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Kula Geopark: From Mesolithic human footsteps to Dr. Erdal Gumus’ footsteps (Part 2)

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(continuing from Part 1)

Beautiful fairy chimneys, Kula National Park, Turkey

Beautiful fairy chimneys, Kula National Park, Turkey

It is mid-afternoon. It is pretty hot. The sun is still piercing through our clothes. Dr. Erdal Gumus (link) is driving through the back roads to show us the Kula Geopark through his eyes. I am sure it is going to be different than what we have seen in our morning tour.

Cascade of small volcanoes, some are one million years old and some are only 15,000 years old.

Cascade of small volcanoes, some are one million years old and some are only 15,000 years old.

I am taking notes as fast as I can.  And taking pictures again with a different mindset.  Now, I feel more about the beauty and the importance of this geopark. 

Erdal Bey says the application process for approval of the Kula Geopark by the European Geoparks Network Organization, and UNESCO Global Geoparks Network has taken about three years of preparation for the application and 1.5 years of acceptance process. The Kula Geopark became the first geopark in  Turkey in September 2013. He does not say it, but I find out later that he initiated the application process.

Black lava everywhere, like a sea with giant lava waves frozen in time, Kula Geopark

Black lava everywhere, like a sea with giant lava waves frozen in time, Kula Geopark

 

He says that the Kula region holds the oldest rocks in Anatolia, about 200 million years old. These rocks are called offilitick rocks and they formed at the bottom of the Tethys Ocean, an ancient ocean which once covered the entire area. This entire area was named “Katakekaumene” (meaning “burned land” or “fire-burn”) 2000 years ago by the famous Greek Geographer Strabo in his book Geographica.

Beautiful fertile lands with Gediz River snaking through, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Beautiful fertile lands with Gediz River snaking through, Kula Geopark, Turkey

 

Kula’s geographical and cultural significance has been mentioned by many travelers. In 1831, George Thomas Keppel. Earl of Albemarie writes in his Narrative of a Journey Across the Balcan, 2nd Volume.  

We still continued to march in an easterly direction, and traversed a range of mountains of white and coloured marble. As we approached Kula, the road was entirely black, and strewed with cinder-looking substances. Wherever the rock was broken, it exhibited the same black appearance. The people here call this mountain ‘kara devit’, or ‘black inkstand’. On the opposite side of the hill the face of the country undergoes a complete change. Instead of a continued chain of mountains, like those we had quitted, was a succession of detached hills, of a conical shape, and covered, for the most part, with vines. In the midst of these eminences, at the further extremity of a circular plain, is the highly picturesque town of Kula, situate amidst huge black vitrified masses, in the bed of an extinct volcano.

Life is thriving through the black volcanic rocks, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Life is thriving through the black volcanic rocks, Kula Geopark, Turkey

 

This country was anciently called Catacecaumene, or “the burned up”, as is abundantly proved not only by its position, but by its particular appearance.

Strabo’s description of Catacecaumeme (or Katakekaumene), which is very minute, will be found to agree with my observations on the neighborhood of Kula, which are given exactly as I made them on the spot.

My host gave me some wine, brought from his vineyard at Meonia. It was the best I had tasted in the course of my journey. Strabo, alluding to the excellence of the wine of the Catacaumene (meaning “the burned-up country”), says hence Bacchus [i.e. Dionysus, the god of the grape vine, winemaking, and wine] is said to be born of fire.”

Vineyards are in abundance, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Vineyards are in abundance, Kula Geopark, Turkey

 

Dr. Erdal Gumus continues to explain more as we take a walk on a trail that is being built as I write this. I can hardly imagine Erdal Bey and his team walking all over the (REAL FIELDS!!!) black lava formations that are as sharp as a knife to map out the area and mark the best path for the visitors to enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the magical formations that the lava flows create. Erdal Bey says, pointing at a stop, “here is where you can take the best picture of the area during sunset”. Every direction we look there are miles of black lava formations. I wonder how many days and hours he came here to come up with a plan for the trail. As we walk down the trail, we see the spot where the workers are just packing up for the day’s work. Tomorrow, the trail will continue to be built. He points at the knee-high walls on both sites of the trail built to prevent any fall on to the lava rocks and says: “All these walls are built from the lava rocks where we stand.” He says, the only thing is carried from outside is the gravel from another section of the Geopark to make the path smooth for the hikers. And the gravel is carried on a little tractor that can fit in the path! This is real labor! Now, the crew is all piled up on the tractor and driving back on the trail that they have been building for months. They stop and say hello to us.

Walking trail at Kula Geopark, not open to the public yet, still being built

Walking trail at Kula Geopark, not open to the public yet, still being built

Workers at the Kula Geopark walking trail, returning home after a hard day's work

Workers at the Kula Geopark walking trail, returning home after a hard day’s work

 

Erdal Bey continues his explanation of this unique park. He says the Kula Volcanic Geopark covers around 300 km2 – roughly one third of the overall surface of the town, and it is the youngest volcanic area in Turkey. He says this entire area was once the Tethys Ocean during much of the Mesozoic Era ( 251 to 65.5 million years ago). What is unique in Kula Geopark is that it contains more than 80 small volcanoes that had started to erupt about one million years ago until 15,000 years ago. Because of this huge range of eruptions in a small area, one can find different rocks.

Later, I read Dr. Erdal Gumus and Dr. Nikolas Zouros’ paper abstract in Geophysical Research Abstracts for EGU Research Assembly. It says:

Kula Geopark area is awarded with high geodiversity representing 200 million years of earth history from Palaeozoic to Holocene including maars, monogenic cinder cones, successive lava flow plains, lava caves and tubes, craters, basalt columns, xenoliths, contact metamorphism, ash deposits, waterfalls in volcanic canyons, active karstic caves, badlands and fairy chimneys, mesa structures and schist tor, as far as 15 thousand years of fossil human foot prints preserved in volcanic ash. Kula Geopark is the land of miniature volcanoes where cinder cones are not higher than 150m. As a result, the geosites are easy to access and visiting the area requires very little risk, effort and time which makes the area excellent for geotourism and geoeducation. ”

We drive to our next location. I notice a beautiful vineyard with grapes hanging down from the vines, definitely an invitation for an afternoon snack. Erdal Bey stops the car and picks a few bunch of grapes and shares with us. He is back in the car, whistling away and driving on the dirt road towards Cakirlar village.

Dr. Erdal Gumus enjoying his lunch with a bunch of grapes, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Dr. Erdal Gumus enjoying his lunch with a bunch of grapes, Kula Geopark, Turkey

 

Rapid cooling of thick lava flow from first stage Burgaz volcanites has created characteristic basalt columns in Çakırlar village and along the cornices of Burgaz basalt Plateau. In some cases basalt columns occupy the entire height of the lava flow reaching up to 20 meters. Henry Washington, in 1900, his article “The Composition of Kulaite”, in the Journal of Geology, describes the compostion of the basalt columns in Kula, as he termed in his dissertation “Kulaite”.

Erdal Bey says we will not be able to see the caves and ancient paintings and carvings on this trip since the caves are not safe to enter yet.

Rock tombs scattered around the area, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Rock tombs scattered around the area, Kula Geopark, Turkey

Erdal Bey talks about the social efforts to make changes to the villages and the Kula town that are part of the Kula Geopark definition. He talks about the geoeducational programs for the young and the scholars. He talks about the efforts for renovating old Ottoman buildings in Kula to serve as boutique hotels for visitors. We are glad we were part of this change even for just a day. 

When I see a rock, I wonder what it is called and how old it is after this trip, Kula Geopark

When I see a rock, I wonder what it is called and how old it is after this trip, Kula Geopark

Erdal Bey talks about the social efforts to make changes to the villages and the Kula town that are part of the Kula Geopark definition. He talks about the geoeducational programs for the young and the scholars. He talks about the efforts for renovating old Ottoman buildings in Kula to serve as boutique hotels for visitors. He talks about forming a women’s cooperative to sell their produce. We are glad we were part of this change even for just a day.

Sun is setting over the rocks while we still explore the Kula Geopark, Turkey

Sun is setting over the rocks while we still explore the Kula Geopark, Turkey

We drive around more, visiting thermal springs and villages until it gets pitch dark. There are million of stars shining on this beautiful Kula Geopark.

We hope the works of dedicated people like Dr. Erdal Gumus will make a change in the world, and in our understanding of history during and before the human era.

We leave our shadows behind as we depart the Kula Geopark, Turkey

We leave our shadows behind as we depart the Kula Geopark, Turkey

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