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DERİNKUYU

Home to Cappadocia's deepest underground city                      Population: 11,000

derin2Old name: Malakopi

Derinkuyu is a sleepy small town in Cappadocia that is home to an underground city, one of more than 30 such structures that lie deep beneath the soil of central Anatolia.

The underground city aside, modern Derinkuyu is a rather sad place, the victim of its more entrepreneurial neighbours from GöremeÜrgüp and elsewhere who bus in tourists by the hundred before whizzing them away again to walk through the Ihlara Valley.

Although there are a couple of hotels, few tourists stay here, which means that the most locals can usually expect to make out of them is the cost of a drink or a souvenir. It doesn’t help that a few years ago the local authorities embarked on a beautification project that folded midway, leaving what might have been a pleasantly landcsaped town centre a mess of unsightly concrete and weeds.

Derinkuyu is home to a sizeable Alevi community.

For those who do decide to come here under their own steam, there are several other sights to see in Derinkuyu aside from the underground city. You could easily spend half a day here.

Around town

As the deepest of the underground cities, Derinkuyu ("Deep Well") descends eight levels down into the earth. Those who are of claustrophobic disposition might want to visit one of the smaller and less crowded alternatives, especially in high summer when it is crammed solid with tour groups.

Its depth aside, Derinkuyu has a few other unique features. There is, for example, one particularly large room with what look like long stone benches carved out of the centre. This has been identified as a missionary school with a raised pulpit at one end for the teacher and small cells cut out of the side wall to serve as living accommodation.

Much further below ground there is also a large empty space with a cruciform area to one side. This has been identified as a church even though no religious items were ever found in it.

Interestingly, the last recorded use of the Derinkuyu tunnels was as recently as 1832 when villagers hid underground as the army of the Egyptian leader İbrahim Paşa came riding across Cappadocia in an attempt to defeat the Ottomans.

derin1After exploring the underground city you might want to take a look at the large Church of St Theodore with its detached bell-tower and a stone grapevine running around its doorway. It dates back to the 1850s and a time when what was then Malakopi was benefiting from the growing prosperity of its large Greek population.

Behind St Theodore's, the Hakkı Atamulu Kültür Parkı is dominated by a 13.5m-high statue of Atatürk in a military greatcoat  that was, until recently, the tallest monument to Turkey’s founding father in the country. It was the work of local boy-turned-national sculptor Hakkı Atamulu (1912-206) whose work can also be seen in ErzurumMalatya and Samsun.

Nearby the Park Cami is a rare example of a truly original mosque design, with a roof that sweeps upwards into a minaret like the prow of a ship. Another work of Hakkı Atamulu, the mosque was completed in 1989 when the sculptor had returned to live in the place of his birth.

The 19th-century local historian Ioannides records that the town was rich enough to want to invest in a new church but that the townspeople could not agree where to put it. Wander around the back streets on the Nevşehir side of town and you will spot a large mosque which was once the Taksiyarhis church (church of the Archangels). Inside it still retains some of its lovely original fixtures including a fine reredos which has been retrofitted with Islamic calligraphic panels.derin3

As for the huge houses filling the outskirts of Derinkuyul, they are home to local potato farmers who have grown rich on the produce of the fertile volcanic soil.

Transport info

There are half-hourly buses from Nevşehir and Niğde to Derinkuyu.

Many tours to the Ihlara Gorge include a stop in Derinkuyu.

Day trip destinations

Göre

Kaymaklı

Konaklı

Nevşehir

Niğde

Read more about Hakkı Atamulu: http://www.todayszaman.com/columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=281781

Read more about Hakkı Atamulu: http://www.todayszaman.com/columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=281996

 

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