|Entrance to the underground city of Derinjuyu.
Derinkuyu (which means "deep well") is the deepest of the 36 underground cities in Cappadocia. This defensive hideout extends downward for four stories and has 53 airshafts carved at least 300 feet into rock formations left by ancient volcanic eruptions. Amazingly, the original ventilation system still functions, enabling visitors to go underground and marvel at what the early Turks had accomplished. The underground city includes churches, stables, wineries, and storage rooms and was capable of safely housing 10,000 people for many months.
|Cave houses were common in the Cappadoccia region
of Turkey. Volcanic ash was easy to carve into liveable spaces.
On our recent visit to Cappadocia we were able to tour the underground city of Derinkuyu. In ancient times, the first two floors under the surface housed a missionary school. Two long tables carved from rock and probably used for communal meals are still standing. We could see where the people had created a baptismal, kitchens, storehouses, living quarters, wine cellars, and stables for their livestock. Extensive networks of passages, stepped pits and inclined corridors link family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship.
|Inside the underground city rooms were created with
specific functions for everyday living.
|Passageways are small for people
today, but some were designed to
In times of peace, the people did not live underground but used the spaces for storage of crops and stables for their horses. Whenever conflicts arose, which continued into the early 20th century when Cappadocian Greeks sought to escape persecution by the Ottomans, they could go and live there.
As we explored the underground city, we learned that it is connected to other towns by tunnels that run for miles underground. When the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled in 1923 the tunnels were abandoned but were rediscovered in 1963, after a resident of the area found a mysterious room behind a wall in his home. Further digging revealed access to the tunnel network. Although the temperature was mildly cool inside, our guide said that it was quite hot when she took an excursion to walk from Derinkuyu to another town via one of these tunnel.
|This large room was probably a communal area.
Seeing how ancient people created these cave cities--with primitive tools, no less--and imagining how they lived and worked there is experience you don't want to miss.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier