Turkey has many places that have seen a lot of history. In some places like Kaymakli, you are still able to see, feel, and even smell it because it has stayed alive for all of these years. This makes it a wonderful off-the-beaten-track travel destination on the important crossover between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
About 290 kilometers from the capital of Turkey, Ankara, is a collection of underground cities dating back to 1200 BC. It became a sanctuary for Christians at 333 BC because at this time, the Romans have invaded the Kingdom of Cappadocia and Christians needed to escape persecution. This is how these communities grew, with its tenants literally carving the rock to build a refuge. And because they were built on rock and underground, they have survived all these centuries.
It’s a wonderful tourist destination if you happen to be travelling around Turkey. It may not be as well known as other exotic holiday locations on the coast (see more inspiration here), but it is worth the journey to this unique place with a lot of history.
Visitors can still roam around the rooms that have stayed strong all this time. They can also marvel at the grand churches that have been built out of sight, complete with frescos and carvings that are still undamaged and fresh until now. Kaymakli Underground City also allowed its inhabitants to be defended against intruders and invaders. Because of this, they could also keep their valuable commodities safe.
The underground city remained to be a refuge for Christians over the centuries, whenever they became at risk of persecution or death. Visitors can just imagine how they run here for safety, and how they lived here together, able to practice their beliefs in their own churches.
Kaymakli Underground City never fails to astound its visitors, as reading about it can never prepare them for the experience of seeing it in person. The breadth of these communities will amaze you because it is more than just a couple of rooms or tunnels. These are real cities, where people live, worship, study, and socialize, all carved in the rocks and expanding inside and underground, unseen from the outside.
Kaymakli itself has 4 levels, the first of which houses a stable, church and some rooms. The second floor has more rooms and a larger church, plus a small graveyard. On the third floor is a lot of storage space and space for activities like winemaking or other important handicraft work. The last floor reveals storage rooms that contain numerous jars and pots. These 4 levels are only a glimpse, however, of the more than a hundred tunnels in Kaymakli Underground City, so you can only imagine how much more are hiding underground.
Exploring Kaymakli Underground City is best done through booking a tour, as your guide can give you a lot of insight into the history of the place. There are also narrow tunnels underground you would have to navigate and it is easier with someone to show you around. You need to be ready to bend down a lot due to the low ceiling, and this place is not for the claustrophobic. Still, because of the history and the magnitude of the city, the visit is more than worth it. After all, it is not every day that you can see a city that has been inhabited by people, though not continuously, for more than 3,000 years.