Going Underground with The Sultans of Swing

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Middle East » Turkey » Central Anatolia » Kayseri
October 4th 2013
Published: October 4th 2013
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Arriving back at the campsite yesterday the temperatures had dropped to around 4 degrees so rather than shivering in the tent we adjourned to the inside bar where a lovely log fire was burning away.

Woolly says – This proved to be a good move and the rest of the campers seemed to agree. A German couple who had arrived earlier order the Pot meals that the area seems famous for and watching it arrive was a floor show in itself. With flames and great ceremony their meals where delivered, the pots being opened using a huge knife to crack them open, I sat quietly hoping that the gorgeous smell emanating from that table might encourage Jo and Ian to order as well. A French couple sat behind us ordered and I could feel dribbles coming down my tusks at the thought of what they might receive.

The food smelt exquisite and something hot would certainly help with warming us up so much to Woolly’s delight we summoned food, it was divine. Ian and Woolly shared a Goulash type dish which came with homemade chips while I was presented with a mushroom, garlic and tomato combination again with homemade chips, not a sound could be heard except for mummers of appreciation.

Woolly says – it was wonderful and for the first time that day I felt warmed from the inside out. We spent the evening talking to the owner about his site and making useful suggestions about things like washing up areas, Jo didn’t mention that the use of a vat of bleach and a good clean would help as she didn’t want to upset him. Slightly later Papa came out of the kitchen and chatted about his life and his children before showing us pictures. The first hundred were ok but by the time we had seen his daughter for the thousandth time we were all running out of things to say, a hasty departure and a night in the cold.

We packed up under a lighter grey cloud with hats and gloves added to our many layers and were very glad to climb into Ollie and turn his heating on. Off we went waving our goodbyes and heading for the town of Derinkuyu and home to one of the many Underground Cities in the region. These cities were created during the same volcanic eruption that had made the wonderful Fairy Chimneys and as inhabits had chiselled them out over the years they had been used for whole communities to shelter and hide in times of war.

Woolly says – this all sounded really exciting and I was dying to get there, finding it was easy and leaving Ollie to his own devices we joined the queue. After half an hour of being shoved and prodded and not making any progress towards buying our tickets we were losing patience. I tried stamping on a few peoples toes but even that didn’t seem to help. Tour groups fifty strong were walking straight in with their guides going straight to the ticket desk and getting there entrances while the rest of us stood waiting. Another fifteen minutes passed and we gave up and stalked off back to Ollie, it was too cold to keep waiting and Jo couldn’t stop shivering. Plan B came into action, we drove back to the town of Kaymakli to see if we could get into their caves.

We hit the jackpot and where inside the Underground City within minutes. First opened to tourists in 1964, and houses nearly one hundred tunnels. The tunnels are still used today as storage areas, stables, and cellars. There are four floors to explore and Woolly was in his element.

Woolly says – it was wonderful, just the right size for me to race around in, poor Ian was having to fold himself into three while even tiny Jo was walking doubled up for most of the time. First we came to a stable and although quite small it would have housed quite a few beasts and mules. There were living rooms next and a huge millstone door to protect the people inside from invasion. I really liked the church with its simple layout I could imagine people passing through there talking to each other and discussing problems with the priest. It even had a font.

Bending double was becoming a problem and it was a relief to find ourselves in a much higher room which would have been used for wine storage, next door was a huge block of rock with large dimples in its surface where melted copper would have been used to produce pots and pans. By the time we reached the fourth layer pain was becoming a problem. My main concerns were thighs were aching, backs were creaking and knees were giving out, these people must have been tiny.


Woolly says – we made our way out and once the old codgers had consumed a coffee and stretched their bones we journeyed on. Passing fields of melons, the landscape was completely flat rather like the Netherlands but with only seventy kilometres to drive it wasn’t too bad. Our next part of the days plan came unstuck as we arrived in the city of Aksaray, we had wanted to drive over to Mount Hasan an inactive volcano but with the clouds so low and rain overhead we couldn’t even see the outline so there was little point in going to look. With two possible campsites close by we thought to have a look, Jo was unsure about camping as she is finding it hard to get rid of her cold and the thought of another night in the freezing outdoors wasn’t perhaps quite the ticket. The first wasn’t there which no longer surprises us and the second was situated on a building site and though the facilities looked good and pretty clean we didn’t really fancy it. Onwards we went to the town of Sultanhani.

With a possible site here and a Caravanserai it seemed like an ideal place to pitch. The campsite looked very good with nice grassy pitches and good clean facilities it looked ideal but with the temperature hovering around nine degrees I just couldn’t do it. We drove further down the road and found the Sultanhani Hotel and booked in for the night, a warm bed and hot shower was just what we needed. Life being what is it meant that having dumped our bits and bobs in the room we headed outside to find the sun out and quite a look more warmth, typical.

Woolly says – I was eager to get into the wonderful looking Caravanserai across the road. Jo told me that this was actually an Inn and being on the Silk Road was a major way point for the travellers and their animals to rest, sleep and seek medical attention for both themselves and their camels. This was a quite unique as it provided provision for both the summer and winter months having open and closed areas. The huge gates were covered in beautiful carvings and peeking through I could see the courtyard and centre kiosk and almost smell the camel dung on the breeze.

This partially Inn was built in 1229 during the reign of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad, inside the courtyard large domed rooms line the left hand side facing the archways of the left, with a further huge gateway leading into what would have been the winter quarters with arches high above our heads and a beautifully decorated domed area in the middle of the roof.

Woolly says – it was very dark in there but it was easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of the traders, with bright silk swathes piled high around and the scent of spices I could see myself in my fine silk regalia striking a bargain. As we left the Caravanseria a group of school children came running over. Ahh, I thought, my fame precedes me! Not so, they had just come to practise their English on unwitting tourists. Of course they were delighted to meet me and they all wanted their picture taken with me. Ian told me off when I tried charging 5 Lira per photo, can’t understand why!?

With Sultan Woolly strutting his stuff we crossed over the road again and went to look at a monument to former Sultans. Gold coloured they looked very imposing and some quite scary, it was interesting to see different flags flying above them, possibly from the different regions in turkey unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any information about them. A weary bunch of travellers by now we set about finding some food, with only three places open in the town and one of them offering only toast we settled on what appeared to be the equivalent of a British transport café.

Woolly says – it’s hungry work being a Sultan and Ian and I were glad to tuck into a chicken skish kebab but poor Jo had the only two vegetarian dishes on the menu, lentil soup and chips! The chips were lovely though and I know she didn’t mind sharing them with me!

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