Thursday, September 2, 2010

Underground Cities

Kaymaklı Underground City - Cappadocia, TurkeyImage via Wikipedia
Lots of us were enthralled with City of Ember recently and even Mockingjay went subterranean, but did you know about the real underground cities in Turkey? There are hundreds in the Cappadocia region of the Anatolian plains. Derinkuyu is the largest city, with an estimated eleven levels that once housed thousands of people. The city is connected by tunnels to another at Kaymakli. These two cities are the only ones open to tourists today and require a guide for exploration.

Originally created by 7th and 8th Century Phrygians, the cities were also used by Hittites and most famously by early Christians hiding from the Romans. The Christians expanded what was already existing and carved rooms for different purposes.  Visitors tour store rooms, wine presses, graineries, stables, school rooms and even a church at the lowest level.  Watch for the heavy doors, like giant 200-500 kg millstones, designed to block out enemies. Once inside, inhabitants relied on a deep well (85 m or about 250 ft at Derinkuyu) for water and various ventilation shafts for air. Invaders couldn't come in, so they typically tried to flush the people out by poisoning the wells.

I technically don't have claustrophobia. However, I learned to appreciate the concerns of friends who are...very quickly... as I descended into the rabbit's warren of tunnels better suited for ground squirrels than me.  This is a map of Derinkuyu.  Believe me, you do not want to loose sight of your guide.

The electric lighting in the tunnels is barely enough to keep the creepy feeling away.  I can't imagine what it was like when people had to wander around with a candle!

Since touring an underground city is pretty much unforgettable, you won't be surprised that I got inspiration from it for Burnt Amber. Ifrit djinn like to live underground and in ruins, so an underground ruin is a great place to find one, if you're looking. I had a whole chapter devoted to Cappadocia, but telescoped it into the chapter with the cistern to keep the pace moving along.

Here's a clip of my new Facebook friend Teresa the Traveler touring the tunnels. Enjoy!

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Southpaw said...

That so totally amazing. I thought the photo was awesome but then I saw the map – that blew me away.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Lots of scary holes to fall into in Turkey...the ruins are everywhere!

gerlinde said...

Wow, really nice blogsubject!And the clip makes it real :) Scary for me because i'm a bit scared of small spaces, and are they really everywhere in Turkey?

Carolyn Abiad said...

Underground cities are found in the Cappadocia region, on the Anatolian plan of Turkey. There are lots of other underground things to see in Turkey, though, like the cisterns in Istanbul.


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