Underground Cities

It seems they’ve just found a 5 million square foot ancient city under the Nevşehir province of Turkey. That’s amazing news, but it doesn’t surprise me at all, because I’ve been to Nevşehir. After learning about the Cappadocian Kingdom, founded by the Hittites, then taken over by the Assyrians, the Mendes, the Persians, the Ariarthes and the Romans, I just had to see it. I love history.

I also love caves. As an introvert, I’m naturally drawn to cozy places, hidden places, secret places. Any kind of hidey-hole will do. That’s probably why I enjoy getting lost in the stacks of my public library, and on bad days I like to pull the sheets up over my head and block out the world.

But if you’re into both history and hidey-holes, Nevşehir province is your place. The whole area is built on top of volcanic ash, and therefore the rock is so soft you can carve dwellings into it. And that’s exactly what the locals did to escape persecution from the various empires, whether it be the Persians, the Islamic Caliphate, or the Byzantines.

If you saw the bad guys coming, you simply went underground, rolled a large stone across the entrance, and thanks to a system of smokestacks, wells, and sewage disposal systems, as well as a dry, stable temperature that was perfect for food storage, you could stay there for months on end. They even had holes in the entrance stones through which they could shoot arrows at the more stubborn invaders.

The landscape of this region is haunting. It’s full of what’s called hoodoos, or fairy chimneys, which are phallic rock formations which were created when a harder rock landed on top of the soft ash, and over the centuries the ash was washed away, except beneath that rock. They’re really cool. And can you imagine what gets written on the postcards home? None of my personal photos did these things justice, so here’s one from online:


[Image credit: turkishlocaltours.com]

Some people still carve dwellings out of these fairy chimneys to this day. And the whole region is full of underground cities, even churches carved out of the stone. Here’s one I came upon during my wanderings around Nevşehir and Göreme.

picture 19

I can’t even imagine how gorgeous this place must have been before the paint faded.

I spent several days climbing through underground cities and coming across views like this.

picture 23

So the fact that construction workers stumbled across a 5 million square foot underground city that had somehow been lost in the fog of time surprises me not a bit. I bet there are even more undiscovered treasures out there. And I’m thrilled that this will give the friendly and welcoming people of the area even more opportunities to rake in some much needed tourist dollars. I hope I get the chance to check this new old city out some day.


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