Frescoes & Underground City

July 19, 2007


Four thousand year old huge, Hittite underground cities with sophisticated kitchens, winery, stables and more, that housed sixty thousand people for six months at a time or more are yet another fantastic site seen in this unique region. I am way too claustrophobic to even consider it, but Mozart and DaVinci were absolutely fascinated with them and their unbelievable complexity. It is yet another “must see” in mysterious Cappadocia.

There are over two hundred subterranean settlements in Cappadocia and the cities Deinkuyu and Kaymakli are the best examples of sophisticated troglodyte dwellings. Although probably begun in Hittite times, the early Christians, following in the footsteps of St. Paul who established the first Christian colonies here, used these cities to escape persecution from Roman soldiers and later Arab tribal raids.

They were used primarily as shelters from danger and each rock settlement had access to these underground cities via a secret passage way for quick escape. Interestingly an access tunnel can still be seen today on just about every villagers property. Even though Deinkuyu and Kaymakli are 5 1/2 miles (9k) apart, they too are believed to be connected by a tunnel. Hundreds of rooms were linked to each other thru labyrinth-like tunnels and low narrow passage ways.

There are eight levels accessible to the public at Deinkuyu with the lowest level at a depth of 180 ft. (54m) and there are a total of twenty floors. Only about ten percent of Deinkuyu and Kaymaki ‘s total area is open to the public and they think it goes down much further, which amazed DaVinci as they are vast.

They had a very sophisticated ventilation system that even removed the black smoke from the kitchens. Wine was important for every day life and religious purposes thus the winery and grape presses that drained thru a canal carved out of stone to allow the flow of grape juice to a stone tank below. There were school rooms, galleries, chapels and confessionals, water wells and more for when the community needed to stay below for long periods.

There was a friendly local guide who approached DaVinci and Mozart when they entered and they took him up on his offer to give them a guided tour. He was a seventy some year old man who had lived in this area all of his life and knew lots of interesting details. It was a very hot day (ask me who was sitting outside in the shade!) but Mozart got cold inside, so he offered her his wool vest that did the trick over her tee shirt and shorts.

They both just looved the experience of this unusual exploration which almost made me sorry that I missed it, but both agreed that I would never have made it thru those narrow, very dark and scary warren of tunnels in a happy state. Some people are just meant to read about such things and look at pictures (although it is not a terribly photogenic subject with the average camera).

Now the multitude of Byzantine churches in the caves of Cappadocia, up ladders and down stairs and all over the place, filled with the most glorious frescoes, these are sights that I did not miss! I just loved them and could just bask in their glory for long periods, curious about those early Christians here that made them. I had not realized that St. Paul and St. John and Jesus’s mother Mary had lived in Turkey until I started reading about this country.

Alas my pictures are not up to their beauty yet again. It is the darkness in the caves that have kept the pigments so vibrant which can be seen easily in person, but it comes out much darker and not represented well by the limits of my camera with no flash. I just have a little digital camcorder, so I suppose I should be grateful I have anything and hopefully it is a taste for you.












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