We got up at 8:00 and had a Turkish breakfast (omelette, flat bread and tea) then walked down to the dolmüs station and caught a ride to Nevshir, then a minibus to Kaymakli which took about ½ an hour. We negotiated “student” discount to get into the underground city which was bored into the solid rock by Christians escaping purges by Muslim armies1.
The first large chamber, just inside the entrance, was a stable and from it a maze of narrow, twisting passageways and interconnected rooms led us deep into the ground. The entire city consists of eight levels but only the top level is open to the public as there are dangerously low levels of O2 deeper in the complex.
That, however, didn’t deter Mark and I from following several long, pitch black tunnels leading down into the bowels of the Earth. The first one was a dead end but the second passed through several tiny rooms, each with a huge boulder poised to be rolled across the opening in order to seal it off. As we descended, the tunnel became lower and narrower and began to dip steeply so we decided that was far enough and retraced our steps back up to the lighted passage where the girls were waiting for us. We guided them down to the second room where we took some self-timer photographs. We then carried on exploring the underground city, including dropping stones down a 100m-deep vertical shaft.
Back on the surface we had some lunch then caught a bus back to Nevshir and from there a dolmüs to Üçhisar, a rock village on the hill above Göreme. We walked down the hill behind the village, taking photographs then split up from Mark and Kath who had to return to Göreme to catch a bus back to Istanbul.
Linda, Kelly and I decided to try to climb down into one of the narrow valleys below us so we followed a steep gully down into the intensively-farmed land amid dozens of graceful rock pinnacles. We wandered slowly down the valley following a small creek which had been diverted onto the farmland through a 30m passage hewn through the base of a larger pinnacle. The valley was quiet and peaceful and the crops were healthy and well-kept. Near the bottom of the valley I remembered that I had the key to our room where Mark and Kath2 had stowed their gear for the day so I ran all the way back to Göreme to catch them.
We saw them off on the bus then walked back up to the pension where I grabbed my camera gear and walked up to the top of the hill where I sat for an hour and a half and watched the sunset. It wasn’t very spectacular but the eroded cliffs on the far side of the valley cast cool shadows while far off in the distance, the towering bulk of Erciyes Daği, the volcanic peak that had produced the soft rock of Cappadocia, glowed blue and purple in the sky.
Back down at the pension we showered then walked down to the village. We had a small meal at a restaurant then went up to the pension where Kelly is staying for a beer.
1The first underground shelters at Kaymakli were constructed by Phoenician refugees in the 8th century BC. Successive waves of refugees escaping from persecution by Mongols, Muslims and Turks enlarged the underground city into the massive, and largely unexplored, labyrinth that exist today.
2We only knew Mark and Kath for the 3 days that we were at Göreme. But in that short time we became friends and as the years passed I had sometimes wondered what became of them after their travels in Turkey. Exactly thirty later, as I was prepping this diary entry, I re-connected with them using a Google search and Facebook. My source information was an address that Mark wrote in my diary and by using this to cross-reference the search engine results I was able to track them down in their Canadian hometown. In 1990, as we explored those tunnels beneath Kaymakli, we could never have imagined the amazing technology we would one day have access to!