To unravel the mysteries of our just over 4.6-billion-year-old earth, you need to ask the stones, and then listen patiently to what they tell you.
With its myriad different formations, Anatolia spreads beneath our feet like the pages of a geology book. Here I shall describe a few of the geological marvels I have encountered in these lands, not as a geologist but as a traveler.
“The wind ruffles the curtain at my window / The wind that makes white caps on the sea.” So go the words of a popular song by Grup Gündoğarken. Only they leave something out. They should also mention, “The wind that wears down rocks and stones,” a job that sometimes takes thousands of years to complete, the speed of the process depending on whether the earth’s surface is hard or soft. And if there is a difference in thickness between the layers of the earth’s crust formed in different periods, then very unexpected shapes may occur.
Along the Aegean coast near Alaçatı there are a number of intriguing rock formations, ranging from enormous feet to shapes like ships with geological specimens resembling roots of trees bursting from the rocks and snaking across the ground and others that look like seated people. Earthquakes too played a big role in producing the rocky coastlines that poke into the sea like fingers. The rocks begin where the fertile lands that grow anise, onions, olives and artichokes end. Alaçatı bay is a virtual ‘workshop of the waves’. And the rock formations of Gökçeada, a small Aegean island off Turkey’s coast, are another. The most famous of these is the formation known to the islanders as the ‘Kaşkaval Kayalıkları’. Why is it named for a kind of cheese? The island elders tell the story of a mean cheese maker whose products turned to stone because he refused to share them with some hungry people.
SAKLIKENT CANYON, 13 KM OF PURE STONE
If the sea isn’t cool enough for them, travelers to Fethiye in summer can take a plunge into Saklıkent Canyon. After the first few kilometers, further progress along this 13-km-long stone corridor poses difficulties even for mountain climbers and spelunkers. Saklıkent is reached by road via Fethiye-Antalya. If you follow the sign for Saklıkent after Kemer, you will come first to the turnoff for Tlos and then,
21 kilometers later, to the canyon at the village of Kayadibi. The canyon begins some 50 km from Fethiye. The entrance is crowded with tourists who will wade through the ice cold water and then proceed for another one or two kilometers inside the canyon, taking a rest on their return on the low divans and kilims spread on wooden platforms over the water. While they are walking through the canyon, passengers on boats en route from Kaş to Fethiye can swim in the underwater caves that are yet another of the region’s geological wonders.
Sometimes when waters issuing from a natural spring come in contact with the air, the carbon dioxide in them escapes and the dissolved calcium carbonate precipitates as a solid. This is how the formations we call travertine come about. Steam rises from the hot waters at Pamukkale throughout winter and on cold spring mornings, and there are people who come here just to witness the phenomenon. Some 5 kilometers from the waters that give rise to Pamukkale’s white travertines, another stream stains the stone red and green as it flows. And the source of this river, the Karahayıt with its high concentration of ferrous minerals, is another tourist attraction.
But Pamukkale doesn’t have a monopoly on travertines. There are also travertines under the ground at Denizli! Turning off the main road from Pamukkale in the direction of Afyon, you will come to an area known as Kaklık. If you turn left as if to go to the cement factory, after six kilometers you will come to the mouth of a cave smack dab at the end of the road. And as you make your way down through its cascading waters, you will come face to face with a miracle of nature. A miniature Pamukkale below a waterfall inside Kaklık Cave!
ZINDAN CAVE: A PALACE IN STONE
It would not be far off the mark to describe Zindan Cave as a palace of stone fashioned by nature under the ground. To see the cave, take the road through the deep valley 2 kilometers from the town of Aksu in Isparta province. This giant cleft in the rock is called the Aksu Stream Strait, and the mouth of the cave that extends inside it like a great trough is loud with the shrieks of swallows that make their mud nests here from spring to the end of summer. The rush of the waters mingles with their cries. A long, low cave, Zindan stretches for 760 meters, and explorations have revealed another 390-meter-long section not open to visitors. Inside, it is a wonderworld of stalactites and stalagmites, a geological rock of ages formed patiently by nature over thousands of years. What makes Zindan different from other caves is that in past centuries it was used for religious rituals.
INCEBURUN, THE KULA VOLCANOES AND MORE
If you lead a humdrum existence, then you will have a chance to live, briefly at least, ‘on the brink’ at Sinop. For this you need to go to Inceburun, 22 km from the city center, where a lighthouse, like so many lighthouses in Turkey these days, blinks automatically at the edge of the volcanic rocks.
Another legacy of Anatolia’s volcanoes are the volcanic cones in Kula township of Manisa province and, not far away, a valley that recalls the formations of Cappadocia. Volcanic activity is known to have commenced here 1.1 million years ago and to have continued until about 2-3 thousand years ago. To the pages of our geology book we can also add the rock formations in the walls of Rumkale in Gaziantep’s Yavuzeli township, the giant monolith in which the Midas monument is engraved at Eskişehir Seyitgazi, the black rock atop which Ayancık Citadel perches, the rock formations that jut out of the sea like knives at Türkeli on the Black Sea coast, the ‘Pink Rocks’ of Kerpe again on the Black Sea and, finally, Köprülü Canyon in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya. There’s no denying it. In Anatolia even the stones speak...