Monday, June 8, 2009

Turkey – Going Underground in Cappadocia

Today we headed to the Kaymakli underground city, a fascinating labyrinth of underground tunnels, rooms, churches and hideaways built underneath a seemingly normal and non-descript village above. Residents started tunneling into the soft tufa stone as far back as the 2nd century in order to create defensible cities underground to withstand the frequent attacks by the various empires across Asia Minor. Excavators have discovered rooms some 8 stories below the surface and have found tunnels 6 miles long connecting different underground cities. The entire city population could go underground and wait out the sieges, as the caves had storage facilities, ventilation shafts and critical access to the water table. Fires were only lit at night so as to avoid giving away their location underground. Residents would wall off entire sections underground with giant stone wheels that were rolled across small stone passageways, and many well placed booby traps would keep their would-be captors “in the dark”, so to speak! We spent the rest of our trip visiting different nature sites and fortresses in the valleys and cliffs of the Cappadocia region, exploring the many caves and bizarre stone structures. The kids seemed simply happy to run around in the outdoors and pick wildflower bouquets for Suzanne and Dee. One of our favorite and most spectacular areas was the troglodyte city. A troglodyte in this case refers to a type of religious hermit who lived in these cave structures. They often had cult-like status amongst the area residents, and it was considered good luck to have a troglodyte in your neighborhood. The “city” was set in a series of 3 connecting valleys and the caves were all wide open for exploration (save for the ones that were collapsing due to erosion). A few of the passageways went deep into the cliff, but since we had no lights, Scott and I thought it would be better to stay within sight of our families, so as not to become inadvertent troglodytes. I’m not so sure the family would be up for us spending the rest of our adventure year in a cave… On our last day, we packed up our belongings and said our goodbyes to the Andrews. We were all a bit sad and nostalgic, as we had been through so much together, and it was hard to believe our shared experience was actually coming to a close. They were on their way to meet some good friends in Greece, while we would be heading back to Spain to give Seville a try for the month of June. As hard as it was to say our goodbyes, we were excited about the possibility of seeing them sooner in Boulder. More on that later.

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