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

Tham Lod Cave – Northern Thailand

Bamboo Rafts at Thom Lod Cave

Bamboo Rafts at Thom Lod Cave

Tham Lod cave is a humongous cave system that is separated into three parts and has a river running through it. In order to enter the cave system, you have to take a bamboo raft. The raft is long and narrow with little block seats. I noticed that underneath the bamboo there were plastic water bottles that kept the raft afloat. When I stepped onto the raft, hundreds of fish appeared. These fish were very large carp and catfish with some up to three feet long.  They were hoping to be fed because the tourists often buy fish food and feed them.  I also bought fish pellets (for 10 baht) and when I threw the pellets into the water the fish literally jumped out of the water fighting for food. This reaction startled me and I almost fell off the raft and into the water.  Fortunately, there is a man at the back of the raft that had a bamboo stick to steady the raft and to push off the bottom so that the raft can move.

Jumping Carp and Catfish

Jumping Carp and Catfish

 
The raft took us through all three parts of the cave. The first cave has a 30 meter high ceiling and big stalagmites, stalactites and helictites. One helictite looked like an eagle head. There was also a stalagmite and stalactite joined together making it look like a waterfall. Cave two is similar to cave one, but is 20 meters off the ground.  It also has a stalagmite that looks like a monk. On the ceiling over the river between cave two and three  there were thousands of bats. Cave three is a coffin cave. It had about six teak coffins in it because around 1700 years ago people buried the dead in the caves.  An interesting part about the Thom Lod cave is that at sunset, 300000 or more swift birds arrive at the end of the cave and the 300000 or more bats leave the cave!  We were fortunate enough to see the swifts fly into the cave one evening.  

Looks like a Waterfall

Looks like a Waterfall

Looks like a Monk

Looks like a Monk

Ancient Teak Coffins

Ancient Teak Coffins

Looks Like Coral

Looks Like Coral

Stalactites, stalagmites and helictites…

Grotte de Grand Roc

Grotte de Grand Roc

The Grotte du Grand Roc de Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is a cave in the Dordogne region of France in the side of a mountain. It was discovered by Jean Maury while following a small river coming out of a mountain in 1924 and took 3 years to prepare it to open to the public. It is a limestone cave that has lots of stalactites, stalagmites and helictites. When the water with minerals drips from the ceiling of a cave, slowly over time it hardens in an icicle form and creates a stalactite.  When the water drips of the end of the already formed stalactite, the water dripping onto the floor forms a stalagmite that grows upward.  A helictite is a stalactite or stalagmite that while in the process of growing the water becomes blocked forcing it to change course creating an odd shaped stalactite or stalagmite.  Every 100 years, these formations only grow a couple of centimeters. Therefore, it is important not to touch the stalactites, stalagmites and helictites because some are very fragile and can break very easily.   

Interesting facts:

  • at the end of the tour, there was a helictite that looked like three different things:  the Winged Victory found in the Louvre, a pickaxe, or a pterodactyl.  
  • we also saw a helictite that looked like a sword.  This one had been broken by a kid  and it took scientists 3 years to put this back together.  
  • there was also a helictite that looked like a hockey stick (and I thought of one of my friends – Keegan :).  

To find out more about stalactites and stalagmites, check out this website:  http://global.britannica.com/science/stalactite

Grotte de Grand Roc

Grotte de Grand Roc

Grotte de Grand Roc

Grotte de Grand Roc