Cave classrooms and underground civilizations

The world was our classroom and Ikud couldn’t have been a better teacher. A history buff, he had an answer and a theory for almost everything. Within minutes of piling into the van that would tour us around the farther lying spots of Cappadocia, he had us playing the name game to remember his name: he repeated “I could” over and over again. Ikud. Ikud. Ikud echoed through the car. And he could. He led us down into the 7-story underground city of Derinkuyu initially built in the 5th century that once housed 10,000 people. We snaked our way through tunnels and staircases in cool, close quarters imagining the flow of people and their animals through this space, which held kitchens, wells, churches and graveyards.  For these peoples, life was a question of persecution and death, or flipping the world upside down and living beneath the surface. This was human resiliency.

From the depths of the underground we then ascended the boulders that formed an 8th century cave monastery in Selime, which was later turned into a caravanserai where the traders of the Silk Road rested weary heads. We walked through green valleys with wildflowers, whose hills held early Christian cave churches dating from the 4th to 11th centuries. Ikud told us about the saints and the symbols depicted on the walls of the cave. He used his pointing stick to etch out the Greek word for Christ, ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, in the soft dirt floor. Turning to the walls, he pointed at the frescos of the saints painted by the Byzantines, all of whose faces had been scratched out by the Ottomans, who had cycled through these same caves hundreds of years later.

We were some six hours into our day trip and I felt like I’d just experienced a lifetime’s worth of world religion and history. It was alive and we were walking through it. Nine years of parochial Catholic school didn’t come close to one day in this Turkish classroom.

Day 17 of 30; Postcards from Turkey

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~ by maureenmoore on July 25, 2013.

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