Through centuries and continuous power shifts, the beleaguered locals dug hideaways and fortifications in the soft tufa. Some are only cave shelters reached by retractable ladders and toe holds. Others are so elaborate as to be called underground cities. The largest open to the public is at Derinkuyu and is eleven stories deep. There are supposedly hundreds in Cappadocia, most unexplored and unavailable to tourists.
We creep through one at Ozkonak. After entering a small door and passage we find ourselves in a stable carved in the rock. The troughs and cribs are hewn in the stone walls. A narrow corridor leads to a winery. Archaeologists surmise that these rooms were used to shelter animals and to make wine in the daily life of the villagers, who likely lived outside the cave. We are intrigued with the winery and are able to envision the process, as making wine has not changed that much through the centuries.
Beyond the winery are storage rooms with clay vessels for storing the wine. There are additional rooms for storing olive oil and grain. Low tunnels connect a warren of rooms. There are shafts for air and an underground well. Again, we are reminded of the persistence of war. Huge millstone doors rolled across the openings. Weighing up to 2000 pounds, they could only be opened from the inside…perfect for defense. These are surrounded with tiny openings for spear and arrow attacks. Over some doors are oriels for pouring hot oil on the enemy. Along the passages there are traps in the floor. Back in the light, we reflect on life that required such defenses. And while it is quiet today, war still rages in the lands that neighbor Turkey…Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.