The ancient Derinkuyu underground city is proof of what man can achieve when his life is threatened. It is a complex network of tunnels and rooms that formed a city 100 meters under the ground. Hundreds of years ago, when the area was attacked, citizens used to flood to the underground city and stay until it was safe to re-enter the land of the living.
Derinkuyu underground city is not a place to visit if you suffer from claustrophobia, high blood pressure, a dickey heart or panic attacks. Walking down the flight of stairs in the Derinkuyu City sometimes becomes so cramped that you begin to lower your head and feel suffocated by the lack of space.
There is a mass of tunnels and rooms and the only way to find your way is by following the arrows put there by the association that manages the city. Red means you are going further into the city, blue means you are going out and back up to the surface. When visiting Cappadocia, I entered the Derinkuyu caves and explored eight levels of this man made city which makes me give credit where it is due.
The city was big and complex but there was a general layout to it. Animals were crowded into the top level of the city; the kitchens were placed on the next level, domestic living rooms on the next level after that and so forth. The citizens that built the Derinkuyu underground city thought of everything. This city was not intended for permanent living however it could be months that they stayed in there until it was safe to go back up.
Facts about Derinkuyu Underground City
- Sometimes people would go crazy. Days without sun and fresh air can affect a man’s mind. If people went crazy, there were stone slots that they were tied to with a piece of rope. This would prevent them from trying to escape to the surface or attacking other people
- If anyone tried to sneak out of the underground city, they would be crucified and their bodies were all put in one room to prevent disease. This was done as a deterrent because if anyone got caught on the surface, it is possible they would give away the secret of hundreds of people living under the ground
- Stone wheels were rolled across entrance ways to form doors and they could only be opened from the inside.
- There was fresh well that provided water to certain levels and air ducts ensured a fresh supply of oxygen.
- Weekly prayer took place in the church. A storage room would hold the supply of wheat and grain while a winery would produce alcohol so everyone could get drunk and forget where they were living.
I have to say, that when I come out into fresh air, I was very glad. I felt suffocated just spending an hour in there; can you imagine how people felt in the past when they had to spend months in there? Be prepared for a rush of touts selling items when you leave the underground city, apart from that it is a fantastic place to visit and makes you feel very humble indeed. If underground cities are your thing, then make your holiday a long one as there are 36 of them to see in Cappadocia.