Thursday, 22 October 2009

Derinkuyu underground city - Cappadocia

Derinkuyu is probably the largest underground city in the area, so far 11 levels have been discovered, all this is thought to represent only 10% of the entire excavation which descends to an unnerving 85 meters underground. Derinkuyu has a surface area of 2000 square feet with a possible 7000 square feet in all if you include the possible extent of areas yet to excavated. Of the 11 levels discovered only 8 are currently open to tourists. The rooms and tunnels in Derinkuyu are comparatively big so if you’re worried about feeling claustrophobic I would recommend visiting this one as opposed to Kaymakli, all though most people still find the atmosphere oppressive and the feeling of being so far underground in a confined space unsettling. Unique to derinkuyu underground city are the large religious school with a high ceiling and rock carved seating area. There is also a winery, cruciform church, chapel, stables, refectory, oil press and a large 55 metre deep ventilation shaft which you can look up and down at various points in your visit to get a proper feeling of how far up or down you are!

Like most underground cities in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu was used as an underground fortress and features large round stone doors that can be used to seal all the entrances with small stab holes in the middle so the inhabitants could spear approaching intruders. Even though the complex can be completely locked down it is still well aired with over 52 air vents. The inhabitants also had access to running water and wells that are not connected to the surface to protect the water supply from being poisoned by attacking enemies. The exact dates of construction of Derinkuyu are still under debate with some historians citing the Hittites (1400BC) as the original builders whilst others point to the Phrygians (7th-8thBC) although it is known that they were used well into the Byzantine era by Christians fleeing persecution. The story goes that the underground city was re-discovered in 1963 when one of the locals in the above town of Derinkuyu demolished a wall in his house and unexpectedly found a room which led to another room and another going deeper underground, the city was opened as a tourist attraction in 1968.

Getting There

Most visitors to Derinkuyu end up coming with a bus tour however it is easy to find on your own by car/motorcycle, it is located on the road between Nevsehir and Nigde and is well signposted, once in Nevsehir follow the brown coloured signposts to Derinkuyu yeralti sehri (literally Derinkuyu underground city) you should be able to park for free, although expect to be harassed by people selling tourist tack on the walk from the car park to the entrance. Entrance fee is 15 Turkish lira although Turkish citizens would be better off buying a museum card for twenty Turkish lira as this allows access to most Turkish museums for free for a period of one year. Opening times are 9-5, allow at least an hour to look around. You can pay for a guide although we found it cheaper and less restraining to listen to other peoples guides as and when we felt like it.

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