As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my childhood ambitions was to explore the caves and underground cities of Cappadocia. This region of Turkey was home to the ancient Hittites, a people famous for their well-bred horses. Throughout my life stories have trickled in from friends, and family, and books about this region. It was therefore, a total delight when Ricky Cohete asked me to tag along on a trip.
The important thing to keep in mind about this area- is that it is composed of two types of sandstone and one type of basalt. One of the types of sandstone is easily carved with a wooden instrument- making it possible to do large amounts of excavation with relative ease. For the Hittites and early settlers, it was easier to dig out a cave house than to build a new structure. This also provided security- whether carving out a house high up on a cliff face, or hidden in a secret valley- both provided protection from marauding armies. In several areas The Hittites (and later Christians hiding from Roman persecution) dug straight down into the ground. In these areas they developed entire city complexes, some down to 8 levels. The underground cities were a network of chambers, ventilation shafts, churches, and stables. You can probably see now how this sort of place would capture the imagination of a history-obsessed child. The very idea was mesmerizing.
The entire region is a series of mountains, canyons, grassy plains and cone-shaped volcanic structures created by the weathering of the sandstone. It is a magical place. Part Badlands, part Smurf village... it literally glows in the sunlight. We spent several days exploring the caves and abandoned monasteries carved into cliffs. We hiked out from our pension in a little cave-town where people still live in the same caves that have been inhabited for thousands of years. Here is a look at what we discovered. In the coming days I will be writing a bit more about the region and sharing a glimpse into life there. If you ever head to Turkey, make sure Cappadocia is on your list.
Jonathan Randall Grant