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.
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.
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.
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.