12 June 2014

Derinkuyu Underground City and the Ihlara Valley

After a nap and our second breakfast MG and I set off on our next tour. I'm not generally a big fan of guided tours but unless you want to spend a lot of time waiting on dolmuses, spending money on cabs, or renting a car (which to be a fair a lot of my friends do but me + driving = bad), tours around Cappadocia aren't a bad idea.

Pigeon Valley-I'm rather impressed with myself


Our tour took us to a place where we could get a good view of Pigeon Valley, so named because people in the area used to raise pigeons and kept them in this valley. After that we headed to Derinkuyu, one of the many underground cities in the area.

Boys beating the heat by filling water balloons from the local mosque fountain

Ihlara Valley

A friend told me that we needn't rush to see all the underground cities, that one was enough. And yes, this is very much true. Derinkuyu, which means 'deep well' is one of an estimated 40 (while only six have been excavated and are visitable). Possibly in use since the Bronze Age, they were not actually cities for living but for hiding. Marauders, conquerors, and empires fought over this territory and the people living here (and early Christians escaping persecution) would escape to these cities to hide and wait out advancing armies. It's rumored that there are tunnels connecting all the cities but that is so far unsubstantiated. Our guide told us that people, and their animals, could survive in these cities for a month. After having visited one I decided I'd rather have taken my chances with the marauders. These places are not for the claustrophobic! Not only are the tunnels very low ceilinged, so are the cut in to the rock stairs leading between the levels (at Derinkuyu we visited only seven of its levels). We all know how much I love stairs and going up and down more than 100 of them at a time in a tight, low tunnel only served to solidify my feelings. I was just glad I wasn't one of the two over 6 feet tall guys on our tour.

The Dormition

After Derinkuyu we headed to Ihlara Valley, one of the many popular valleys around Cappadocia.  And luckily, while we had to walk down quite a lot of stairs to get into the valley, there were no hills, stairs, or inclines of any sort to get out. Pigeon Valley from above is so called because of the birds, Rose Valley for its color, and Love Valley for it's "rude boys" (there's a post on that coming up!). Ihlara Valley is known for the people who lived there. Its 16 kilometers (we only walked four) are honeycombed with cave houses and churches from the Byzantine period. Unfortunately I forget the name of the church we see (the above pics). There was another our guide pointed out that some people in our group decided to detour to see. But it was up a whole mess of stairs. So that was not happening for me.

Weeping trees

While we got really lucky with the weather and did not get rained on...we got wept on. When our guide first told us that the valley had weeping willows I thought "Oh cool, I've always loved those." He didn't mean the kind of weeping willows we know in the States. We meant trees that actually weep. Water kind of fizzes up out of the branches and drips down. It was really weird.

MG and I were staying strong! During out hike through Ihlara we had a brief, restorative, stop at a tea garden so we were ready for our final tour stop. Next up...Selime Monastery!

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