Our tour of south-west Cappadocia stopped at a bowl inside a mountainous terrain filled with water. It was called Nar Lake. Nar is the word for pomegranate in Turkish, and the name comes from the peaks which rim the crater. I found later that this crater was formed in an explosive volcanic event maybe 12-40 thousand years ago. Standing there, I saw a placid crater lake, perhaps less than a kilometer across, empty roads surrounding it, and sparse signs of human habitation.
No part of the world is really undiscovered or unexplored any longer; we’d arrived here on a guided day tour in any case. Although there was no other car or van nearby, any illusion that there are few tourists was dispelled by three children holding a lamb and a donkey, demanding that we pay to photograph them. Still, there is an air of desolation and silence about the area. The rubble at the edge of the crater looked like burnt cinders. Was this the remnant of the building of the road, or part of the original volcanic geology?
I had been hearing bells ringing ever since I got off the bus, and now, looking down, I saw that they came from sheep which were grazing at the bottom of the crater around the lake. I walked a little along the rock cinders and saw that the rocks continue all the way down. Probably not junk from the road then, I thought. The lake has been studied in detail, and sediments in the lake bed have been analyzed to infer climate changes over the last 14000 years. Special conditions at this lake gives a fine grained picture of a succession of wet and dry climates over the millennia, as well as unusually dry centuries.
I found the place beautiful in its desolation. There was abundant grass in the crater, and some reeds grew in a border around the lake. Pollen deposited in the bottom of the lake throws interesting light on the history of this region. Apparently the land was settled by wheat and fruit farmers in the early Byzantine era, abandoned for several hundred years (7th to 10th century CE) during Arab invasions, as a result of which forests re-established themselves. The land was resettled for the farming of cereals in the Byzantine Golden Age, and has been continuously farmed since then. My unaided eyes saw only the surface of this deep history. Nor did I see the microscopic diatoms, Clipeoparvus anatolicus which have been found only in this lake.