A sleep deprived day in an underground city…

My love affair with Turkish buses came to an abrupt halt when Will, Paige and I caught an overnight bus to Goreme, Capadoccia.

Will and I scored two seats directly in front of the back door, so every time the bus stopped we were woken up by a bright light shining on our faces and an icy cold gust of wind straight up our backs. There was no bow tied attendant or abundance of tea and biscuits here either! Ah well, it really could have been worse. Poor Paige was seated a few seats in front of us and was apparently almost farted into oblivion by the woman seating next to her, more than a little unfortunate! I blame the amazing buses from earlier in our trip for setting the standard too high and making me hard to please!

We disembarked in Goreme a little grumpy and disheveled and set off into the labyrinth of dusty laneways to find the ‘Travellers Cave Pension’ – our home for the next few days. For our two nights in Capadoccia we’d decided to go all fancy and ‘splurge’ on a slightly more upmarket place. The idea of a ‘splurge’ is all pretty relative when you’re in a place as affordable as Turkey though. For us it meant paying all of $27 a night each for a double room instead of around $18. Oh yeah, we’re high rollers!

Our ‘cave room’ at the Travellers Cave Pension

Capodoccia is famous for it’s ‘Cave Pensions’ – accommodation which is either entirely or partially located within the caves common amongst the area. The Travellers Cave Pension was one of these such places, with half the walls in our room being made up by the natural cave surface!

The view from the upstairs terrace as we tucked into breakfast

I don’t know if it was just the influence of a bad night’s sleep or not but once we eventually found the place it seemed like that extra $9 a night had bought us a bed in heaven! Our room was huge, toasty warm, beautifully decorated and there was a massive upstairs terrace with a stunning view over the surrounding area.

We were checked in by a polite but quiet man who looked freakishly like the Turkish version of McLovin’ from Superbad. After tucking into the best breakfast spread we’d had in all of Turkey (big call I know, but there were mountains of dried figs, MOUNTAINS!) we set off for a day trip that we had been roped into booking a few days earlier. Thankfully this didn’t end up being a rip off situation, we discovered that we actually had paid much less than anyone who’d booked in Goreme as the pushy tour agent had promised us!

The tour was lead by a rather handsome Turkish man with impeccable English and took us to see, amongst other things, the Underground city of Derinkuyu and the Selime monastery. It was amazing to get a proper view of the Capodoccian landscape as we whizzed along in the mini van from place to place. It’s a sparse, dry and stony landscape dotted by occasional flourishes of green valleys and alien like rock formations. Certain parts of it look extremely surreal and there was the occasional moment where I felt like I’d stepped into a Salvador Dali painting.

Entering the underground city…

The highlight of the day trip for me was without a doubt the visit to the Derinkuyu underground city. Archaeologists believe that rooms and shelters here were first carved into the soft volcanic rock as early as the 8th century BC. To this day no one is entirely certain as to how and when exactly the villages were created. They do however believe that these areas were put into more regular use by Christians escaping persecution from the Roman empire hundred of years after their initial construction. When they received warning of an approaching attack or raid, up to 3000 people were able to retreat into the underground rooms that in some places continued for up to eight stories underground.

Apparently the longest they were ever down there for was a month, which seems absurd but when you see how ingeniously designed the cities are you can actually imagine it. There were kitchens, stable areas for livestock, churches, bedrooms and even cemetery areas all located up to 60 meters below ground level.

One of the rolling stone doors used within the passage ways…

At some stages we had to practically bend down to waist height to fit through the narrow, winding passageways. There was definitely no room for weight gain there! A number of times we passed by some ingenious rolling stone doors. These huge slabs of rock were only able to be moved from one side and could roll across to completely block further progression down the passages. Some even left a few narrow holes so whoever had closed the door could stick their spears out to attack the approaching enemy.

Thinking skinny thoughts as I walk down the narrow passage way…

We eventually emerged from the underground city incredibly impressed but also very glad to see to the sun again. Our eyes barely had time to adjust to the glare before we were off to visit Ihlara valley and then the Selime monastery.

One of the indoor living areas in the underground city

The Selime monastery consisted of a number of churches and living quarters built directly into the caves and small hollows found on the side of a red tinged rocky bluff. Our time at the monastery consisted primarily of me scrambling from ledge to crumbly ledge and sticking my head out of various openings in the rock whilst Will yelled instructions from below in order to get the best photo.

Selime Monastery

Thankfully, the views I managed to get from my precarious look-outs were awe inspiring and managed to make the precarious ledge leaping as well the fact I was completely covered in rock dust well worth it.

We eventually arrived back to our toasty cave room dirty and exhausted – yet so pleased that we managed to get ourselves out to see everything that day. I’ll tell you something, if anything is ever going to make going on a jam-packed day tour straight after a night of negligible sleep worth it, it’s exploring an eight story underground city!



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