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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey

31st January 2013

Homage to Cappadocia

A tear-drop forest of twisted rock-forms rears up, stretching into the distance.  Each fantastic shape has been hollowed out over the millennia by unknown hands to form dwellings, monasteries or, between the 4th and 11th century, painted churches.

Welcome to Cappadocia.

We all know that Turkey teems with outstanding historic and tourist sites.  Yet Cappadocia, an hour’s flight from Istanbul in the heart of Anatolia, astonishes with its wealth of history and landscapes.

Ancient galleries at the Ihlara Valley
Ancient galleries at the Ihlara Valley

In one all-too brief week-end I see the rock formations, stone dwellings and underground churches of Goreme, including the sumptuous Karanlik Kilise (dark church); the troglodytic underground city of Derinkuyu; and the countless cave-churches and spectacular landscapes of the Ihlara Valley.

This stuff is ancient.  By the time Herodotus (who came from Halicarnassus, today’s Bodrum) wrote about Cappadocia in the 5th century BC, the region had been the heartland of the Hittite Empire for over a thousand years.

No-one seems too sure who built the underground cities of Cappadocia, but it may have been the Phrygians, with subsequent home improvements by the Byzantines and the Persians.  Inspired by this, many local hotels – ranging from the basic to the utterly luxurious – also have underground rooms you can stay in, whose smoothly-sculpted contours have a strange fascination.

Underground city at Derinkuyu
Underground city at Derinkuyu

The only downside of many of these sites – including the Karanlik Kilise – is that because they’re underground, they are poorly suited for mass tourism.  So go early; out of season; in bad weather; or (like me) all three.  Then you won’t have to queue to see some of the most astonishing sights Turkey – or anywhere – has to offer.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.