Derinkuyu Underground City
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Underground Cities used to be the early christian hideouts of Cappadocia. Until the declaration of Milano İn 313, christians in Roman territories had to hide themselves or their identity. As the single-level underground hideouts of Cappadocia provided a safe place for them. For some academics, they date back to the Assyrian age in 2000 BC. Possibly they were used by the merchants to stay and store their properties safe in the underground caves. Then, christians used them to hide and carved more up to their needs.
In Cappadocia region, you may see many cave complexes in the underground and ,of course, we can't say they were all underground cities. But some of those deserves this title, like Derinkuyu. Derinkuyu, as a word, means 'deep well'. It's called so because of the well going deeper into the ground on the last level. To be honest, Derinkuyu is the best one to experience of an underground city. You can see the structure more clearly.
Actually, because of the lack of evidences, you have theories for the time of early christians' hiding. When it was restored as museum in 1985 by the law of UNESCO HERİTAGE, twe named the sections if we see any specific feature for a possible purpose. For instance, the carvings named as 'Winery', it's because of the winery we have in some cave houses. Another is the stables. We named those because the cratches you can see all over Cappadocia. But underground cities will show you more.
You will many cave rooms as living or sleeping chamber but by the vantilation shaft and stone doors You will be astonished. Two perfect ideas of those masons. Especially, in Derinkuyu, as we mention above, you can see this vantilation shaft and the structure very very clearly. You can see the beginning point of the shaft and while you're walking in the tunnels, you'll see the connections to the same shaft on 4th, 5th and 8th level. When you go down to room that this shaft goes, you can see how deep
you went only in there. Of course, thanks to
the shaft, you don't have any problem of fresh air today.
Another thing you'll be amazed is the stone doors or sliding doors that are big pieces of stone in round shape. When you pass through the tunnel, get to the back room and slide it. From the other side of it, upper levels, nobody can move it or break it. You can see a little hole on the door but there are different theories about it. Some say it was the hole for spears and arrows and when the invaders came into the city, they could keep them away from the doorway. Some say it was just for a wooden / metal beam to slide it more easily. Actually, for almost each section, they had a sliding door and today you can see 4 doors in Derinkuyu.
Like the other underground cities, you can see the sections as church, kitchen, food storages, cisterns etc. But in Derinkuyu, as another insteresting feature is the deepest level is more larger than the other levels and you may see some tunnels with a dead end. Possibly, they improved their skills for such caves in time. On the contrary, the last level of Derinkuyu is all barrel-vaulted and you can see clearly three columns in a 'T' shape and creating vaults. Our theory is that they wanted to make it wider and deeper but on some points of the last level, you may see some cracks and It means 'enough' because those cracks may get deeper in time and it may collapse.
As you go back to first level, after passing through the stables, you will see a sign for 'Misionary School', two lines of table-like carvings and a few cave rooms. This is the one you can't see in the other underground cities.
To summarise, Derinkuyu is the one where you can experience an underground city. It takes apox. 45 minutes to visit. Only it's recommended to go there 08:00-09:00 or 15:00 when it's not crowded. Of course, it's cooler than outside, you may have a jumper on you. Especially for the people of clastrophobia, it's recommended to visit or if you don't feel good, on any point, go back and MİND YOU HEAD!