Uncover one of mankind’s greatest creations.
AT FIRST GLANCE, the region’s craggy veneer seemed a little daunting.
The dusty, burnt expanse of telling telluric terrain apprised too much in a single setting. A seemingly illimitable landscape. And so, so many visible, yet incomprehensible details.
Overwhelmingly apparent, was that the demesne had a secret to divulge.
A lone pillar stands fervently beneath a pyramid-shaped tip. The entire rock structure mightily resembles a chimney.
If you are wondering, no, rocks don’t usually look like that.
But in the Cappadocian town Göreme, such earthly formations are commonly sighted. They aren’t the unusual, odd occurrence. They are merely ordinary.
The end result? An aggregation of queer constructs; the village is replete with mystic flavour. The similarity to a delightful imaginary world is uncanny.
Aboveground Cappadocia is an array of marvels. The Goreme Open Air Museum is a fascinating showcase of ancient troglodytic existence. And the fairy chimneys all around are an extraordinary sight to behold. Many hotels offer a unique cave living experience; be prepared for a rocky adventure like no other!
The dreamscape fascinates. But it misdirects. It charms, allures, entices and yet ultimately endeavours to conceal and obscure.
To protect something deep within.
Beneath the ornate and resplendent.
Beneath the surface.
The tawny subastral domain. If someone teleports here, it is impossible to not be briefly inundated.
The walls are rough and grainy. As are the floors. Without the enigmatic laws of universal gravitation you probably cannot tell the difference.
There is no natural illumination. Unless light somehow disobeys the laws of physics and confounds all of mankind.
Obscured by the hypnotic reverie above. Shrouded within a burnished veil. Buried and ingrained within the ancients’ minds but never negligently disclosed or exposed.
For the typical modern human, the quite ordinary response, to the prospect of being quite nearly enclosed within Earth’s vast depths for an extended period of time, would be that of awe and disbelief, and quite possibly a hint of pity for the archaic ways.
For the bygone inhabitants though, who set foot here some 600 years back, there was hardly any room for self-commiseration.
Derinkuyu was a haven.
Photo: Nevit Dilmen
Open-air Cappadocia saw its fair share of bloodshed. 645 AD; the Arabs and Byzantines were in constant conflict. Year 1388; the Mongolian assaults were relentless. April 1909; news of the Adana massacre petrified the natives.
Aboveground. A panorama of geological wonders. The vast terrestrial territory seemed an arresting enchantment. Yet the span was also an orbit of vulnerability and impending peril.
Underground. The air lacked a certain kinetic disposition. Any form of radiance was dreary. Yet, the duskiness was earnest and genial. The crushing reins of the surrounding rocks were nothing more than the cordial embrace of a guardian angel.
Derinkuyu Underground City
- Deepest of Cappadocia’s several discovered underground cities.
- Believed to have held up to 20 000 people at a point in time.
- Reports suggest there are 18 underground levels (not fully excavated), of which 8 are accessible by the public.
Various constricted corridors greet any trespasser. Penetrate as a collective group, and you would be forced into a single file.
Isolation in company. Ripe for solitary pickings. Unless you are The Invincible, proceeding with no lateral support, is in any sense, no slick strategy.
At the foot of a flight of stairs, a large circular-shaped slab is lodged in the vicinity of a narrow entry gap. A recess carved into the centre of the boulder. Rolled sideways from the inside and the walkway is all but sealed from the outside. There can be no admission, only exit. The adversary meets a dead end.
Several such stone chunks, operable along each and every hypogeal level, and a solid defensive mechanism is in place. An upper zone compromised; the floor’s round blocks spin in tandem. The intruders can venture no further. The rest of the under-earth dwelling is safe and impregnable, access never to be granted to the malevolent.
Photo: Nevit Dilmen
Hollow cylindrical chambers cut vertically through into the ground’s lower chasms. When the lithosphere is viewed as a cross section, the shafts resemble a building’s main columns in shape, but not in function. It was never intended to serve as an annihilation pit, yet if you fall in, you are sure to meet an inconspicuous end.
Rival bodies plunging down – pleasurable but not preferable.
The desired entity? Fresh air.
Staleness and mustiness literally and metaphorically suffocate. To live beneath, for so long; a constant dose of invigoration, and a steady relief from negativity, is obligatory.
And to manage to devise a viable solution, hints at an inconceivable extent of sophistication and grit.
Cappadocia is roughly 730 km southeast of major metropolis Istanbul.
Turkish Airlines flies from both Istanbul airports to the region’s nearest airports, Kayseri Erkilet Airport and Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport, with a flight duration of roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Other travel options from Istanbul are also available: bus (11 hrs), train then bus (8 hrs) and car (9 hrs).
Mired in the depths of forgotten reprieve. In safety. Imperative forthwith, was activity.
To preoccupy. To engage. To entertain.
A chamber with arched beams comes into view. Not particularly wide or deep, but the curvature plays an optic illusion on the eye. There is something refined about the room.
Life goes on. The furious struggle shall not stall the lifelong pursuit of learning. Neither shall it halt the innate longing to impart. However scarce, however sparse. The intent was genuine and pure.
And that was enough. The level of wisdom, cognition or intellect was irrelevant. The intention was present, honest, and that was enough.
Sometimes it gets too hard. Even with stimulus, the mental or physical kind. Devoid of sunlight. In self-imposed exile. Sometimes, there is riveting doubt.
Even if there is no greater alternative in knowledge, the most strong-willed can fall susceptible to the manipulative machinations of the mind.
Why not toy with and distort the consciousness, then? And eventually jolt the soul back to practical and sober reality?
A pit is etched into the ground. Basin-sized. Experts reckon, a traditional wine press.
Lest someone there survived till this day, or there was definitive (what is definitive in history?) written or scientific proof, no one can say for certain there was a direct causation. But a correlation?
Maybe, just maybe.
Cities were conventionally assembled with materials. It is intuitive. The human tendency is to build, forge and initiate.
Here, materials were erased. The lithic surfaces disfigured. Whole slabs missing.
Yet, in the destruction, is creation. At its finest.
Ascending up the stairs, into the open, and Sun’s beams never felt so inviting. The whiff of vivaciousness. Nature’s vibrancy. It is blissfully infectious.
And the freedom. No constrictions, no compressions. No gripping fear of imminent and impending danger.
So seal the secret. Peace, a privilege never to be granted. And when the time comes, hope befalls the enchanted.
Back in downtown Cappadocia, there is an opportunity to ascend even further. Up into the sky, above the extensive valleys and beyond. The hot air balloon shudders initially, then glides and slides gracefully.
Up in the air, the land’s jagged topography never ceases to astound and amaze.
Up in the air, open and unfettered.
The realm of unparalleled exotic beauty beneath. And underneath.
The city was only recently discovered in 1963 under sensational circumstances. A local resident was renovating his house, when he knocked down a wall in his basement, to find a chamber he did not know existed. Only upon further inspection did he realise he had stumbled on a national treasure.