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Cave churches and underground cities at the heart of a unique landscape: Helga and Dr. Bernhard Maier toured Cappadocia

As long as we live, we will never forget that sunrise – seen from aloft as we floated in a hot-air balloon high above Göreme Valley at the heart of Turkey.

Far below us, the endless Cappadocian countryside stretched away into the distance. The gorges and bizarre rock cones the locals call “fairy chimneys” glowed in the first light of day. And more and more balloons rose into the blue sky. For about one and a half hours, we enjoyed our flight above this region, which looks truly mystic. Absolutely overwhelming!

Early Christian testimonies

“On the trail of the Apostles” was the motto of our tour because the early Christians travelled here in Cappadocia. Paul of Tarsus, the missionary and people’s Apostle, founded several Christian communes in the first century.

Testimonies to early Christianity can be seen at the open-air museum in Göreme, especially: in the wonderful cave churches there. These sacred chambers are of different sizes and have wall paintings from different periods and ten are accessible. Some of the walls are adorned by purely ornamental and very simple pictures from the eight or ninth centuries and some by opulent, room-filling paintings.

Icons on Tuff Stone

The entire life of Christ is depicted on the walls of the best-preserved “Dark Church”, which dates from the 11th or 12th century! The fascinating thing about this church is that its splendid vaults were not constructed but hewn out of the soft tuff stone.

Cities beneath the Ground

Not just cave churches, but entire subterranean cities were created in the rocks of Cappadocia – and extended up to eight stories down into the ground. The long passageways lead to narrow bedchambers, kitchens and chapels. Cities, such as Derinkuyu and Saratli, served the early Christians as places of refuge.

We were actually fortunate enough to be able to spend the night in a cave hotel. The restaurant was deep down inside the rock, too. In the evening, we enjoyed wine and vegetables produced in the region, which thrive in the fertile volcanic soil here. No question about it: we would go back to Cappadocia again any time!