I am always fascinated by the landscape in Cappadocia. Now, I add another landscape, but this one not in Cappadocia: Kula, Manisa in Turkey.
Two years ago, I read an article about this amazing location which looks like Cappadocia but has a totally different flavor. It is called Kula Geopark. The first National Geopark in Turkey. I encompasses beautiful landscapes formed by geological activities, a few beautiful villages, vineyards, sacred tombs, caves, ancient paintings on the cave walls, thermal waters, mineral waters, and towns including the town of Kula itself.
Now, it is my chance to see this extraordinary place. Al and I leave our hotel after our delicious Turkish breakfast and drive to the park’s entry. We are fascinated how the land formations that look like the fairy chimneys are so similar to the ones in Cappadocia. Later, I search and find out that they almost jokingly named Kula’s landscape “Kuladokya”.
We are awed by what we see. This place looks like Cappadocia. It has similar rock formations, wind-swept chimney-like pillars, and soft, rounded rocks welcoming us in the early morning sun.
We continue to drive on the narrow road. The landscape keeps changing from Cappadocia-like fairy chimneys to fertile valleys to black volcanic eerie formations to beautiful villages to tomato fields to riverbeds to finally back to Kula.
We spend about three hours driving. Now, we are back to beautiful Kula. We want to see two more places. One is my college friend, Mustafa’s, grandfather’s “han” (similar to a hotel in the old times with stables to hold the horses and camels of the travelers instead of today’s parking lots to hold the guests’ cars). We ask several people and nobody knows. So, we try to see the second place, the Geopark Museum. After asking a few people, we finally find the place. It is closed. When we ask around, they tell us the head coordinator of the Geopark, Dr. Erdal Gumus, also runs the Geopark Museum and his office is next to the museum. My main desire is to see the footprints discovered between the layers of volcanic ash that belong to the humans living in the area about 12-15,000 years ago.
Again with the suggestion of the locals, we head for the Kula Municipality (Kula Belediyesi) building and find the Public Relations Office. The door of the Public Relations Office is slightly ajar and we see that there is a large meeting going on. We decide to step back and give up our quest. But, a jolly person sees us and invites us in. We introduce ourselves. His name is Onder Basburk and he is the Kula Municipality Coordinator. He is very energetic and full of history about Kula. He wants to share all his knowledge with us. He is excited that we are going to write a blog post about it. Amazingly, Dr. Erdal Gumus is one of the attendees of the meeting. I was expecting an elderly professor who has dedicated his life to Kula’s Geopark. But, what we see is a young geologist spearheading the process to have this amazing landscape be recognized as a Geopark, the first in Turkey.
Now, we can visit the Kula Geopark Museum. He walks us through rock by rock, picture by picture what has been gathered at the Geopark. He is one of those brilliant people who is very curious and very observant about what is going on around him. He says he covered every inch of the Geopark finding out about what has happened in this area in the past million years.
Our luck continues. He offers to give us a private tour of the Kula Geopark including the sections that are not open to the public yet. We call the hotel and ask to stay for another night. We are not going to miss this opportunity!
Dr. Gumus’ English is perfect. I am happy Al gets to hear everything directly from him without anything getting lost in translation.
We get in his car – a beaten-up, old Renault: the official car of the Kula Geopark Coordinator, Dr. Erdal Gumus. We set out for our incredible journey of learning about this beautiful landscape which carries many answers about what happened in the area.
To be continued in Part 2…