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Imagine Living For Months At A time - In an Underground City

Conquering Our Fears

Jumping back now to one our of days in Goreme - Capadoccia. There was one experience that was too wonderful to stay un-blogged (term should be in Websters any day now).

After brekkie one day, we were faced with a quandary. So many hiking opportunities, more caves to see, or the option to travel to another village nearby. Also on the table, albeit tentatively, was to visit one of the incredible under ground cities. Brad still had a nasty cold unfortunately so he retired to his room. The folks next to us overheard our conversation and strongly recommended that we go to Kaymakli, an ancient city where up to 3,000 people lived for months underground so as to avoid death at the hands of their enemies. The folks next to us told us that to explore the underground city was not for the faint of heart as crawling for up to 100 metres on ones hands and knees in very dark tunnels was required. I immediately thought that a strenuous hike was sounding better and better. Heather too seemed to be now leaning away from the subterranean city. Sue stepped in and reminded Heather that she had researched the underground cities thoroughly and had talked excitedly about how she was so looking forward to going there. After so much research, Heather should not pass the opportunity. I knew that if I went there, that for sure I would go underground but I must admit to being quite afraid that claustrophobia would overcome me. Sue said that she would travel with us but for sure would not go underground. So, there it was, like a glass precariously hanging on the edge of a table, but with Sue's contagious enthusiasm, the glass was rescued from certain shattering and, off we went to catch the Dolmus (local bus) to Kaymakli.

After an hour bus ride, we were dropped off at the entrance to the underground city. We noticed that, because it was a Turkish holiday, most tourists were in fact Turkish. Sue said that she would wait for us over in a quiet and shaded patio area. As we approached the ticket booth, a seemingly octogenarian man approached us (Heather and I) and offered his services as a guide. Heather and I rolled our eyes at each other but we must admit, Mustafa was quite persuasive, seemed to know alot about the caves, and, after his "normally charge 40 lire but for you, only 30" line, we relented.

Mustafa proved to be worth every penny. He showed us so many things that we could never have figured out on our own. We started on what he called the first level, down below ground by 30 steps or so. What followed can only be described as magical. Mustafa pointed out small dark living quarters, old churches, so many tunnels, places for tethering animals, places where grapes were pressed for later fermenting into wine and even old shafts that descended up to 100 metes underground. Here he showed us the v-shaped indentation where centuries before, people had used ropes to pull buckets of water up from the deep wells. We could see areas where they had cooked bread in ovens and wondered in amazement how the smoke could have dissipated. We were enjoying every minute and lost was any thoughts of claustrophobia. We descended time and again until Mustafa told us that we were now on the fifth level underground. Hmm I thought, not a great time for one of those major Turkish earthquakes. There were some fairly long tunnels where even Heather had to bend forward at 90 degrees and I felt like I was close to kissing my toes. Fortunately, the longest tunnel was only about 25 metres long and Heather and I managed them with no difficulties. I remember at one point where I was beginning to get in my "tuck" position to navigate one tunnel when Heather, who had entered just ahead of me came charging back out. I jumped back wondering what was going on when a badly claustrophobia stricken lady came flying out of the entrance. She was with a small group of tourists so we watched them escort her back towards the entrance. I remember feeling a bit of pride and exchanging a knowing glance with Heather as we took a moment to appreciate that we had indeed conquered our own fears.


We could see that it must have been incredibly dark down there. Today however, the maze of tunnelsand rooms and then even more tunnels and rooms were now well enough lit that a torch (flashlight as we would call it) is not required (although I must admit to using my trusty flashlight app several times).


Mustafa moved us fairly quickly through the underground city and showed us how ingenious the former citizens had been. He told us about decoy tunnels where enemies could be trapped and disposed of. We saw tiny port holes where unsuspecting opponents could be dispatched with an arrow. We absolutely were gob smacked by the enormous round doors that they used to shut out their enemies from the critical tunnels. The doors and their cradles were designed so that they could be fairly easily and quickly rolled closed and then opened again when deemed safe to do so, From the other side however, they were simply impossible to move once closed. A combination of gravity and some other engineering that is beyond my best accounting brain.


Finally, we were at the exit. Heather and I knew that we had to go through one more time. So, we paid Mustafa, and once again descended into the underground city. This time, we went at our own pace, stopping to appreciate the things that amazed us and remembering what we had learned from Mustafa. The second time through, we also saw many things that Mustafa had not showed us. We found some tiny stairs leading down into one of the rooms. These stairs were away from the tourist area. We noticed that from some vantage points we could see down several "floors" where tourists were passing through tunnels well below us. It gave us a sense of how life must have been like when this underground city was a thriving community. Time and again, I wondered how it must have been when one's kerosene lamp blew out. The darkness would have been complete in every sense of the word.

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After a second tour, we surfaced, found Mustafa for a photo op and found a patiently waiting Sue. We talked excitedly as we described our experience to her for much of the way back.


Another amazing Turkish experience.


Posted by hbwatson 08:06 Archived in Turkey

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