The Three Graces

In the heart of Turkey’s Cappadocia region, on the road from Nevşehir to Ürgüp, there is a cluster of geological formations that has come to be known as the Three Graces or the Three Beauties. I first encountered the geological wonders known as hoodoos in Utah’s Bryce Canyon in all their pink glory.

bryce pink hoodoos hoodoo canyon national park utah road trip silent city

In Cappadocia, these same wonders go by another name; fairy chimneys, and are just as delightful and awe-inspiring as their relatives on the other side of the planet.

turkey, Ürgüp, cappadocia, three graces, three beauties, fairy chimmneys, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

This particular trio of hoodoos – the two large ones and the baby one in between, snuggled into the hoodoo on the left – have several legends attached to them. Some say these three hoodoos are the goddesses Athena, Aphrodite and Hera, who between them caused the Trojan War. They forced poor old mortal Paris to choose who was the fairest of them, and sweetened the deal with bribes. Hera offered him power over Europe and Asia, Athena offered him warrior skills and wisdom, Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, who just happened to be married to Menelaus, King of Sparta. Cue epic battle scenes and a giant wooden horse.

turkey, Ürgüp, cappadocia, three graces, three beauties, fairy chimmneys, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

There’s another legend associated with these fairy chimneys that’s not as well known. Dating back to antiquity, the story tells of a king whose only daughter fell in love with a shepherd boy. Knowing her father had plans to marry her off strategically into a wealthy family, the princess quietly escaped and eloped with her true love. The king was so enraged he refused to acknowledge the marriage and the couple went into hiding for several years. After their first child was born, however, the princess felt sure her father would welcome them back, so she convinced her husband to return and together they travelled to see her father. She was sadly mistaken. Over the years the king had grown even more bitter, and when he laid eyes of the happy family he ordered his guards to kill them. Holding her baby in her arms, the princess and her shepherd tried to escape but when it became clear they could not outrun the guards, she called upon the gods, who turned the stricken family into these three stone formations, where they remain together forever.

turkey, Ürgüp, cappadocia, three graces, three beauties, fairy chimmneys, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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15 Responses to The Three Graces

  1. And their love was carved in stone for eternity. Such a sad story, Ailsa. The fairy chimneys are truly magical.

  2. Beautiful pictures, and what fascinating legends attached to the fairy chimneys. Just the name, fairy chimney, evokes a sense of surreality.

    • ailsapm says:

      I agree, it’s just the most lovely name for a geological structure. I adore the name hoodoo too, though, it’s so much fun to say. 🙂

  3. Anabel Marsh says:

    These are lovely, and I enjoyed the legends but, for me, you can’t beat Bryce (and all the other hoodoos in S Utah).

    • ailsapm says:

      Utah is one of my favourite places on the planet, Anabel, I’m with you on that, and the hoodoos there are amazing, but the hoodoos in Cappadocia have a distinctly different feel to them, and are made all the more magical by the fact that ancient peoples hollowed them out and lived in them. It’s like a combo of the Bryce hoodoos and the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in one. xxx

  4. What a unique stone formation, and a sad story (legend) behind it.

    Anyway, great photos! 🙂

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  6. Donna Yule says:

    December 18, 2015 Thank you Ailsapm great The Three Graces Photo are excellent Merry Christmas & Happy New Years.

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  9. carol1945 says:

    Both the fairy chimneys themselves and the legend have the feel of the primal—the eternal conflict between parent and child. The Trojan War legend feels like it goes back thousands of years, whereas the family story feels like it goes back tens of thousands of years. How do you hear of it?

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