A stark lunar landscape. A mysterious open-air sculpture carved by Mother Nature's chisel. These common descriptions of Cappadocia really just tap-dance around the subject. So let's just get this out of the way: Those fascinating "fairy chimneys" evoke nothing so much as anatomically correct erections -- and circumcised ones at that. Imagine what a field day American film censors would have had if George Lucas had succeeded in his original plan to shoot Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in Cappadocia.
Notwithstanding the inevitable bedroom references, there are few places on earth where you can get a good night's sleep in a cave, and Cappadocia is one of them. Besides ridiculously romantic primitive surroundings, you can expect traditionally Greek/Anatolian single-vaulted rooms with utilitarian niches cut into the rock. Because of the multilevel character of the rock, most hotels are terraced around open patios with fantastic views of the valley or of local village life.
Nobody knows who the original inhabitants of the region were, or who first hollowed out shelters in the soft rock of these sheltered ravines and odd "chimneys." But as a largely barren area, central Cappadocia was bypassed by most armies, making it a perfect refuge for the early Christians following in the footsteps of St. Paul, who established the first Christian colonies here.
The natural land formations and huge expanses of silence are just a part of the mystery of the region. As an incubator for Christian philosophy, the monasteries, cave dwellings, and feats of underground engineering are a testament to human ingenuity. Cliff walls of the valleys are riddled with cavities that on closer inspection turn out to be centuries-old dwellings or chapels decorated with colorful frescoes and biblical images.
Cappadocian soil is extremely fertile, and a general tour of the region will reveal numerous vineyards. Famous for its local wines, Cappadocia is a major producer; you may want to veer off at a sign for SARAP EVI (wine house) for a leisurely tasting. The creatively named Sarap Evi, in Ürgüp, has wine tastings in the evenings, but it's just as fun to drive up to any local producer and fall into the dance of local hospitality.