posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary
Ten days ago, I wrapped up my two week tour of Turkey, a fascinating place brimming with history and culture. I can't recommend a visit there highly enough.
One of the places I looked forward to seeing most was the Cappadocia region. This area is a wide expanse between two now extinct volcanoes with highly unusual rock formations called "fairy chimneys." These were created by a hard layer of rock which did not erode at the same rate as the softer layer of rock (called tufa) underneath.
I knew that the inhabitants of this region carved caves out of the soft tufa stone and sometimes lived in them. What I didn't know until I got there, was that entire cities (the largest with an estimated population of 16,000) were carved underground! Some of the cities date back to prehistoric times, and some of them were inhabited up until the 1950s when the Turkish government decided they were historic treasures and great tourist attractions and moved everyone out.
The real heyday of these underground cities, and the part that fascinated me the most was from around the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD. Christians fleeing persecution from first the Romans, then the Arabs, moved into the region and expanded the underground cities into a network of over 100 different locations.
Cities went down 10 or more levels and were interconnected with an elaborate system of tunnels. Entrances were camouflaged into hillsides, and top levels were usually stables since the tunnels were too narrow to accommodate livestock. Though the inhabitants lived above ground most of the time, during times of attack or war, the cities could easily sustain themselves for months at a time and were pretty much impenetrable.
This big rock that looks like a millstone was rolled into place at the entrance to each level. The hole in the center was for shooting arrows at the enemy, who pretty much had to approach in single file due to the narrow tunnels. Since the cities were interconnected, runners would let a neighboring city know they were under attack and a counter attack could be launched. The early Christians were able to live and thrive here for several centuries.
We visited the underground city of Kaymakil, which had eight levels and an estimated population of 3,000. Four of the levels are now open for tourists, but yer olde Aunty (whose head almost scraped the ceilings in the largest rooms) only went down two. My DH (who could not stand straight except in the stable) went to all four, though he had to crawl on hands and knees through the connecting tunnels. Definitely no place for anyone with claustrophobia!
Today is day 7 of our Banditas' 12 Days of Christmas. In the traditional Christmas carol, this would be the day "my true love" sent 7 Swans a Swimming. Just like the underground cities of Cappadocia, this song was about more than meets the eye. It was written by Catholics during the time when they could not openly practice their religion in England, and the words had a double meaning. According to Aunty's sources, the 7 Swans a Swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit -- prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership, and mercy.
Have you ever been surprised by something that turned out to be more than it seemed? Do you think you could live 7 or 8 stories underground?
Did you know that the GR has a Turkish cousin living near the ruins of the city of Troy?