Even if one is not religious, it is one of the nicest places to spend Easter: Cappadocia, Turkey, the home of the fairy chimneys -- these huge lunar pillars, cones, and spires rising in a crisp blue-white sky -- with the churches of the earliest Christian monks carved in their caves. The strange landscape (made of compressed volcanic ash) goes on for miles, and I chose the village of Goreme as my base, as it is known for its "open air museum.
The most spectacular cave churches at the site -- such as the "Dark" Chapel and St. Barbara's Chapel -- are covered in vivid frescos depicting early Jesus at the last supper, Judah giving him a kiss or -- a popular image -- Lazarus rising from the dead.
My favorite: the church dedicated to St. Katherine, whom I learned is considered the "intellectual" saint. It was "Anna," the richest most powerful woman in Byzantine who funded this chapel. "One strong woman gives homage to another," my learned guide Mustafa explained, as he smiled under the arch.
The refectory where the monks ate was also of interest: in the stone is carved a vat for the monks to stamp grapes -- for the wine to run out a small hole into a puddle. Even today, Cappadocia wine -- deeply fruited and lightly oaked -- is an exquisite treat. Eager to see the sun set over the valley -- with only ten minutes to go before the day had gone -- I hitched a ride with a young man on a motorbike, who told me -- as we clumped up the hills -- that he liked to keep his moped unrepaired as the clip-clopping sound reminded him of the sound the horses made when his grandfather took him around on a cart. He also told me that as a child, he was told that fairies hid in the odd pillars, and he had been afraid. Now he knew it was a myth, he said. After the sun set into darkness, the young man scooted me over to the town hammam, where I stripped in a room of stone while a woman (in a rather bad mood) scrubbed me in a frenzy of suds.
Her two daughters eagerly came forward. "A necklace!" I said -- touching my bare neck. "Yes," she said. She was a maker of necklaces. Each took three days to make. The husband poured me a cup of tea, while the woman and her daughters hooked and unhooked necklace after necklace around my neck -- the man inspired to take pictures -- and even a video -- of each intricate lace design on my skin, and the girls exclaiming in particular over one that was a turquoise blue. "You know, I lost my necklace!" I said, thinking of Lazarus rising from the dead.