Thursday, 28 November 2013

Subterranean Cities and Cave Dwellings

After several hours of travelling across the central Anatolian plains along the Silk Road to Cappadocia, evening was fast approaching. It was then that we had our first experience of the unique geology in the area by climbing down into a subterranean city. Along with its attractions above ground, Cappadocia is also world famous for its underground structures. There are many underground cities in the region, and almost all of them are interconnected through tunnels and passageways. One such city call Derinkuyu is made up of 12 layers, 8 of which are open to visitors. They are not places that are suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia or who do not like to crouch low in small narrow tunnels.
According to some archaeologists it is thought that the soft stone was first hollowed out by the Bronze Age Hittites c.1200 BC, others date them back even further in time. It is known that many of the levels were dug out by early Christians to use as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. They have a vast defence network of traps throughout the many levels which are very creative. Many of the entrances have large round stones to block the entrance doors and holes which were mainly used as protection against the Romans.
Moving through the passageways and tunnels you come across rooms that were used for cooking, holding wine presses, oil and wine storage, and livestock pens. The inhabitants could live for weeks or months underground until it was safe to emerge.
 
One of the protective stones that could be rolled across the passageway to prevent invaders.
It is interesting to reflect on how many people have lived in these subterranean cities over thousands of years.
 
For the following three evening we stayed at a cave hotel - an attractive and very comfortable residence. 
A welcoming sitting room which had a large roaring fire in the evenings
All set up for breakfast 
A wall in the Dining Room
Corner of the Bedroom
Our next experience of cave living came when we were taken to the cave home of a local family. The parents were away with their son at the hospital, and had left their teenage daughter to show us around.
Speaking generally, gardens tend not to be a feature of Turkish homes. They will have some fruit trees, a vegetable patch, and may be somewhere to sit out of the sun. However, the owners of this Cave house had made a very unusual sculpture feature in front of their home which I thought was fun.
In the living room a carpet was being made which would probably take about 6 more months to complete. The floor was covered all over in several layers of carpets made by different generations of the family. It was a very cosy but decent sized room. The temperature inside remains fairly constant during both the very hot summers and the mild winters, but there was a stove which could be lit if it became really cold and snowed. Whilst we were there the temperatures were in the mid 20s but as soon as the sun went down it became cooler.
Doorway leading to the kitchen
The outside of the cave house and its....
interesting sculpture feature again

56 comments:

  1. Caves really aren't my thing so thank you for taking me into this strange world virtually to have a glimpse of it anyway. Such a difference between the traditional cave to live in and the very modern looking sculpture with the birds on stakes. Would those stay out there all winter or be taken in then? The sculpture looks unweathered and brand new.

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    1. Dear Marian - I do not know how old the sculpture was, but I doubt if it would be taken in. They do not have winters like we do - the air is very dry and it was like mid-summer when we were there this month. Sometimes they do get some snow, but it is mainly blue skies all of the year round.

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  2. Wow! What a difference to all our glass walls and cube furnitures. Somewhere I would love to visit.

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    1. The landscape in Cappadocia is extraordinary and I shall show it in the next post I do on Turkey.

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  3. Beautiful pictures of the caves. It must have been a great time spinding in this magnificent cave hotel. the cave house and the sculptures are so interesting, a complete different world.

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    1. The cave hotel was a delight to stay in. We would go downstairs into the depths of the building for our meals and upstairs to the sitting room. Our bedroom was on the ground floor. We arrived in the dark, and it was wonderful opening the shutters the first morning and seeing the extraordinary landscape surrounding us.

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  4. Another fascinating post about Turkey, Rosemary. The underground cave system must have been amazing to see and visit. The way they could roll a big stone across the doorway reminds me of the bible account of the tomb of Jesus, and there it is in a modern photo! The carpets are brilliant in pattern and colour and must make a big contribution to the comfort of the homes and hotels. And of course, I love those birds on sticks!!

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    1. Knowing that such a completely different world is only a 4 hour flight from London was intriguing for me. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the post Patricia - for some reason my photos in the subterranean city are a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea!

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  5. Amazing, truly amazing.
    The caves, the home, the carpet, what beautiful colours.
    What a great adventure.

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    1. Everyday we had experiences which were so different from our normal life.

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  6. Dear Rosemary, A most fascinating post. I can't get over the incredible collection of hand embroidered, hand made fabrics and carpets in each dwelling.

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    1. Dear Gina - the Turkish people have a great sense of style reaching far back into their history.

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  7. Hello Rosemary, These surreal houses resemble the rock-carved tombs of Egypt and nearby areas. I have been in some caves that expand into huge vaults, but I don't think I would like to live underground (or inside of a hill). I have seen many below-grade apartments, and to me they are all damp and unpleasant. Those ones you show do look pleasant and cheerful, but how do they control the humidity?

    On another note, have a pleasant Thanksgiving, American holiday though it is.
    --Jim


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    1. I hope that it is still Thanksgiving day with you in Taiwan and that I am not too late to send you my best wishes Jim.
      The cave hotel and the cave house seemed to have the same climatic ambience as a traditional house. May be that is because the geological rock they are made out of is Tuff. Tuff is rock formed from volcanic ash, they use the rock also to make pumice stones, hoping that gives you some idea of its structure.

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  8. Dear Rosemary,

    What a wonderful discovery it must have been for the Hittites to discover the soft stone! I imagine one individual or group thought of carving a small open cave and then others just kept on going. It's fascinating.

    One detail I find interesting is that the sofa cover (which appears to be a linen) in the house you visited is printed with the same patterns as the woven rugs.

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    1. Dear Mark - first I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving day, I expect that you are probably going out with your friends or to a family occasion - I am sure that you will not be cooking a turkey yourself!
      Most of the patterns that the Turkish people use are traditional and have a long history. I have got a photo of some of the designs that are incorporated into their fabrics and rugs, which I took at the carpet co-operative we visited. They have many different symbols representing birds and trees etc. Whichever symbol is shown has a different meaning, so it is quite likely that similar motifs may appear on the carpets and on the fabrics.

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    2. Thanks for the holiday greeting. You are correct that I celebrated with friends, and you are correct that I didn't cook. My friends, who know my stove has occasionally doubled as a filing cabinet, wisely assigned the appetizer to me!

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    3. That is definitely a first - a stove that doubles as a filing cabinet.

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  9. Absolutely fascinating Rosemary. Beautiful pictures of the caves.
    Patricia x

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    1. Thank you Patricia - it was really interesting for us to have the opportunity to visit a private home.

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  10. What a interesting post...the cave house is amazing.
    My parents has the same carpet in the livingroom..wich they make in the cave house.
    Youre holiday was verry interesting Rosemary.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - I suspect that your parents carpet must have originated in Turkey.
      The whole trip was filled with so many different things that we have never experienced before.
      I am glad that you found the post interesting.

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  11. Your photos are beautiful, Rosemary, in this lovely post - and truly show the vibrant and stunning colours of the carpets and the furnishings. The caves are fascinating and must have so much atmosphere. And your cave hotel and the cave house are amazing too - it seems such an exotic world.

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    1. Dear Wendy - we had no idea that we would be staying in a cave hotel or visiting a private cave home, they were both a bonus. We really went to Cappadocia to find fairy chimneys and found so much more.
      I haven't even shown the fairy chimneys yet.

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  12. It is another lovely post Rosemary, you really did go on an adventure! The underground city would be a bit too claustrophobic for me so I loved seeing it in your pictures. The Cave hotel, with its stone lined walls and domed ceilings, reminded me of staying at Borthwick in Scotland. But less creepy and blessed with larger windows, at least in the bedroom!

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    1. Dear Jessica - we had no idea of the many different adventures we would encounter on this trip. As I mentioned to Wendy, we went to find fairy chimneys and had so many other interesting experiences on the way.

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  13. How interesting and beautiful, Rosemary! I love the outdoor bird/totems and the colourful rugs and furnishings. I think I might get a bit claustrophobic, depending on how closed in it was, but it would be so cool to stay there. Greetings from snowy Manitoba, Canada.

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    1. Thanks Marie - pleased you found it interesting - how about showing us some photos of snowy Manitoba?

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  14. You visited some incredibly interesting places, both the cave cities and the private home were really awesome to see. And your hotel looks very cosy and comfortable ! Thanks for sharing all this !

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    1. This trip was a surprise a day. We knew that we would be visiting a subterranean city, but had no idea that we would be staying in a cave hotel or for that matter visiting a private home in a cave.

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  15. Those caves, tunnels and protective stones reminded me of an Indiana Jones film I once saw with my sons. Thank goodness you weren't chased at high speed through them like Indie was!

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    1. If I had Nilly - I would be flat on my face - I nearly was anyway!

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  16. Of course I meant subterranean cities !

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  17. Wonderful post, indeed! Althought I am a claustrophobic, I can imagine how great experience you have had and how lucky you have been to see all these things and have such a lovely stay.
    And these carpets, rugs and kilims,oh, they are fabulous! Great photos Rosemary!

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    1. I agree with you Olympia that the rugs, carpets and kilims are wonderful, we were very tempted to buy a couple of kilims, but in the end resisted.

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  18. You've had quite an adventure, Rosemary. Lovely colors in those textiles, impressive caves and "statues". Thank you for sharing this. Happy weekend, Rosemary!

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    1. It is true Satu - every day we saw things that both surprised and enchanted us.

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  19. Those first photos give me a touch of claustrophobia! But I guess if I was hiding from persecutors I would have got over it! Wonderful shots of a very exotic place.

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    1. We only explored a couple of layers, and I think perhaps that was enough for me, but I am glad to have visited and seen how people lived there at one time.

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  20. So interesting! I'm trying to think if I'd like to stay in a cave hotel. I don't get claustrophobic, but I do like a room with a view. I'd probably be willing to give it a try.

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    1. You would be very happy there Tina - the bedroom shown was our room and it had a very big window. All of the bedrooms seemed to be at the front with windows.

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  21. Cave dwellings are fascinating and these must have been even more so with many levels and passageways. I don't like the thought of pot holing and have only once been in what seemed like a never-ending tunnel underneath Old Jerusalem and wouldn't want to do that again! The houses look comfortable and warm with the colourful rugs on the floor and wall hangings. I can understand how caves were places of refuge since my Italian husband's family lived in them during the worst of the fighting over their land in WWII, but thankfully not for any length of time. The statues are very creative.

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    1. I could never go pot holing, the thought of it I find really frightening. However, the subterranean city was made by humans and so none of the tunnels or holes were impossible to get through. The cave dwellings are not like caves we imagine in the UK i.e. damp places as they are made out of Tuff stone which is soft and porous. Tuff stone was formed as the result of volcanic ash millions of years ago. To give you some idea of its composition they use it to make pumice stones.

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  22. I have always wanted to visit Cappadocia and stay in one of these cave hotels. Looking at your photos have make me want to go sooner. The 'birds on stilts' is a very interesting concept.

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    1. You must visit - you will love it. I will show a post of the fairy chimneys next week which will probably entice you more.

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  23. For an underground dwelling, and hardly any windows, the colors that are used certainly bring life to the rooms!
    That breakfast buffet certainly looked tasty. I loved the colums with the sculpture out front. Someday I would like to see this for myself! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for visiting again Mary - we saw so much more on this trip than we anticipated. We had no idea that we had been booked into such a delightful cave hotel, or that we would be visiting a private home in a cave.

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  24. The caves must be exciting to crouch through, but somehow I’m a claustrophobia, I feel uncomfortable and anxious especially when the ceiling is very low. Thanks to you, rosemary, I could warp into the residence. The interior took my breath away with beautiful walls ant brilliant tapestries and carpets. I know I have missed and will miss wonderful experiences. I hope I’ll gradually overcome by the distraction of taking photos.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - in the cave hotel, it did not feel as if we were in a cave, and the cave home had reasonably high ceilings so you could happily stand up. I had to think twice before entering the subterranean city, but decided I could always get out if I didn't like it. There was only one spot that was a little difficult and that was an ascending sloping tunnel that was quite low and narrow, but lots of hands came out to help as I reached the bottom.

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  25. This is totally fascinating, Rosemary, and as always your images are exceptional. I now know exactly what the Bible means when it speaks of rolling away the stone from the tomb - not a boulder but a disc of stone. I'm sure the cave city gave great protection, but it must still have been an dark and eerie place to live before the advent of electricity. The cave house on the other hand is so bright and colourful.

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    1. I don't think I would have been able to visit the subterranean city if it had not been well lit Perpetua. It is amazing how they carved out 12 different layers from the geological tuff stone, which was formed out of consolidated volcanic ash.

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  26. It must have been an interesting experience staying in the lovely cave hotel. It's amazing to learn so much about the caves especially their history, the one you visited looks so colourful and homely. Were you on an organised trip or did you travel across the plains independently?
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - we had no idea that we would be staying in a cave hotel or visiting a private home. We were on an organised trip, but it was with a German company. As you probably know there are a great many Turkish people living in Germany so the Germans have been travelling there for years. I believe that this company is spreading its wings and is now trying to reach the British public.
      The holiday was incredible value, we stayed in 5 star hotels, and had full board every day with wonderful food. Being in the hands of Germans you can probably imagine that it all worked like clockwork. We saw the holiday advertised in the National Trust magazine, so if you take it, and are interested - keep a close watch. It would be very difficult to do a holiday like this independently and for it to include so many extra experiences.

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