Underground City – Kaymakli, Turkey – Plan your visit.
Underground City – Kaymakli, Turkey
This really is an entire underground city. Think of an ant farm except for people! This UNESCO site will be at the top of the list of things the kids love – acting like giant ants? Underground city? Kid will LOVE! This photo lets you understand the similarity. Imagine the planning and the time to carve it out. Early civil engineers? Architects? Construction crews?
The people of this area lived above ground during peacetime, but when danger arrived, the 5000 people in the town could disappear underground in an hour – 5000 people AND all their livestock. (just taking 2 young kids to the grocery store can take more than that!) Can you imagine the discipline in order to move quickly but in a calm and organized fashion? Do you think we could do this now? I just think of people evacuating Houston during a hurricane a few years back….the outbound freeways were locked up AND the inbound freeway lanes were empty – insanity. We could take a lesson from the ancient people of Kaymakli!
The animals had a large living area with sections carved out for food and water. Even spots where you could tie the animals were carved! Every detail was planned.
The wealthy had living areas at the upper levels of the seven story city while the poor had smaller living areas in the lowest areas. Ask the kids if this might be the reason the wealthy were called the ‘upper’ class. On the walls, niches were carved to hold oil lamps and over the family sleeping area was a carved spot for hanging a baby’s hammock. Each family living area held a chamberpot which was layered with lime to keep smells at bay. Most kids have not heard of a chamber pot and this discussion always leads to giggles.Small tunnels were carved between living areas which served as a way to communicate between homes – early telephones!
Kitchen areas were communal. Cooking was done at night and as little as possible – only every few days. (I could live without cooking every night…how about you?) This way the smoke from the cooking fire could not be seen by the enemies. Isn’t that clever! The people of Kaymakli ate mostly dried fruit, meat, and vegetables. We saw a stone with small indentions in it from dinner being prepared so many years ago. Imagine the conversations over this rock as women ground grain…
In addition to the living and community gathering areas there was a cemetery. To avoid the smell of decomposing bodies, the deceased were mummified before burying. Graves each had a stone placed on top.
We ventured down through the top five levels -the bottom two are closed to tourists. This was the top sight in all of Turkey for the kids! What an incredibly cool place! Ah, the discussions we had about what it would be like to live underground – in fear from the enemy above. Close quarters without being able to play outside. Would the kids play hide and seek? Everyone did notice how wonderfully cool it was underground – a nice respite from the heat above ground during the summers.
The city had a marvelous design. Vertical ventilation tunnels had spots carved into the walls to be used like a ladder so soldiers could come down to give reports or warnings. These tunnels also had a pulley system so water could be sent down and chamber pots could be sent up to be emptied.
Protection from the enemy was key. Water wells did not go all the way above ground. This way, enemies could not poison the water. Smart thinking! If an enemy managed to find their way to the living areas, residents would blow out the oil lamps. Residents knew their way around, but an enemy was suddenly in a maze in the pitch darkness. Residents would throw stones or otherwise torment the intruder.
So, who was the enemy? Frankly it depends on the time period. At one point Christians hid here from Roman prosecution. Many invaders wanted this area because of it’s close proximity to the important trade route – the Silk Road…..Ottomans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Hittites…the list is long.
If enough warning was given, residents would close off the tunnels by rolling these large stones across the walkways. Six to eight men would roll the stone in place as a door and close off the tunnel. If need be there was an escape tunnel leading to another underground city – 9 km away!
This would not be an easy escape as the tunnels are quite small. I’m 5’1″ and still had to bend over or squat and duck walk to get through some of them.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was one in a million sight for a family vacation!
When you buy your ticket, ask for Mustafa Yuce to be your guide. Call him personally if you want to plan ahead.
Home: 0384 218 21 85 Cell: 0532 655 06 54
Mustafa grew up playing in these caves and he makes the city come alive with his explanation – especially for the kids! His tour was reasonably priced and worth every penny!
Happy fascinating family travels!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist