那些生动的岩石 Living rock
Göreme, in Cappadocia, Turkey
Both natural wonders and historic landmarks, the 'fairy chimneys' of Göreme may suggest the fantastical dwellings of an alien species or an illustration from a Dr. Seuss book. These and similar rock formations are known by many names—hoodoos, tent rocks, earth pyramids, as well as fairy chimneys—and are typically found in dry, hot areas. Here in Cappadocia, in south-central Turkey, they were formed when a thick layer of volcanic ash solidified over millions of years into soft, porous rock called tuff that was overlaid by hard basalt. Cracks in the basalt allowed wind and rain to gradually wash away the softer bottom layer, leaving the hard basalt to cap tall columns of the tuff. The result is these unusual, often beautiful—and perhaps puzzling—formations that spread across the Anatolian plain.
This part of modern day Turkey has been inhabited since at least the Hittite era, between 1800 and 1200 BCE, and possibly for much longer. Innumerable ancient empires fought over the region, with Hittites, Assyrians, Neo-Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans each laying claim to Anatolia at times. To escape this dangerous world, the locals learned to burrow into the hillsides for protection. Today, a visitor can see the vast, complex, interconnected caves in which societies thrived and sheltered for millennia. Göreme National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 and is now a popular tourist destination.
天堂般的温泉 Heavenly hot springs
The stunning travertine terraces and hot pools of Pamukkale, Turkey, have dazzled visitors since at least the end of the 2nd century BCE and the founding of the Greco-Roman thermal spa of Hierapolis. Since then, people have enjoyed a relaxing soak in the 97-degree Fahrenheit water, claiming curative powers for many ailments.
It makes sense that Pamukkale is also known as the 'Cotton Palace,' in a nod to the fluffy-looking white formations that cover the hillside. That 'cotton' is travertine, a soft limestone that is formed over centuries as calcite-laden water drops from springs on a cliff high above. Here it's a stunning white, but travertine can be found in many different colors, ranging from gray to gold.
The terraces and the ancient ruins of Hierapolis are so unique that they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. New restrictions to protect the pools include a cap on the number of bathers, so you may not be allowed to take a dip. But there's plenty to marvel at here. Walk around the ruins of the theater and necropolis, the ancient temples, and bath houses in Hierapolis. You'll be in good company: The hot springs and Hierapolis draw more than 2 million visitors a year, making them one of Turkey's most visited attractions.
Turkey, Ancient rock tombs
Among the remains of the ancient Anatolian port city of Kaunos are these carvings in the sheer rock walls above the Dalyan Çayı River. Overlooking the modern-day city of Dalyan, Turkey, what appear to be ornate cliff dwellings are really the weathered facades of tombs for the elite of a once-forgotten society.
With a history of human habitation going back almost 3,000 years, Kaunos has over the centuries found itself under Persian, Greek, Persian (again), Macedonian, Roman, Lycian, Roman (again), and finally Turkish rule—just to give you the highlights. But it was the sands of time that conquered the city once and for all: Silty deposits from the river eventually mucked up the port so badly it became useless. Gradually abandoned, Kaunos' location was lost to memory, and its rock-hewn Lycian tombs, monuments, and 5,000-seater amphitheater were relegated to rumor until a British surveyor rediscovered the site in 1842.
The mountaintop of toppled gods
The ruins on Mount Nemrut depict a gaggle of gods from both Greek and Persian traditions, plus a few deities that King Antiochus I made up himself. The range of spiritual faiths represented in the statues found near the 7,000-foot summit reflects southeastern Turkey's long history as a crossroads of cultures. Today, the derelict statues are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 70 BCE, Antiochus took power here in Commagene, one of several small onetime states formed from the shambles of the Seleucid Empire. Looking to unify his populace, he synthesized a mythology that hailed Greek and Persian figures, from Ares to Zarathustra—plus the king himself and his family. Antiochus' claim to godhood wasn't eternal, as he was deposed in 31 BCE, but sometime before that he cemented his customized state religion in history by having its partial pantheon—including, of course, himself—carved into stone statues on the peak overlooking his kingdom.
Take in a show on your Roman holiday
In the hills around Pamukkale, Turkey, you'll find the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, which thrived here as holy and healing destination through Greek, Roman, and Ottoman times. The city was founded as a thermal spa in 190 BCE by Eumenes II, the king of Pergamon and was likely named after the wife of the legendary founder of the Pergamene dynasty, Hiero.
The amphitheater so prominent in this aerial view was built in the second century CE under Roman Emperor Hadrian. Renovated several times over the next 160 years—once to accommodate aquatic shows--the theater would have seated about 15,000 people. An earthquake in 1354 finally toppled the ancient city and it was abandoned until it was excavated by German archeologist Carl Humann in the 19th century. Today, the complex retains some of the best-preserved decorative features of any ancient Roman theater, with friezes of Roman Emperor Septimus Severus and his family, as well as the Greek gods Dionysus, Artemis, and Apollo.
And to think that I saw it in Cappadocia
The fantastical 'fairy chimneys' found in central Turkey's historic Cappadocia region were formed by a collision of the natural and the man-made—and they form a scene that seems straight out of a Dr. Seuss illustration. The landforms were created when volcanoes deposited mounds of soft, porous rock called tuff, which was later covered with hard basalt. In the 10th century (though possibly starting up to 5,000 years ago) humans excavated the tuff to create caves and catacombs that could fit thousands of dwellers. Through not only the astonishing ruins but the many 'cave hotels' hewn into rock in the city of Göreme, the memory of those ingenious city planners lives on.
But in fact, it's the memory of Dr. Seuss that brings us here today. On March 2, 1904, Seuss—real name Theodor Geisel—was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. The children's book creator—known for his quirky, bombastic poetry and fantastical pen-and-ink landscapes—passed away in 1991, but his birthday is still observed as a yearly celebration of literacy for kids and 'obsolete children' (as Seuss classified adults) everywhere.