 

The Church of St. Gregory, now a mosque

The Church of St. Gregory

The Church of St. Gregory

St. Gregory

Inside of the Church of St. Gregory, which now functions as a mosque

There are said to be ruins of twenty-eight cave churches in Monastery Valley, plus two underground cities and hundreds of cave dwellings. 

The Sivisli Church, one of the twenty-eight cave churches in the Monastery Valley. It is not known when it was built. 

Interior of the Sivisli Cave Church. It was carved out of the living rock. 

Now-faded wall paintings in the Sivisli Church

Opening to cave dwellings and underground city

One of the entrances to an underground city

Another entrance to an underground city

First floor room in the underground city

Room in the underground city

Tunnel leading to lower rooms in the underground city. The passageway is at most four feet high. Given my height and the precarious state of my back I was unable to negotiate it. There were dozens if not hundreds of these underground cities in Cappadocia, some of which housed several thousand people. This is one of the smaller ones.