posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
Fifteen months ago, the DH and I went on one of our most memorable travel adventures. We took a thirteen day guided tour of Turkey. We had been lucky enough to spend a few days on our own in Turkey about a dozen years ago and saw just enough of the wonderful sights to know that we wanted to see more!
One of the places I looked forward to seeing most was the Cappadocia region. This area is a wide expanse between two now extinct volcanoes with highly unusual rock formations called "fairy chimneys." These were created by a hard layer of rock which did not erode at the same rate as the softer layer of rock (called tufa) underneath.
I knew that the inhabitants of this region carved caves out of the soft tufa stone and sometimes lived in them. What I didn't know until I got there, was that entire cities (the largest with an estimated population of 16,000) were carved underground! Some of the cities date back to prehistoric times, and some of them were inhabited up until the 1950s when the Turkish government decided they were historic treasures and great tourist attractions and moved everyone out.
The real heyday of these underground cities, and the part that fascinated me the most was from around the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD. Christians fleeing persecution from first the Romans, then the Arabs, moved into the region and expanded the underground cities into a network of over 100 different locations.
Cities went down 10 or more levels and were interconnected with an elaborate system of tunnels. Entrances were camouflaged into hillsides, and top levels were usually stables since the tunnels were too narrow to accommodate livestock. Though the inhabitants lived above ground most of the time, during times of attack or war, the cities could easily sustain themselves for months at a time and were pretty much impenetrable.
This big rock that looks like a millstone was rolled into place at the entrance to each level. The hole in the center was for shooting arrows at the enemy, who pretty much had to approach in single file due to the narrow tunnels. Since the cities were interconnected, runners would let a neighboring city know they were under attack and a counter attack could be launched. The early Christians were able to live and thrive here for several centuries.
We visited the underground city of Kaymakil, which had eight levels and an estimated population of 3,000. Four of the levels are now open for tourists, but yer olde Aunty (whose head almost scraped the ceilings in the largest rooms) only went down two. My DH (who could not stand straight except in the stable) went to all four, though he had to crawl on hands and knees through the connecting tunnels. Definitely no place for anyone with claustrophobia!
As you can tell from the pictures, this was a very unique place. I felt like I was in a science fiction or paranormal novel! Kaymakil certainly didn't seem like any other place on earth I'd ever seen!
What about you? Have you ever visited a place that left you feeling like you were not exactly in this world? Please tell us about it!