Afyon’s mini Cappadocia: A hidden fairy tale in Turkey
Wilco van Herpen
In Turkey there are more places that resemble Cappadocia and those places are without visitors just like Karaköy. Photos by Wilco van HerpenIn Turkey (and abroad), Cappadocia is world-famous. Ask an average tourist about one of the most beautiful places in Turkey and his or her answer will most probably be Cappadocia. Ask a Turkish citizen the same question and he/she would probably again name Cappadocia as one of the most fascinating and mind-blowing places in Turkey. They are right. Cappadocia is fabulous and intriguing.
The history, the way it acquired such a beautiful landscape full of fairy chimneys, the mystery of the tunnels that lead to underground villages; I am still surprised that not one big Hollywood director has made a movie about it because this is, without exaggerating, a unique place.
However, in Turkey there are more places that resemble Cappadocia and those places are without visitors. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but you hardly find anybody there, that’s for sure. One of these places is Kuledocia, not very far away from İzmir, while the other place I know is near Afyon. Most probably there are more of these fascinating places, but I have not visited them yet. Nonetheless, all these places are definitely worth paying a visit.
This time I want to tell you something about Karaköy, a small village about 50 kilometers from Afyon. It is one of those typical, stereotypical Anatolian villages. In writing this, I actually have to acknowledge that there is not something like a “stereotypical Anatolian” village. They are all special, different and unique. What I’m trying to say is that, while entering the village, this place does not give you any clue about the hidden treasure in its backyard; all you see are the familiar one- or two-story high buildings.
While the number of visitors who go to Cappadocia may exceed 1 million, here in Karaköy, the local people are happy when they receive 10 tourists in a week. It is obvious that tourists have not discovered this place yet. The people are poor, there are no souvenir shops that sell “original handmade souvenirs” from China and there are no restaurants. So why bother going to Karaköy then?
A hidden place
The answer is simple. It is a gorgeous place. When I get out of my car, I am directly surrounded by a couple of children. Where they came from I have no idea. The funny thing is that in a lot of places in Turkey, the first ones to approach you are children. They are curious where you have come from and want to share the information they have about their village. Do not get upset by those children clinging on to you like a magnet on a fridge; on the contrary, try to make connection with them. They often have a lot of things to tell and, in spite of their age, are sometimes perfect guides who gabble the information they have learned at school.
I arrived at the worst time of the day, as you can imagine, as I came at around noon when the sun is high in the sky, generally creating a nightmare for photographers. But I was curious and let myself be guided by the young enthusiastic boy who invited a couple of friends to come along as well. I first had to plow through a field of, well, I do not know. It had been planted, was something agricultural but I didn’t have any clue what it might be. Then there was a steep wall to climb and no path or stairs to make climbing easier. This was the perfect spot for me. I like to think of myself as an explorer; something that is extremely difficult in the era we are living in. Many times though, I ended up in a situation where I did feel like I was the first European visitor to actually walk through that village there or visit this festival here. That is the nice thing about Turkey. There is so much to see and do, and tourists rarely visit most of those places.
After climbing the hill, a landscape opened up in front of my eyes. Not just a landscape; this was an absolutely mind-blowing landscape. As far as the eye could see, thousands of years of erosion had left an indelible mark on this landscape. The soil is, I guess, from the same material as in Cappadocia.
Therefore rain, wind and snow had had a chance to mould it into this fairy-tale landscape. I wouldn’t have been surprised if suddenly some trolls or an ogre appeared before my eyes. Here, everything is possible.
The best time to visit Karaköy is early in the morning or during sunset; at that time, the sun, with its warm orange colors, will create long, dramatic shadows on the hills and the fairy chimneys. But if you are not so lucky, as I was, to be there at the right time, you may still get some help from the gods. On the day I visited this fascinating place, there were some nice clouds drifting above the landscape. It gave me the depth and even sometimes the soft light that I wanted for my pictures.
Looking at the fairy chimneys, I noticed that I could see all different stages of the fairy chimneys.
Because almost no tourists come here, the natural erosion is continuing. There are no shoes or off-road vehicles that can damage the soft stone layers. Therefore, I saw besides the old and characteristic fairy chimneys a lot of baby fairy chimneys. You can see the whole evolution of how the stone surface slowly transformed into those beautiful statues that dominate the landscape for thousands and thousands of years. Impressive, unique and one of those “must have seen things” from Turkey.