For millions of years, the mighty volcanoes of the Central Anatolian Plateau erupted and spewed their contents across the land that would become the cradle of civilization. Blessed with a moderate climate and fertile soil, one of the world's earliest known communities was founded 10,000 years ago at Catalhoyuk along the river banks of the Casambasuyu near Konya. Mankind's first nature painting was found here and it portrays the most recent eruption of Hasan Dagi almost 9000 years ago. Today, its snow capped peaks dominate the Konya plain, awash in golden hues where vast wheat fields blend subtly with the ochre colored soil and the monochromatic palette is interrupted only where rivers flow and tall poplars flaunt their greenery.
Another great volcano rises in the distance to the east of Hasan Dagi. Once called Mt. Argeus, the awesome presence of Erciyes Dagi inspired legends as the "Abode of the Gods" and the Persians built a Zoroastrian fire temple nearby. These two ancient volcanoes mark the western and eastern boundaries of a region known for its curious volcanic landscape that has been relentlessly carved by nature and by the people who have lived here. 'Fairy chimneys,' cones and strange rock formations have been sculpted by wind and rain while subterranean towns were excavated by a populace seeking shelter from the conquerors and would-be conquerors who crisscrossed the wide open steppes of the Central Anatolian Plateau. Ancient Anatolian tribes, Assyrians, Hittites, Phrygians, Turkic tribes from Central Asia, Mongols, Persians, Syrians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Slavs, Greeks, Romans and Western Europeans have all passed through leaving behind some of their traditions as well as their genes and rendering Cappadocians as exotic as their surreal surroundings.
Although the Hellenistic kingdom of Cappadocia once encompassed a much greater area, the name now refers to the region east of Konya that is defined by Aksaray to the west, Kayseri to the east, Nigde to the south and Kirsehir to the north. Guide books and tour buses focus on the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu as well as the rock formations and Byzantine churches found within the triangular area bounded by Avanos, Nevsehir and Urgup. For those who take the time to explore the less traveled byways, Cappadocia is a land of discovery. Away from Goreme, Zelve and the major tourist sites, there are partially excavated Hittite centers, cavetowns and hundreds of churches that are rarely seen, gorges to explore and some of the most vivid, pastoral scenes to be captured in all of Turkey.