DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND CITY
Underground Cities? These troglodyte cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the deepest one is Derinkuyu underground city, while the widest is the Kaymakli Underground City.
The Derinkuyu underground city is located in the same named town Derinkuyu, which is situated 40km from Goreme (30 minute drive). There are about 600 outside doors to the city, hidden in the courtyards of surface dwellings. The underground city is approximately 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc.) Apart from these, a large room with a barrel vaulted ceiling on the second floor was a missionary school, the rooms to the left being study rooms.
From the 3rd and 4th floors onwards the descent is by way of vertical staircases which lead to a cruciform plan church on the lowest floor.
The 55m deep ventilation shaft was also used as a well. Not every floor was provided with water wells up to the surface in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. Derinkuyu contains at least 15,000 ventilation ducts that provide fresh air deep within the underground city. The Derinkuyu Underground City was opened to visitors in 1965 but so far less than half of it can be visited.
It is unlikely that the underground cities were ever intended for permanent dwelling, or even long stays, but they were clearly built to withstand attack and could support large numbers of people and their domestic animals, for extended periods of time. The urban organization was very complex, and there was probably always work in progress.
The extensive networks of passages, tunnels, stepped pits and inclined corridors link family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship. The cities were complete with wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, stables and areas where the dead could be placed until such time as conditions on the surface would allow their proper disposal. Most importantly, carefully balanced moving stone doors, resembling mill stones, were devised to quickly block the corridors in the event of an attack. Of course, these doors operated from one side only!
The Derinkuyu underground city was built by the Phrygians in the period between 8th and 7th centuries BC. The city has been built built in the soft volcanic rock of the Cappadocia region. This underground city has been used as a refugee settlement , during the Persian Achaemenid empire. The Derinkuyu underground city was connected through tunnels with other underground cities, such as the underground city of Kaymaklli. Some of these underground tunnels are up to 50 miles long.
The Derinkuyu underground city could accommodate around 20,000 people. Had it’s own cellars, refectories, storage rooms, chapels, oil and wine presses etc. On the second floor there is a room with a barrel vaulted ceiling. It is thought that this room served as a religious school.
The Dereinkuyu underground city was opened in 1969 and only the half of the city is available for tourists.
DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND CITY STONE DOORS
The stone doors have the height of 1-1.5 meters , they are wide 30-50 centimeters and they weight around 200 to 500 kilograms. The hole in the middle has been used to open and close the doors or just to see who is outside.
PLACES TO VISIT IN CAPPADOCIA
There are so many fascinating things to see in Cappadocia that you could spend a lifetime here and still discover new places. The main ‘must-see’ attractions are the two large open-air museums and the best of the underground cities. However, there are also many small, all-but-forgotten rock-cut churches and monasteries, splendid hiking trails, several spectacular caravanserais and many dramatic rock formations well worth going out of your way to visit.
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