Second day started early. Precisely at 5.30. We woke up to watch the hot air balloons at sunrise. 1,5 hour & 150 pictures later went back to sleep to wake up for breakfast in two hours. Sightseeing program was intense – underground cities to visit, Uchisar castle to climb, valleys to hike….No time to waste. There are over 30 underground cities in Cappadochia. Derinkuyu is the deepest one, while Kaymakli is the widest. Derinkuyu underground city was chosen initially, but we happen to visit Kaymakly just because a minibus driver told us to get off at a wrong stop. The entrance to the underground city is according to good touristic traditions through a souvenir market ;-)
Kaymakli underground city was built under the hill known as the Citadel of Kaymakli and was opened to visitors in 1964. The people of Kaymakli village have constructed their houses around nearly one hundred tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards.
The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages. While the underground city consists of 8 floors below ground, only 4 of them are open to the public today, in which the spaces are organized around ventilation shafts.
There are rooms and halls connecting to each other with narrow corridors, wine tanks, water cistern, kitchens and food stores, ventilation shafts, water wells, churches and large round lock stones. Lock stones are circular and have a hole in the middle. These stones (picture below) close the entrance by vertical position in the special section at the entrance of the tunnel.
The deepest point you can visit is under 20 meters. Kaymakli was built in around a main ventilation chimney (picture below). The ventilation system is so successful that no problem breathing even on the fourth floor.
The underground city used to have all housing conditions for temporary housing of big groups of people.
It is a really interesting place despite being quite touristy. Once you are underground you can explore all the rooms on 4 levels open for visitors. Some of the tunnels and staircases vanish into darkness. Make sure you take a torch with you as it will surely enhance the experience.
After my companions had enough of stairs, tunnels, windows, air shafts and just holes in darkness we left Kaymakli underground city and explored the hill above it. The hill itself has a lot of cut entrances and rooms plus remnants of houses on top of it. You can clearly see that the houses used to have entrances leading down. After we left the ruins around the hill we roamed a bit in the village streets and found a nice street cafe for lunch.
During lunch we had unexpected interaction with a local family – grandfather, son, and daughter/granddaughter. The old man spoke some German, and we used our minimal Turkish. We shared some watermelon and took some pictures. People in Turkey are very friendly and curious. They approach us very often and talk to us willing to help or give advice.
After lunch we took a bus back to Nevsehir and further to Uchisar castle.
Uchisar is situated at the highest point in Cappadocia, on the Nevsehir-Goreme road, just 5 km from Goreme. The top of the Uchisar Castle provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area. You can see below the view over Goreme from the Uchisar castle.
Rooms cut out into the rock are connected to each other with stairs and tunnels. At the entrances of the rooms, there are lock stone doors, just like the ones in the underground settlements, used to control access to these places. It is unfortunately not possible to see all the rooms due to the erosion of the rock.
The views from the castle are simply gorgeous and we spent some time just watching the valleys run in all directions from the castle.
There are many so called pigeon houses in Pigeon Valley which connects Uchisar to Goreme. Most of these cave dwellings have been painted white to attract the birds and their valuable droppings. Farmers used these cave pigeon houses to collect the droppings of pigeons which is an excellent natural fertilizer for the orchards and vineyards.
It was decided to hike back to Goreme instead of taking a minibus as the Pigeon valley takes us straight there.
The valley is surrounded by eroded walls and sharp rock with remaining rooms and churches. The walk was fairy-tale like and views were just as unbelievable as everything else around Cappadochia. Deep abyss cuts through the center of the valley. Some places are impassable and we had to walk back and detour. At some point we could’t continue. A big deep cracked blocked the way. The path led across one of the valley wall just to fall down into the crack. There was no way we could continue.
When we were about to walk back, we saw two elderly man – a local and a foreigner. The former was a farmer who had a house in the Pigeon valley, the latter – a Canadian tourist. The Canadian man was following us, and the Turkish one followed the Canadian. Neither us, not the Canadian knew the way to the other side of the valley. The must be a way around but no one knew where. A Croatian couple joined us. Now we were 7 people how needed to be saved.
The Turkish farmer happened to be our Savior guide. He waved us to follow him. And we followed …..climbing up, walking through a dark tunnel, walking down steep paths on edges falling down into deep cracks, then crawling down rocks like spiders. Some of us had to make serious efforts to pass these seemingly impassable paths. Surprisingly the old man was walking casually fast, looking back at times with an air of impatience, like saying: Why are you so slow?….The man was walking in very old broken slippers, which he showed to us after we passed to the other side of the valley. Being thankful to the old farmer we paid him some money to buy new shoes.
Tired but happy with the Indiana Jones adventures (Ok, not 100% Indiana Jones, but still really cool!) we reached Goreme…
If you go to Cappadochia make sure you visit one of the underground cities (Derinkuyu or Kaymakli), Uchisar castle and hike some of the gorgeous valleys around Goreme.