Amazing Physical Geography and Fascinating Geology of Turkey

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Chimney in Cappadocia

Cave Church Paintings - 10th C.

Cave Church Paintings – 10th C.

We visited several sites in Turkey where the physical geography and geology was unlike any other place I’d visited before. Cappadocia and Pamukkale are both sites where I was stunned by the amazing feats that Mother Nature could pull off – I mean creating a landscape of fluted rocks sticking up from an arid plain, and placing a huge mountain of calcite in the middle of nowhere is very impressive!

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House dug out of a chimney

Three volcanoes erupting frequently created the chimneys of Cappadocia. Lava flow formed a type of rock called tuff – a light porous rock formed by the hardening of volcanic ash. Wind and rain cut this rock into valleys of steep cliff faces with pointy and unusual chimneys sticking straight up out of the ground. At different times between the 3rd century C.E. and the 12th century C.E., the people of Cappadocia lived inside these rock formations, carving multi-level houses out of the soft stone. These Cappadocians were Christian; therefore, they also carved tombs, churches, nunneries, and chapels out of the chimneys. They would paint images of Jesus, Mary, various saints and disciples on the walls, some polychromatic and others monochromatic. The region of Cappadocia was amazing, I could go for a short walk through the middle of what felt like a desert and be able to visit these old cave houses and churches without restrictions. The feeling of exploration was exhilarating, and I imagined that my family and I were explorers finding these historic places for the first time.

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Some calcite pools on the side of the mountain

The physical geography and geology of Turkey continued to amaze me as we carried on to the small town of Pamukkale and its fascinating calcite mountain. This calcite mountain was created by a series of earthquakes. These quakes opened up numerous hot springs in this area. The water inside the springs has a high content of minerals, especially calcite. When the hot water evaporates and loses its warmth, the calcite that did not evaporate solidifies leaving white residue on any object that the water flowed over.

 

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

The water from these hot springs flows over the mountainside and descends over one kilometer to the bottom. This creates a mountain that appears to be covered in snow from afar. In Turkish, Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle”, and after seeing this mountain of white from a distance, surrounded by cotton fields, I couldn’t agree more with its name. It definitely looked like a glacier in the middle of other green lush mountains. Though, given that it was over 30 degrees Celsius outside, a glacier would have been impossible!

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

To protect the calcite deposits and to keep these clean and white, we had to remove ours shoes before entering the site and stepping on the calcite deposits. The water is continually flowing and these deposits form a hard-ridged pattern, similar to the ridges in sand on a beach caused by the waves. We entered the site from the base of the mountain and had to walk up the side of it. As we ascended, the water became increasingly warmer and pools appeared where we enjoyed wading in the warm turquoise water.

 

 

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Ruins in Heliopolis

At the top of Pamukkale rests the ancient city of Hieropolis. Once considered the city of the gods, anyone who was in need of healing came to the calcite springs to be cured. The people believed that the waters were magical. How else could such huge and amazing formations be created? They came from many far away places to be cured of their illnesses. Unfortunately, the water had virtually no healing powers. Because the diseased and injured people came from many different regions of Turkey, there are many different types of mausoleums, tombs, sarcophagi, and coffins located here. Today, the Necropolis of Hieropolis is one of the biggest and most diverse burial grounds in the world. Also located in Heliopolis are greatly preserved Greek ruins including massive columns, the remains of countless temples, old aqueducts, a huge amphitheater and much more!

Our experience at Hieropolis was similar to our time exploring the ancient houses and churches of Cappadocia. We could run around and explore almost the entire site with no rules or restrictions. It was astonishing that we were allowed to walk freely through such old and precious ruins. In most other countries that we have been in, guards were constantly telling us that we weren’t allowed walk too close to various ruins, never mind actually walking on them!

Exploring the physical geography and geology of Turkey was an amazing and fascinating experience that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

Goreme, Capadoccia

Goreme, Capadoccia

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

 

Ampitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Amphitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Exploring the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia - Acrobat dressed as a tulip on stilts in foreground

Hagia Sophia – Acrobat dressed as a tulip on stilts in foreground

Stringing Europe and Asia together, Istanbul is the only city in the world that stretches across two continents. Influences of both of these continents can be seen everywhere. The many castles and fortifications around the city are clearly influenced by Europe, whereas the colours of mosaics and designs on carpets all have resemblances to Asian culture. Two famous architectural structures stand in the middle of Istanbul, showcasing both of these cultures: the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

 

 

 

Hagia Sophia - Part of the dome

Hagia Sophia – Part of the dome

In 330 C.E., Justinian I ordered the creation of the church Hagia Sophia. This incredible project was a beacon of wealth and power and was one of the grandest structures built at the time. The dome alone had a diameter of 32 meters and a height of 56 meters. This was the first dome of this size constructed in history. The sheer size of the dome left me amazed, and I couldn’t figure out how the builders of Hagia Sophia could paint so beautifully at such a height. I couldn’t help but feel insignificant inside this amazing and historic building.

 

Hagia Sophia - The minbar

Hagia Sophia – The minbar

Although the Hagia Sophia’s original purpose was that of a church, its role changed under the Ottoman Turks in 1453 C.E when they conquered the Byzantine Empire. Sultan Mehmed I was highly impressed by the magnificence of Hagia Sophia. As this new ruler was of the Islamic faith, he converted the building to a mosque adding many classic common Islamic features, including four minarets to the exterior and a mihrab and a minbar to the interior. The minarets are slender towers located on each corner and can be seen from far away. The mihrab is a human sized semi-circled niche cut out into the wall of the mosque. The Imam (similar to a priest in Christianity) will speak into the mihrab and his voice will rebound back into the prayer hall so that he is easily heard by the worshipers. The minbar is a short flight of stairs that ascends to a platform where the Imam stands to deliver speeches, before or after prayer.

 

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Ahmed I, a Sultan who came to power 50 years after Mehmed I, decided to build a mosque that would surpass the Hagia Sophia’s splendor, and reassert Ottoman influence after losing a long war with Persia. Construction on Sultan Ahmed’s “Blue” Mosque was started in 1609, and was completed an astonishing 7 years later. As the dimensions of this mosque were 64 meters by 72 meters this was quite a feat. Later, Sultan Ahmed’s mosque was nicknamed the Blue Mosque because of its interior which contains 20,000 blue coloured tiles and more than 200 blue stained glass windows.

The Blue Mosque - The dome

The Blue Mosque – The dome

As non-Muslims cannot usually enter a mosque, I had never been in one before. I thought that the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia might have more similarities; however, once I entered the mosque, it was obvious that the only clearly visible parallel between the two were their domed ceilings. The interior of the Blue Mosque was much more colourful than Hagia Sophia. The Blue Mosque was intricately decorated, and had many windows, making it feel warm and very approachable. The interior of the Hagia Sophia was made of different types of marble and had few windows making the space very dark.

 

 

Hagia Sophia - Painted over crosses bleeding through

Hagia Sophia – Painted over crosses bleeding through

Another difference between the two is that the Hagia Sophia was converted from a church to a mosque, and later turned into a museum. When the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque all of the Christian symbols and mosaics were covered or removed and today many of the covered ones can be seen bleeding through the paint that hid them for centuries. The Blue Mosque has remained just this – a mosque – and has only Islamic images decorating the walls. It is still used today by Muslims as a space to pray.

 

 

Matt and I inside the Blue Mosque

Matt and I inside the Blue Mosque (For girls – you had to cover your hair)

We happen to be near the Blue Mosque on a Friday and witnessed thousands of Muslims exiting the mosque after midday prayer. Fridays are the most important holy day for Muslims and all are expected to attend midday prayer on this day. Men of the Islamic faith are called to pray five times a day, either in a mosque, or at their homes. The following is sung in Arabic at about 4:30, 6:15, 13:00, 17:00, and 20:00 each day: Allah is greatest. (X4) I bear witness that there is no god except Allah. (X2) I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. (X2) Come to prayer. (X2) Come to success (X2) Allah is greatest. (X2) There is no god except Allah. During the first call to pray in the morning, an additional line is added: Worship is better than sleep. I’m not certain that I agree with this because waking up at 8:00 am is difficult as it is. Getting up at 4:30 everyday would be nearly impossible.

The Blue Mosque - From the outdoor courtyard

The Blue Mosque – From the outdoor courtyard

I remember the first time that I had heard call to prayer. It was our first day in Morocco – the small town of Chefchaouen. I had nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard someone singing loudly in Arabic. It turned out that every street in the Medina of this town had speakers at the intersections. This woke us up every morning at 4:30 am. Call to prayer was much quieter in Turkey, which I was immensely grateful for because it didn’t wake us. We happened to be in the Aya Sofya (in English: Hagia Sophia) square when call to prayer happened in the early afternoon. It was neat to hear the muezzin’s voice switching from the Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia and then back again calling the worshippers. It was also interesting to see the shops begin to close and the people (mostly men) head towards the Blue Mosque.

Matt, Dad and I outside of the Blue Mosque

Matt, Dad and I outside of the Blue Mosque

Both the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque helped make Istanbul one of my favourite places on our trip. A melting pot of history, architecture and culture, this amazing city will never fail to captivate imaginations.

 

 

 

 

Hagia Sophia - Recently uncovered mosaic

Hagia Sophia – Recently uncovered mosaic

Hagia Sophia - Mom and I on the second floor

Hagia Sophia – Mom and I on the second floor

Hagia Sophia - The mihrab

Hagia Sophia – The mihrab

The Blue Mosque - Stained glass

The Blue Mosque – Stained glass

Hagia Sophia - Uncovered Christian mosaic

Hagia Sophia – Uncovered Christian mosaic

Hagia Sophia - Dad and I on the second floor

Hagia Sophia – Dad and I on the second floor

Underground Cities – Cappadocia, Turkey

Matthew in KaymakaliWe visited two underground cities, Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, while in Turkey. There are over two hundred and fifty underground cities in Cappadocia. Kaymakli is the widest underground city in Cappadocia and Derinkuyu is the deepest. The cities were originally built by Hittites for protection from invading armies. The cities grew and became more advanced over the centuries.

Both of these cities had a big ventilation shaft because when people live underground they would need air. The Kaymakli shaft was about 40 meters deep and the Derinkuyu shaft was about 55 meters deep. In Kaymakli, rocks above blocked off the top of the shaft, whereas in Derinkuyu you could see the sunlight at the top of the shaft. Both had wet and dry wells. Wet wells are where the city would get water from and dry wells are where the water is stored. Kaymakli could house over 3500 people and Derinkuyu could house over 10000 people.

Walking in the Underground City

Walking in the Underground City

When I first entered Kaymakli, I was excited because I had never been in an underground city before. Inside the underground city there were tunnels that led you to dug out rooms. Most of these were living rooms, some were kitchens, some were food storages, some were wineries, and some areas were for animals. On top of some of the living rooms there were bedrooms. You could climb up the wall to get to the bedroom or take the tunnel a bit higher to get to the door. This would probably be pretty fun to climb up to your bedroom at night.

Stone Door - Rolls Into Place

Stone Door – Rolls Into Place

 

 

 

To protect the underground cities the people who live there had to have traps. They had holes in the ceiling for spears, and bigger holes in the ceiling for men to throw hot oil on the enemy if the enemy entered the city. These traps meant that the enemy could not breach the city. They also had big rolling stone doors that can only be opened or closed from the inside by three or four men by rolling the circular doors into place. From the other side the enemy could not budge the door. I really liked the underground cities because of its traps and how people could live underground. ☺

Where does this tunnel lead?

Where does this tunnel lead?

Walking in the Tunnels

Walking in the Tunnels

Food & Animal Storage Areas

Food & Animal Storage Areas