Derinkuyu, Turkey, 2006
Travelling in Turkey had always been a lot of fun, the seemingly endless treasure-trove of human civilization was waiting to be discovered. On many occasions we travelled to the Cappadocia region of Central Anatolia. One of the characteristic features of Cappadocia are its underground cities, dwellings dug deep into the volcanic rock between the Erciyes and Hasan Volcanoes. The digging had begun in ancient times when early Christians had to hide from invading Persians, but also from Roman troops who were not fond of the new movement and its messsage. Through the centuries the system of passage ways and shelter rooms had expanded and became sub-level cities in their own right, reaching fifteen stories into the ground and harboring tens of thousands of refugees for several months during hard times.
On a cold winter afternoon we went underground once again and had spent some time there before resurfacing again. When we came up into the late afternoon light, there was a haze and a pungent smell in the air, the typical side effect of coal heating. Turks living in rural areas ran their ovens with coal, often the cheap and chemically infused kind. It not only burdened ones respiratory system, but when not used to it, could also lead to sudden nose-bleeds and eye irritation. The situation in urban centers was somewhat better, but even there the poor neighborhoods opted for the cheaper coal instead of gas. From what I´ve heard the overall situation has gotten better in the course of time, natural gas and modern heating hardware are advancing. All lungs thank heaven.