Cappadocia & troglodyte lifestyle !


A warm winter sunset over Cappadocia, central Turkey

Cappadocia & troglodyte lifestyle 
After ancient Hittite territory and the more recent Ottoman houses in Western Anatolia, we again stepped backed in time to visit Cappadocia and its amazing moon-like landscapes. The history of this area began with the eruption of 3 volcanoes which spread a thick layer of volcanic ash which hardened into a soft porous stone. Over the centuries, erosion has worn away large parts of this porous material in strange moonscape like chimneys.




One special aspect of this material is that it will harden in contact with oxygen. Soft to dig in but hard after it has been excavated, this is the perfect combination for troglodytes or cave inhabitants. A cave could be carved out for a new family and new "rooms" would follow as the family expanded. Multi-level cities have been carved out as the local inhabitants went underground to avoid the invaders of the times. Large Christian communities thrived in this area and their rock-hewn churches have become a unique art form.



Fortunately a few caves have kept their amazing frescoes over the last two millennia thanks to lack of sunlight. The paintings above have become visible as large portions of rock have fallen down and have revealed hidden rooms. These are the only ones that can be photographed and they are a pale testimony to the other paintings. 


The village of Uchisar prepares for the night, Cappadocia


In Kaymakli we visited one of these fascinating underground city. Some portions of the city have been dated to Hittite times or 4000 B.C. ! The Greek historian Xenophon mentions underground dwellings in Cappadocia his Anabasis which Christian read at school. In times of peace, people lived as farmers above ground. When invaders threatened, they went under. What's amazing is that they could live underground for up to 6 months. Life in this huge underground Swiss cheese must not always have been pleasant. But all was beautifully organised. We were told that the basic architecture of the city was copied on a tree : a central trunk from which branches leap away. We saw how stone wheels would block the tunnels leading down, how 50 to 60 meter high chimneys would supply people with fresh air. It seemed as though each room had three tunnels leading to it. Floors never seemed to be full floors but mezzanines or even smaller. At a constant temperature, cooler than outside in summer but warmer in winter, these cities were used as long-term storage places.  


K&C visiting the mind boggling underground city of Kaymakli (left) and the church of Ayios Stefanos (right)


The best-preserved Byzantine coloured frescoes in Cappadocia (!), Eski Gümüsler Monastery


We are doing well !

Traditional wooden houses Back to Trip page Konya & the whirling Dervishes