Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wandering Underground

Today was my last full day in Cappadocia. Today i visited Agikarahan, which is a 13th century caravansary (a place where the caravan would stop for the night on their way along the silk road between Istanbul and China). It had walls and sleeping quarters, stables for the camels and a tiny mosque in the centre, which is accessible by a narrow strip of jagged stone stairs on the outside of the mosque.This structure is still basically in the middle of nowhere and it is easy to imagine seeking refuge there.
After that, we went on a hike through Ihlara canyon, along a stream, between high cliffs. I saw some lizards and a rather shabby looking donkey. After an hour or so we stopped at a village and had a delicious lunch on a low platform on stilts over the water, where we sat on cushions and enjoyed the breeze. (The weather here really is lovely. It is very very hot, but as it is a desert, it is wonderfully cool in the mornings and evenings and there is not the oppressive humidity of the coast.)
We then went to Derinkuyu, one of 35 underground cities in the region. These cities - originally built for protection from invaders - were begun about 5,000 years ago. They are incredible! The one we visited had 8 levels and goes down 80 meters. There are air shafts so deep that one cannot see the bottom, there are kitchens and living quarters, wine-making rooms, churches and endless tunnels and staircases. Most of the passageways are very narrow and tiny, such that when walking through them, even the shortest people must stoop over. We could not see the whole thing of course, but spent about an hour exploring with flashlights. How these things were built is incomprehensible.
I then returned to my room (of which i have quickly become very fond, as it is so cozy) and had a sleep, after which i went for a walk. I had dinner at the same place i went to yesterday. It is a delightful little restaurant. I ate and then sat and smoked and chatted with the family that runs it. Two of the men sat with me and played Sufi music, one on the saz and the other baglama (sort of long-necked lutes). It was a perfect evening.
Now i shall go home and sleep, as i must get up very early. I am being picked up at 5:30am for my hot air balloon ride. After that i shall eat breakfast on the terrace of my hotel and then head to the airport, as i return to Istanbul tomorrow - from a town of 2,000 to a city of at least 12,000,000.
Good night.

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