Yesterday, we spent the day climbing through houses and churches carved into the stone cliffs and fairy chimneys high above ground. Today, we went in the opposite direction, sometimes venturing 8 stories below ground to see the underground cities carved into the rock.
The Cappadocia region is made up of consolidated volcanic ash (Tuff) that is sandstone like in its texture and topped with a layer of basalt. This combination makes for perfect conditions for easily hollowing out the rock, which they did both above and below ground to create places to live, work and pray.
While many of the above ground areas are still viable towns that include cave dwellings, the underground cities are no longer inhabited, but wonderful to wander through and imagine life underground.
The underground cities are massive networks of tunnels connecting rooms such as wineries, churches, living areas, stables, pantries and kitchens. (Think swiss cheese with tunnels connecting the many sized holes.) The tunnels are often narrow and small enough that the only way to get through is to crawl, which was especially fun for Dan. Doors are huge round rocks rolled into place to block the doorways when enemies invaded.
One of the things we marveled at was the hauling out of all of the excavated rock out as they built the cities and continued to add rooms. Just the opposite of “popping the top” they would go deeper for extra space. What a weird and wonderful part of the world!
After our foray underground, we took a lovely, if slightly wet hike down the Ihlara Valley that included plenty of cave dwellings and cave churches to explore along the way.