OTHER SUBTERRANEAN CITY
The third “buried city” of considerable dimensions is located at Özkonak, a short way north of Avanos. Although large tracts of it are still unexcavated, some upper levels are illuminated and open to visitors.
The complex at Çardak village along the Nevsehir-Nigde road is partly open and negotiable with difficulty and in the company of the guide. Here it is advisable to carry a battery torch and wear the proper shoes.
The complex at Karacaören is still being excavated and the one at Gümüskent, along the road Gülsehir-Hacıbektaş is accessible only along its upper levels. The lower galleries are flooded.
Allegedly, there is an 18th century miniature in private possession somewhere in Nevşehir in which an obscure scribe of the sultan records:
“The underground city of Ozkonak consists of 19 levels. In order to ensure the proper education of young women by the Christian principles, the city accommodated four convents, each having the essential dormitories, kitchen, refectory, the chamber of reunions and the sanitary installations. There was also a hospital for treating the illness-stricken. The Christians believe that a tomb in the underground city contains the mortal remains of one of their apostles.”
If this ancient document does indeed exist, those 19 subterranean levels would still sound exaggerated. The so far excavated eight levels at Derinkuyu hit the 55-meter mark. Calculating along the same scale, the deepest galleries at Özkonak should run in a depth of 144 meters. Working at such profundity presents many engineering problems even today, with ventilation and the influx of ground water being the principal ones. And if there was no water in the subsoil, what did the inhabitants drink? No “city” can exist without water.
At present, illuminated and accessible are a dozen chambers, four large halls and eight cells, all close to the surface.
Along the Avanos-Gülsehir road are other troglodyte habitations of lesser importance (Yesilöz-Ören). The 4th century monastery of Belha is worth visiting.