Derinkuyu – The Cappadocian underground city

derinkuyu cappadocia underground city turkey travel dejavu

The largest excavated underground multi-level Turkish city.

Almost three thousand years ago, people were digging the soft volcanic rocks of Cappadocia (a central part of today’s Turkey) and found their hiding places there. In these, we could say, cities, people lived throughout the centuries. Some because of their fears, some because of their needs or just because of strange destinies. They lived there until 1920, and then moved out to the surface of the Earth.

derinkuyu cappadocia underground city turkey travel dejavu

They left us underground cities of Cappadocia, about thirty-five of them, dug into the rock and interconnected with kilometers of corridors. One of them – Derinkuyu, attracted me with its eight underground floors, fifty-five meters below the surface. This one is the largest underground city discovered in Turkey. Today, for nearly 15 USD, we can enjoy the half of the city, in which twenty thousand people used to find their shelter together with the cattle and the necessities for life. Of course, we can go inside only if we don’t suffer from claustrophobia, asthma, if high humidity don’t bother us and if we aren’t some NBA basketball players. At least I am not the basketball player, so I dared to take narrow passage to deep underground.

derinkuyu cappadocia underground city turkey travel dejavu

That deep draw-well (Derinkuyu means just that) is made for the people of lower growth, in which I was assured several times hitting my head against the low hallway’s ceiling. Because the city inhabitants were probably not suffering from obesity, there was no need to build a broad corridors. In those passes only medieval kings and some modern visitors might have some problems. But I would not bet that Derinkuyans (we would probably call them that way today) were deprived of joys of life. The wine tank was right beside the water one and common pantry was pretty big.

derinkuyu cappadocia underground city turkey travel dejavu

Anyway, life underground must have not been easy, and the circumstances that people made living so deep below the surface must have been terrible, relentless, vicious. The “stone gates” at the entrance to each of the basement floors, equipped with a large millstone which is managed only from the inside can make us imagine why they were forced to protect themselves that way. Picture of a huge round rocks is sitting on my mind ever since the Croatian old-school traveler, late Zeljko Malnar, discovered this interesting area to me. Now I’m touching a cold surface damp stone so proudly, to feel a connection with the former inhabitants of the city, or with our explorer, adventurer and a unique phenomenon in the last century world of travels.

derinkuyu cappadocia underground city turkey travel dejavu

Here begins the magic that creeps me out, even today, one year after I left Cappadocia. That feeling, entering to the underworld, is not measurable with my memories of different dugouts and caves of Croatia, Slovenia, Lebanon or central Israel. It was a city that lived its life of thousands of people, a place of their love and fear, of birth and death. Sitting on a rock and resting of hunched walking, in the dark corner of the room I saw a cat watching me with glittering eyes. When she turned her head I instinctively did the same and looked in the same direction, but a second after that I turned my head back and realised that cat was gone. Maybe it was just fatigue, maybe a lack of oxygen deep underground, but tingling I feel even today when I’m writing my story, occurs every time when I remember that moment. If you would travel to Cappadocia, just take a look, maybe she’s still there.

Generations of inhabitants of this place didn’t left us any furniture to see how they arranged their underground life. We only have bare, empty and somewhat creepy rooms. What remained is, however, the memory of a world in which I wouldn’t like to live. I, somehow, prefer the surface of the Earth.

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Damir Vujnovac

Wildlife inspires me as well as urban areas, in the cities I'm finding people, in the deserts I'm finding myself. My journeys lasts much longer with published stories and with well visited travelogue lectures in libraries.

Comments

  1. So interesting and yes, creepy too. I would love to visit Cappadocian underground cities. Definitely on my list.

  2. This looks very cool. I may have to add it to my list.

  3. So interesting! I would love to visit Cappadocia one day. I can’t imagine living my life underground either. 🙂

  4. This is so cool! I had no idea there were so many. Added to the bucket list!

  5. michele h peterson : January 16, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Wow, it’s hard to believe people were living here as recently as 1920. Not for the claustrophobic!

  6. So interesting!! i definitely put it on my bucket list 🙂

  7. Capadoccia is on my wish list since long time and it must be exciting to visit one of these underground villages (even if with my height it would be difficult . . ) Did these people have some kind of furniture inside the caves? Just curious . .

    • Thank you for reading my article, it was quite an experience to go underground and see where people lived not so far ago.
      Cappadocia is beautiful region, worth of travelling there, I’m sure you will enjoy it 🙂
      Yes, they had some furniture, but nothing of it left after their leaving the cave-cities. We can only imagine today how it was. They brought out everything from underground and today we have nothing of it, just “holes” in the ground.
      But, in other Cappadocian places, e.g. Göreme or Ihlara canyon you can see and feel many of Cappadocian remains that still exists. I have slept in the Traveller’s cave hotel/pansion in Göreme, in the cave. It was fantastic experience.

  8. Underground city! That is just so amazing. The city must very creepy to live in indeed. I would really love to see how the inhabitants made themselves comfortable without the open air and sunlight.

  9. I was happy to come across a blog on Cappadocian caves. You have explained it so beautifully and the pictures of the caves are great. I am wondering how they must have lived without sunlight!! It is on my bucket list. Hope to do it someday.

    • Thank you for your comment, it is great to have a feedback like yours.
      Ha… they had some ventilation holes and they could check if there is some light, so they knew if outside was day or night, but it wasn’t light enough for living. We can imagine that light impact on their eyes when they went out to the surface…

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