Tuesday, July 19, 2016
This is a view from the grass covered roof outside our room in Goreme Turkey. We traveled to Derinkuyu, an underground cave city. Snow began to fall as the taxi driver drove us to the caves. Rooms, passage ways and an air shaft were all carved into the rock deep under ground. You couldn't have claustrophobia and live in this underground city. The tube shaped passages were just large enough so you could walk through while hunched over. Extending to a depth of approximately 200 feet, it is large enough to have sheltered as many as 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey and is one of several underground complexes found across Cappadocia.
The underground city at Derinkuyu could be closed from the inside with large stone doors. Each floor could be closed off separately. The city at Derinkuyu was fully formed in the Byzantine era, when it was heavily used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780-1180). It was at this time that most of the chapels and Greek inscriptions were added. The city was connected with other underground cities through miles of tunnels. Some artifacts discovered in these underground settlements belong to the Middle Byzantine Period, between the 5th and the 10th centuries A.D. When the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled in 1923 in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey the tunnels were abandoned. The tunnels 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. It was opened to visitors in 1969 and about half of the underground city is currently accessible to tourists.