Friday, October 15, 2010

Goreme Green Tour

We went on a great tour our last day in Goreme. We started at an underground city called Derinkuyu. Turks believe the Hittites were the first people to use the underground dwelling. They built two floors. They were ingenious with the things they did to keep it livable but horribly, I’m sure it was by trial and error. They used air shafts to keep the air fresh and linseed oil to burn in lamps because linseed oil does not produce smoke or poison toxins when burned. In the last century the place was used to store grains and wine.

Around 1960, just by accident the locals discovered there was a tunnel leading to another floor. The Germans arrived to excavate and found not one more floor but SIX, making a total of 8 floors in all! There was also a 9 km tunnel connecting the city to another city. Further excavations have located as many as 35 underground cities around the Cappadocia area. Derinkuyu is the largest.

We were able to go all the way to the bottom floor. It was a narrow, steep passage where you had to crouch while walking for much of the way. Periodically a room would be carved out to the right and at one point there were grooves in the wall where a stone could be rolled to block the passage.

It is theorized that many different societies used this city for various purposes. The Christians dug the many layers and used it to escape persecution or attack. It was awesome crawling around through these tunnels that would open into larger spaces and thinking about the people who used it to live.

For years it was believed that people would live underground for long periods of up to 6 months. Now it is believed that people spent much less time down in the caves; maybe only a week or two at a time. There are no toilets or showers which creates an interesting problem for sewage disposal. There are different theories about this. One is that they brought buckets and hauled it back out to the top when they left. Another is that they only used the top level for toileting as that is where they kept their animals. This seems unlikely to me because living on the eighth level and having to come up to the first level every time you had to go would be irritating. Another theory is that they used the excrement for fertilizer somehow. None of these seem really satisfying to me but it was all they offered.

There were large spaces for meeting, a church area, kitchen, graveyard, and punishment spot. They only cooked food in the kitchen at night so their enemies wouldn’t see the smoke. It seems weird to me they had a graveyard if they only stayed there for a week or two. It was also odd they had a punishment spot. I mean, they used this place to escape their enemies and they are busy punishing each other?? The punishment area was a rock to hang someone from. Maybe if they caught an invader, they’d hang him.

There were no real sleeping quarters for most of the people. They estimate 1000 – 2000 people could live underground at a time. People would just sleep wherever they could. As it was all cold rock, that must not have been comfy. Imagine having a bad back in that place! The VIP’s of course had separate living spaces. They even had a way to communicate between floors so if something was happening they could yell up or down to each other. That way everyone could escape quickly.

It was a really amazing experience for all of us except Julia who decided underground cities were not her thing.

Next we went to a canyon called “Ihlara Valley”. We went for a 2km hike along a beautiful river through the canyon. Doesn’t it look like Wile E. Coyote has been here? Rhys actually started to hum the music after we saw this rock. We had lunch at a restaurant on the river and it was the best lunch we had had on a tour yet. They served a lentil soup to start, then a salad with bread. The main course was a choice of meatballs (excellent), chicken shish kebob (excellent) or chicken casserole (excellent). Cats wandered freely around, and if you were foolish enough to sit at a low table the cats would crane their necks onto the table towards your meal. Because it was a tourist restaurant, all the people came at the same time every day and the cats were well trained.

After lunch we went to the Selime monastery built into the weird conical cliff formations. AFter looking at all the interesting cave homes in the cliffs, it was lots of fun crawling through them and looking at the amazing views out over the valley. The picture of Rhys and Julia above is at the missionary school. Again, notice the lack of safety devices. I keep saying Cappadocia is like another planet and I am not alone. The setting for Star Wars: Phantom Menace was near the monastery. If you saw the movie, you might recognize this picture.

We then stopped at the Pigeon Valley and Onyx demonstration centre. The only good thing about the Onyx centre was they gave Julia a piece of onyx they had polished for demo. Pigeon Valley was also underwhelming as the guide didn’t know the story of the pigeon civilization. I recounted the tale I had read in a guide and I am quite sure the entire bus was much more entertained by my version than by the guide. You see, the pigeons were here before the people. They apparently build a huge civilization with houses, streets, businesses and so on. I can’t quite remember why they left; sounded like they had it all.

The tour was expensive but we saw lots of things we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. I’m really glad we did something awesome our last day in Goreme. This is a place you definitely have to see at least once in your life.


Steve said...

Lloyd's, glad you enjoyed Cappadocia. It is one of the most unique places to see. What great experiences you are all having! Just the amount of history you are witness to by seeing these places will shape all of your lives. Look forward to the next Skype (from Hungary I assume?)

maryanncart said...

So glad to see more travel blogs and it's been great Skping two days in a row. The Istanbul pictures reminded me of many sites we saw. Cappadocia is fascinating and perhaps, Holly, you could be a tour guide if you begin to run out of $$ towards the end of your trip. With your pictures...I literally laughed out loud at Tom wearing the turban. A keeper. Love Mom