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Trip to Turkey September 2004
Saturday, September 18, 2004

We now passed into the part of the trip that was one of the major reasons that I wanted to explore Turkey:  the very old ruins.  This is also the part where, I somewhat lost my appreciation for the Turkish people and culture, and saw them more as occupiers of a country with a history that is not theirs.  Perhaps if I had seen a decent sit-down toilet (or even a clean women's squat toilet, apparently the men get the better upkeep on these restrooms) or if I had eaten a good Turkish meal in the past 3 days I would have felt differently, but this area of the country is without amenities.  Whenever we stopped to eat I felt sorry for the poor restaurant owners who couldn't even scrape up a full salad for us, and seemed totally unfamiliar with the concept of Turkish breakfast (with the exception of tepid soup).

Our guidebook said that there was an underground city at Derinkuyu, but we were unable to find the entrance.  We continued onto Kaymakli, where we did find the entrance to the underground city, accompanied by an entrance fee, as well as both merchant hawkers and guide hawkers (pretending to be archaeologists) who we had to fend off.

I've been in caves and I've been in underground streets but nothing prepared me for the marvel of the Underground city at Derinkuyu.  I haven't seen any pictures yet that do it justice, nor any descriptions, but I'll try.

Underground City

The brochures say 55 floors or levels.  It just isn't that neat.  In addition to main corridors, some of which are extremely narrow, there are also climbing holes from one room to the next and the adjacent rooms often do not have floors at the same level.  The biggest marvels of this enormous place are that the air is not stuffy at all.  There is good ventilation throughout.  I wondered if I would have a claustrophobic reaction to the narrow passageways but the good air and lighting (okay, so now it is electric, but the walls were designed to carry light) kept me from ever feeling trapped or closed in.  There was almost a total lack of uniformity and each turn revealed something interesting.  Here there was a store, there a niche in wall where something (now removed) stood, there were drainage holes, communication holes, sunlight holes, stairs, ramps, bedding shelves, and different types of doorways.  It is said that the people lived in the underground city for protection and made rounded doors which could not have been opened from the outside.  We saw the rounded doors.

There were 2 thoughts I had about this city and what might have happened to the people.  One was that, while it was possible to block off attacks from the outside, it is also possible that the outsiders could have blocked off the exits.  Also, children born and raised inside these caves were probably deficient in Vitamin D and could have had serious cases of rickets. 

Outside Derinkuyu was a pay toilet that wasn't worth the 30 cents.  Now I knew we were in the "heartland" of Turkey.  Even the tourist places had inadequate restrooms.

Looking out Window in Cappadocia Our next stop was Goreme/Cappadocia, and we were there by 11:30am.  Goreme is a stop on every Turkish package tour.  There were an assortment of souvenir shops with beautiful, colorful handicrafts just slightly more expensive than the markets in Istanbul and Derinkuyu.  There were camels that I did not ride - I remember I riding a camel at the Bronx zoo when I was about 6 years old.  I remember it being very uncomfortable.

There are stranglely shaped stone outcroppings at Goreme.  This was the same or similar kinds of stone as the underground cities.  It is easy to carve out, and then hardens with exposure to air.  So people carved out the outcroppings and made homes out of them, complete with windows, ancient stone painting, staircases.  As in other parts of Turkey, there are people living in these ruins right now.  We know that at least some of the homes have electricity.  We don't know about plumbing.

Goreme at a glanceancient stone painting
Inside one of the buildings at Goreme

In the afternoon we continued on the road towards Kanesh.  By darkfall, we knew we were within a few miles of it.  We kept going back and forth over the same 15 miles of road but we couldn't find Kanesh in the dark.  We slept at a gas station.

Created:  November 15, 2004
Updated:  November 21, 2004
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