Sunday, October 28, 2012
Another thing that sucked about life in the olden days was invasion by foreign armies. This happened a lot. So much so that the good people of Derinkuyu took the time and made the effort to dig themselves an entire underground city. The brochure says that it could house 10,000 people. It apparently worked really well. The dumb invading foreign armies just assumed that everyone had run away and moved on themselves. Meanwhile, everybody in town was underground, maybe kind of crammed into the complex of tunnels, but quite safe and unslaughtered by the army above.
How do you get there? Well, you take a bus to Derinkuyu, buy a ticket and go down...
...and down some more. I was following a tour group (I think they were from the Philippines) and their guide just decided to explain something mid-tunnel. And there we stood for quite a while. As you can see, the woman in front is quite small, but she pretty much fills the entire passageway. I am quite a bit taller and I must have scraped my head about a dozen times. So here I waited, bent over and feeling increasingly anxious. That's right, folks, I'm acrophobic and claustrophobic, so I'm a real catch! But seriously, people were freaking out in the confined spaces left and right. I wasn't one of them. I waited as patiently as I could for the guide down the tunnel to get his group moving. Just to rattle you true claustrophobes a little more, after everybody started descending again, this tunnel continued on for another 100 yards - 100 more cramped, narrow yards!
After that descent, you end up in some much larger spaces and it's nice. The air is fresher (though still very clammy) and the sound of claustrophobes sobbing is barely audible. Keep in mind that everything you see here was made by people. These aren't geological formations. This was once solid, yet pliable rock; now it's a cave system designed to dupe foreign marauders.
When you're near the bottom - I believe this is six stories beneath the surface - there's an air shaft. It was originally disguised as a well. Although the light vs. dark doesn't give the photo much depth, let me tell you, this was a very long way to the top.
The graves are the lowest point in the complex, some seven stories deep. I gallantly let a group of nuns go down before deciding that I could live without seeing them.
I wandered around for a bit. Most of the groups didn't make it this low, as they all seemed to suffer multiple freakouts along the way. So there were lots of big, empty rooms like this - a place where people sat down and looked at each other.
Here's another large space, ideal for general cave activities.
After a fashion, I felt a yearning for the surface world, so I found another stairway and went up, up, up...
...and up some more. It's worth noting that these were the most cramped stairs. They are only about two feet high. Damn, people were really short back then! Either that or soldiers were big and these stairs were built so that they'd be pretty much immobile wearing all that armor and such. In any case, those days are over. It's time for a bigger stairway.
Once back on the surface, I had some time to kill before catching my bus back to Goreme. Derinkuyu is a real throwback. I say that because when I first visited Turkey in 1996, just about every Turkish town looked like this: the odd stately building looking out of place...
...the jumble of streets and the variety of architecture...
...and of course, places built completely out of cinderblocks. You don't see lots of towns like this anymore. As Turkey has gotten richer, this look has fallen by the wayside.
Anyhow, there was another, smaller underground city at Kaymakli, but one was enough for the day. The verdict? There's no way they could have fit 10,000 people down there, no matter how small everybody was back then, but it's still a real feat of engineering and a testament to how much people like surviving.
Posted by Igor Keller