Day 14 – Underground City and the Whirling Dervishes

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20130809-231009.jpgOur second day in Cappadocia and our last full day in Turkey started late (well for us on holiday 9.30 is late!) We're starting our day with a short hike through Pigeon Valley. As we walk through the valley floor on well used and signposted trails we can see the many small openings in the cliffs above us that give this valley it's name. The holes have been made by the locals, normally in existing caves that would previously been used as storage or even possibly living in, to encourage pigeons to thrive in the area. This seems completely opposite to our own attitude towards pigeons - everyone's efforts are always to try and get rid of them. But here, where farming is an important part of the local economy, pigeons are traditionally the second best source of fertiliser (the best being bat dropping!).

It's hot and the hike is moderately strenuous. We walk around 1.5 miles but climb around 500 feet. The beauty of the surrounding countryside is worth the climb though and soon we find ourselves at our destination - the castle if Uscagah (?). It is not really a castle but a large residence, cut like many other dwellings in Cappadocia out of the rock and situated at the highest point for miles around. After more ice cream (they have some great flavours - melon, Linton tree, raspberry etc) we climb the steps (221 counted by Tom plus another 30 odd at the top where there are no steps, just a slope) to the very top where the view is out of this world - the whole vista if Goreme around us.

20130809-231049.jpg We have one final trip to make this afternoon before dinner and our visit to see the whirling dervishes - the underground city. Callum in particular has been looking forward to this as it is another important place within Assassins Creed. Necip explains that these caves were built largely as a bolt hole to hide first from the Romans and later from the Muslims as they swept through the country but used mainly as storage at other times. They are so big that they could possibly have housed 10,000 people and the complex we saw had 8 levels. Plus this is just one of many city complexes. Apparently Necip's grandmother had an entrance to the complex in her back garden and he used to play and explore the city from there. Now these entrances have been blocked and the cities have world heritage status. Inside the underground city the temperature is significantly cooler than the 30C outside, maybe 16-17C. Many of the rooms are head-height but the tunnels between them narrow and you need to bend and even crouch to get through them.

The doors to this complex feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movies. They are large millstone-like round stones that are rolled across the entrances which have been deliberately made narrow on the outside while on the inner side there is a type of guardroom that allows those working the doors space to move it. In other words - easy to get open from inside but almost impossible from the outside. There is plenty of good lighting inside but it is also possible to get a food sense of what in might be like without the modern lamps.

Necip sends Callum and Tom off exploring places where it is not lit (such as part of his grandma's tunnel) and where it gets incredibly narrow. The darkness here is all encompassing and while they really enjoy all the exploring I suspect that both boys were pleased to turn back into the light of the normal tunnels. 20130809-231130.jpgFor our final meal you might have thought the kids would choose a posh restaurant or somewhere selling international food as we had the day before but there is one meal they are all anxious to try in turkey. A real doner kebab! So we find a rather dodgy looking take away place, buy 4 doner kebabs (2 beef, 2 chicken) and sit by the riverside on a bench and enjoy our final meal, which by the way is excellent!

Our final evening is spent watching a traditional Sufi ceremony by the Whirling Dervishes (not the hurling dervishes thank you Tom and Callum). I've arranged 'cultural evenings before and with the exception of the Malaysian one where Tom got up to dance thinking he was volunteering for the blowpipe they've not always been universally acclaimed! The Peking Opera was a particular low! However the Dervishes are not performing but instead they are conducting their service which somehow makes the atmosphere in the old Kavernsary building (where merchants would stay free of charge while trading in ancient Anatolia) a more mystical experience.

20130809-231237.jpgThere are 4 musicians who sit on one side and 5 dancers plus a leader. All come in with black cloaks concealing white garments below and brown hats like very tall fezs (except for the leader who wears a white hat). The service proceeds through many different stages including a reading from the Koran and a prayer but the main attraction is the 'dancing' where the dervishes spit constantly with their eyes closed and an effort to reach some sort of enlightenment similar it would seem to Buddhist. The theory is that a circle and in particular a spinning circle is special. It's something we all do (the earth spins and we are all made of atoms which have electron spins - I realise it is not quite that simple) and this conscious act helps the dervishes to remove other distractions.

Whether it works or not it really is amazing that they can spin that fast for that long and then simple stop, now and stand still without falling over. I would be completely dizzy!

There are no pictures taken during the ceremony but afterwards they return for one last time so that pictures can be taken. After this, cinnamon tea is served and a huge video showing the history of Cappadocia is shown on one of the walls of the courtyard. Finally back to the hotel so we can have an early night and be collected at 6.20 for our flight to the UK.