Adventures in Cappadocia, Part III

On our third day in Cappadocia, Allison and Kelli took a hot air balloon ride through the valleys, which they claimed was “amazing”, and “incredible”, blah, blah, blah. As I didn’t go, this is all hearsay, and, frankly, I find it hard to believe.

Allison's photo from the balloon--evidently the sky was full of them

Obviously a huge let-down. Believe it or not, I had decided to sleep in an extra few hours instead, which, oddly enough, was not as fulfilling as you’d think.

But I could hardly feel sorry for myself–that day we were headed to a “secret” underground city that other guests at the hostel had told us about. The word on the street was that the main cities are wall-to-wall tourists, but as this one requires 3 buses to get to, most people avoid it. While we were waiting for bus #1, Allison met three Spanish people headed to one of the bigger cities, but she slyly convinced them to come with us–the more the merrier, especially when one of them is a very cute guy! Good job, Allison! We also picked up a young French Canadian couple, so we ended up as a very international group of eight.

The town we went to, Mazi, is fairly isolated and small and traditional. We were a bit of a curiosity, but everyone was very friendly.

 

View of Mazi

The two dogs are Turkish Kangal dogs. They are large but friendly and have a distinctive curling tail and dun coloring with black ears and muzzle (one is in the Hugh Jackman/Meg Ryan movie, Kate and Leopold) They are all over the rural areas of Turkey. City dogs are more typically mutts.

We split off for the restroom before our tour and met a lot of schoolchildren walking past on their way to school. They all knew “hello” and when I answered back “Merhaba” (hello in Turkish), one of them gave me a thumbs-up. Cute! A few girls stopped to talk, which was mainly everyone smiling and saying hello and me asking their ages in Turkish. I love meeting kids abroad, so I’m not sure which of us was more excited.

 

Kelli and the kids

In fact, I was so excited to talk to the kids that I didn’t hear Allison banging for help from the bathroom–she had gotten locked in, but eventually climbed out over the stall door, with no help from any of us. As if a hole-in-the-ground toilet was not adventure enough…. But this also meant none of the rest of us could get in, so the Canadian woman used the men’s room, which was totally shocking to the little girls, and I’m sure made for a good story for their friends.

Then it was back to the office of the tour guide, Ahmet. Below is a map of the underground city he took us through (reading left to right). We began at ground level and actually went UP into the mountain instead of down, as you might expect.

We were all given flashlights and/or headlamps and descended into really what felt like the Land of the Lost:

 

Canary Island cutie in the middle!

Entering the underground city...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped in the first large space, which was a kitchen area.  (Please note:  all information I will now relate about the city may be totally incorrect/made up, and was received in one of four ways: 1. Ahmet’s limited English (not a criticism: he’s fluent in English in comparison to my Turkish),  2. Iliana’s (French Canadian) translation into English of Ahmet’s very proficient French,  3. Allison’s translation into English from Iliana’s translation into Spanish for the Spaniards,  4. hand signals)

The kitchen had a mortar/grindstone, shelves cut into the walls, niches for candles and depressions in the floor where the round-bottomed amphoras stood. Even in this first room it was almost pitch-black despite some light from the doorway. The door itself was pretty impressive: a round stone that is rolled into place to protect from outside attackers!!! How cool is that?!

 

Ahmet, the tour guide

Early sliding door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

grindstone for grain

 

The stables are also on this first level, where they would bring in livestock during their retreats from anti-Hittite and later anti-Christian onslaughts. There were troughs cut into the walls and small stone pillars (for lack of a better word) where they tied up the animals. Throughout all the rooms there were also air vents and “telephone” vents through which the people could communicate to the next rooms (can you imagine how mixed up those messages must have been? ha, ha). Another room was an additional cooking area with a chimney out to the surface and a “tandoori oven” which had a channel to let smoke out while the food was covered for cooking.

 

"Tandoori oven" with a channel for smoke

Supposed "guillotine"

 

This was another entrance to a different room, although you’ll notice the hole cut into the round rock “door”. SUPPOSEDLY it was used as an early “guillotine”, and rocks were arranged over the space to fall down and crush an attacker coming through. The inhabitants would also hide behind the walls of the passages between rooms and grab invaders through holes they had cut in the walls. Scary! Ahmet illustrated this by making us wait in a dark room for a “surprise” and then calling us to the next room. As I led everyone through the passage, arms came out of the wall and grabbed me.  My childhood Sleestack fears came true!!

 

 

Walking through the passages--notice Iliana (front) and Kelli (back)--it was COLD in there!

As we continued to the next levels of the city, you may want to refer back to the diagram from the beginning of the post to guess how we made our way between them…

yes, that’s right, vertical shafts carved into the rock with shallow handholds, much like what we encountered on our valley hike yesterday, but much, much more claustrophobic, especially by lamplight:

 

Looking back down a shaft that we climbed

 

But with yesterday’s training behind us, we were professionals!

 

Notice Kelli's very appropriate footwear

I'm almost embarrassed by how happy I look emerging from this underground climb! Unfortunately the sepia and the setting makes it look a little bit like "Silence of the Lambs".

Piece of cake! Believe it or not, I was still wearing yesterday’s apparently inappropriate footwear, which actually turned out to be much hardier and more comfortable than I would have thought, although my feet were filthy by the end of the trip.

The deeper we went into the mountain, the colder it got, but after a few more rooms and climbs and a lot more laughter, we finally emerged back into the warm sun of Mazi. But our tour was not over yet; evidently Ahmet enjoyed us so much that we got a bonus visit to gravesites on the top of the mountain through which we had just climbed.

 

Climbing up to the gravesite

 

 

 

 

 

Can you find the New Yorkers in this picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the tour we headed back down to Ahmet’s office and then had just two buses home. It was quite an adventure, and something that I would recommend to anyone who finds her/himself in Cappadocia!

Back at our town, Goreme, we all had dinner together before splitting up for showers/shopping. Kelli finally bought her Turkish carpet (woohoo!) and then we all met again for drinks at one of the local bars:

 

Relaxing after the climb

These types of beanbags are popular in hookah/shisha(sheesha)/nargile bars (different words for the water pipe) and are very, very comfy, with or without the shisha.

The next morning we flew back to Istanbul, which finally brings me to my current city! (only 3 weeks late)

Next post: Goodbye to old friends and Hello to new ones!

 

About Stephanie Beck

Exploring the international world of art.
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