Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Welcome to Tatooine

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Well, it was a long time (millions of years) ago but right on our planet Earth. After volcanoes Erciyes and Hasan erupted, ash and lava formed a region of cones and valleys, now known as Cappadocia, Turkey. From then on, wind and water erosion sculpted the rocks into thousands of spectacular mushroom- and chimney-like forms. Early settlers hollowed out the soft volcanic-deposit rocks and made them into their houses, churches and monasteries. Nature and men shaped the region of Cappadocia into an amazing landscape. It feels almost like being on Tatooine, the Star Wars planet where Anakin and Luke Skywalker grew up. (Actually, George Lucas did plan to shoot Episode 1 here.)

Uçhisar Castle is a good example of how people inhabited the soft rocks. This type of architecture can be seen all around Cappadocia, including the famous Göreme anchorite community dated back to the 4th century.

Paşabağları is famous for its fairy chimneys. They were formed when erosion wiped out the softer tuff but left a piece of harder, less easily-eroded cap rock at the top. OK, I know what you think they look like. Let's just say mushrooms.

Ihlara Valley is a 16km long, 150-200m deep gorge carved out by the Melendiz River over the centuries. Byzantine monks came here and cut hundreds of churches into the base of the towering cliffs.

Reading the transcript of Rem's lecture on sustainability in an Uçhisar hotel room seemed to be a nice coincidence. Rem was talking about advancement vs. apocalypse strands of thinking, talking about radical inventories of the world, both of cultural and natural elements, about people interacting with nature in a way that doesn’t show any tension or alienation. Looking out of the window, I thought Cappadocia is definitely one of the early examples of how culture and nature could coexist.

(Many thanks to Nikole Bouchard for generously sharing photos of her trip to Cappadocia.)

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