Our last day in Uchisar was spent exploring underground cities, the Uchisar Castle, Fairy Chimneys, and on a wonderful hike in the White Valley to see the unsusual structures of this fascinating area.
The underground cities date from 4000 years ago, and were caves initially used by the Hittite people for food storage and stable areas for their animals, but later became useful as hiding places for early Christians when marauding bands of Roman or Arab soldiers invaded this area. The tunnels to the underground structures could be completely sealed off by huge rolling stones.
Hundreds of rooms on multiple levels were connected by winding tunnels, interspersed occasionally with deep pits (in which invaders might become trapped or surrounded and killed). Tunnels connected the underground rooms with above-ground houses and even with each other, stretching tens of kilometers between towns. We saw kitchens, food storage and prep areas, bedrooms, airshafts for ventilation, chapels, storage niches for amphorae, even a large dining table carved right from the tuff rock.
Uchisar castle is the highest point in Cappadocia. The massive rock has numerous smaller formations clustered at its base, which you might imagine were once small apartments surrounding the more massive fortress of the castle. It had strategic importance as part of the early warning system along the Silk Road trade route, allowing its Byzantine populace to signal other towns about arrivals of visitors. The climb up 120 steps to the peak is worth the spectacular 360 degree view of surrounding Cappadocia.
Fairy chimneys are the unusual structures created by deposition of two different types of volcanic ash over time, one darker above and one lighter below. Erosion over a few million years has created minaret or pillar-like structures that stand up like sentinels in contrast to the smooth, white tuff cliffs around them. Apparently, priests often utilized two room apartments in some of the fairy chimneys, one sleeping and one praying room.
Unlike the other places we hiked, the White Valley still has vigorously growing orchards of apple, apricot, pear, along with grape vineyards at the foot of 100 foot high rolling white hills of tuff. A bit of fall color in the fruit trees contrasted beautifully with the white hills and deep blue sky.
One of the volcanoes that produced all of this amazing topography.