Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kaymakli Underground City

Cappadocia has several underground cities and it was on my list of "must-do" things. These people carved such neat and whimsical homes in the rock structures and I adored the geometric shapes they painted and carved for decoration. I was excited to see what these creative spirits built under the ground. 

We went to see the underground city of Kaymakli. It was bizarre. The city contains 8 floors underground, though only four are open to the public. There are 100 tunnels carved in the soft stone that connect many different types of rooms-- homes, storage rooms, wineries, stables, cemeteries, and a Christian church. The tunnels are very narrow and so low in places that you have to crouch to pass through. The city doesn't seem to have any order whatsoever. Tunnels, stairs, and door openings are all jumbled together. After a short while, I lost all sense of direction and depth. I couldn't tell which floor we were on and was thankful for the little arrows that pointed to our way out. I'm usually not one to get claustrophobic, but this city brought out some scary feelings, especially with the stuffy, moldy smell on top of everything else. What kind of people can live underground? I can't stand rooms with small windows, but NO windows? No fresh air?  It sounds so animalistic. Archaeologists say that the underground city housed 3500-5000 people, which blows my mind because the cramped tunnels are usually only wide enough for one person to pass. These must have been a friendly bunch, to live in such close proximity. Electricity has been wired through the tunnels and rooms since the city is now a museum (since 1964), but I can't imagine how wild it must have been in ancient times with no lights.. just fire. I tried to be brave and crawled down an unusually steep and narrow unlit tunnel using my camera as a flashlight. After about 20 feet, it continued with no end and I turned around, feeling like a chicken. 

Leaving the place, I was relieved to see the light of day and breath fresh air. I felt dirty and dusty and had a really bad image of these people in my mind. 

We found out later that the underground cities were home to persecuted Christians who were in hiding during Roman times, before Christianity was accepted. My perspective completely changed and I was humbled. 

- Julia