Underground Cities

In 1963, in Derinkuyu (Cappadocia region) a man crushed part of his wall in an attempt to make his room more spacious. To his surprise, behind the wall was a mysterious room he had never seen before and behind that room, more other rooms appeared. This is how underground city Derinkuyu was found. People believe it was built in 1400s.

About Underground Cities

Archaeologists started exploring this fascinating location straight away. They could go as deep as 40 meters although they believe the depth is about 85 meters in total. So far, 20 underground levels are discovered. At the moment, you can only visit 8 of them as the others are partially impassable or reserved for archaeologists and anthropologists' explorations. The city was used as a shelter for thousands of people who lived here and needed to protect themselves from frequent Cappadocians' attacks.

The interior is simply incredible! Underground passages in Derinkuyu (fitting at least 10,000 people) can be blocked in three strategically important points simply by moving round doors made of stone. This heavy rock closes the hall and protects it from the enemies. It is 1 to 1.5 meters high, 0.5 meters wide and weighs around 500 kg. Besides, Derinkuyu has a tunnel around 8 km long leading to another underground city of Cappadocia, Kaymakli. People that used to live in Anatolia made houses underground - they were spacious enough to fit entire families, domestic animals as well as food for everyone.

The town used water from one underground river and they built numerous wells. The ventilation found here is unbelievable - there are around 52 exit tunnels found that astonish engineers even today.

Derenkuyu and Kaymakli are protected by UNESCO since 1970s. Turkish government believes the underground cities are probably made by Phrygians 2800 years ago. However, there are different opinions on this. Some people believe the constructors were early Christians hiding from Romans 2000 years ago, while others believe the cities were made by Hittite civilization, one of the oldest known civilizations in the world.

Climate in Cappadocia is mostly continental - dry and very warm summers and cold and snowy winters. Due to the several bigger volcanoes, material found here is soft tuff and harder basalt.

Underground cities have many smaller and bigger rooms, passages and vertical ventilation holes. In the rooms you can see recesses of different sizes. Certain levels are connected with tight and short tunnels. On the entrance in these passages there are round stone blocks used for closing the tunnels on the inside.

According to the official interpretation, these spaces were made for hideout of bigger communities of people, up to 20,000. They called certain rooms ‘church’, ‘monastery’, ‘kitchen’, ‘chapel’, ‘winery’, ‘stall’ etc. Many publications say these communities were hiding in the underground cities during the periods of couple of months. In the Byzantine period (5th to 10th century) it seems that entrances were widened and they were used as hiding places again.

Cities of Derenkuyu and Kaymakli are connected with the 8km long tunnel. Tunnel dimensions are 2 times 2 metres and that is the longest known underground tunnel in Turkey.

Derenkuyu has 9 levels under the ground, 7 of which are open for public. Depth is decided based on vertical ventilations opening. Kaymakli is, as far as we know so far, deepest city and has 13 levels out of which only 5 are open for public. Depth of ventilation opening is 95m and you can feel continuous air flow. Since couple of years ago, electrical lightning is set in the tunnel.

Outside the regular touristic routes, there is another underground city - Tatlarin. The entrance is at the top of the plateau where you can see many hollowed rooms. Among them there is a space used as Greek Orthodox church. The city is not well explored yet but so far we know it has at least 3 levels. The third level has a tunnel 1.3 km long which is a connection to neighboring underground city. From there, starts another tunnel. The height of the tunnel is from 0.5 to 1 meter so in order to go through the major part of the tunnel, you must crawl.

In an attempt to explain the purpose of these spaces people speak of ‘dungeons’, ‘cemetery’, ‘kitchen’ etc. This is the only underground city that has couple of rooms used as toilets.

Underground cities are great tourist attraction which attracts millions of tourists every year. It's not only about underground structures. Here you can see the "chimneys", natural rock formations with drilled areas inhabited for centuries and "mushrooms" or rock formations with volcanic blocks at the top of the hill. There is also a "Blue Valley" that will be possibly the most beautiful sunset you’ll see on the planet.

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