A Tale in Red: Summer, sinkholes and caves

June 29th, 2011

We left Göreme early (I revisited Cappadocia), not too soon, which prevented us from enjoying breakfast in the sunny garden. We took the opportunity to take some pictures along the cherry tree.

The road ran south, passing between mountains; I first noticed that the weather seemed drier, even though we were going to the Mediterranean region. Suddenly we come across a wheat field. Fırat stopped to smoke, and I got time to do some shoots. Fields of crops cover the land and are not fenced and mingle with buildings, villas, and other cultures. Many people help themselves to those fruits growing. For example, I saw many picking olives in trees near the road.

The first stop came after a couple of hours, the place Kanlıdivane. Located in rural Erdemli was a settlement part of the Kingdom of Olba. In the north necropolis, we can find the tomb built by Queen Aba for her husband and sons. The inscription in a tower in the southeast can be read: “Built by Teukros king priest’s son Tarkayaris of Olba to Zeus.” Later the Byzantines, specifically Theodosius II, transformed the city into a Christian town. Walking the site, it is possible to find ruins of basilicas, cisterns, and tombs from Byzantine. 

I’ve walked among the rocks through narrow paths, constantly feeling connected to something, with the history I was learning, the people who lived there, with myself. It was summer in Turkey, and the heat was intense. The temperature was around 37º C, and the only way to continue going was to stop occasionally for refreshments.

Next stop, Hell and Heaven. Oops! Oddly enough, we visited them, and Hell is more beautiful than Heaven. Cennet (Heaven) and Cehennem (Hell) are the names of two sinkholes in the Taurus mountains in the Mersin Province located next to each other in the rural area of the Silifke district and are tourist attractions in the region. 

Cennet is 250 by 110 m2 with an average depth of 70 m. It’s possible to reach the bottom of the sinkhole through a staircase with 300 steps. In 2020 an elevator was added to the attraction. Why go to the bottom? There you can find a cave inside a ruin of a monastery built in the 5th century by Paulus and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. If you stay inside the cave, you can hear the sound of an underground stream flowing from the monastery to the Jul of Narlikuyu.

Cehennem is deeper, around 128 m but has a top opening smaller than Cennet, around 70 by 50 m2. As the upper edge of the mouth of the sinkhole is concave, it is impossible to reach the bottom.

In mythology, in Cehennem, Zeus kept Typhon before imprisoning him under Mount Etna. 

I would not stop my visits to the underground of the Taurus Mountains in Heaven and Hell; it would continue to Dilek Mağarası or Wishes Cave, a few kilometres from Heaven and Hell. The cave is a natural formation full of stalagmites and stalactites rich in calcium carbonate. The air inside the cave is very humid and excellent for those suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems. We used a stair with steps excavated in Roman times to enter the cave. It was easier to breathe inside the cave, and I felt his lungs had been “open”. The place was full of people walking, marvelling at the beauty. They walked looking, breathing deeply, and enjoying the fantastic view created by nature.

Out of the cave, we follow the coast to a city southwest of Mersin, Kizkalesi or Maiden Castle, because the castle is in the middle of the sea on an island 200 meters from the beach. The court built by the Greeks in the 4th century BC has the ruins of a Byzantine church. The curious thing is that this tiny island was connected to the mainland in ancient times, forming a small peninsula. To reach the castle, we have to use a boat. The boat was very noisy, and the three manoeuvred boys were confused. They jump from side to side like a small child when excited about something. The first stop was to transfer one of them to another boat. 

The archaeological site was well preserved, with fantastic proportionating opportunities for photos. One of the moments I enjoyed the most was when I could get near the water. Sitting on a rock and enjoying the beautiful blue sea before my eyes. 

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