Photo courtesy of Veronica Kalas

At the north end of the Peristrema Valley, near the village of Selime, the steep cliffs on either side of the Melendiz River are riddled with cave dwellings. For the Byzantine settlers, tunneling out the soft rock was easier than constructing traditional, freestanding buildings, especially in a land where timber was scarce. Curiously, the rock-cut dwellings are often carved with elaborate architectural elements, such as columns (see photo of columns) and domes, that mimic those of freestanding structures, even though in rock-cut architecture these elements are merely decorative and have no structural purpose.