St Mercurius underground city in Turkey's Cappadocia ready for visitors
AKSARAY – Anadolu Agency
AA photoThe St. Mercurius underground city in Turkey’s Cappadocia region has been opened to tourism, giving visitors a chance to see its unique church, mass graveyard and upright stones.
Aksaray Culture and Tourism Director Mustafa Doğan said the area between the Hasandağı and Erciyes mounts had many underground cities, noting more than 20 were registered in the Central Anatolian province. He also said the Kırkgöz underground city in the Saratlı district was one of the most popular places for foreign tourists.
“The Kırkgöz underground city is visited by approximately 170,000 people each year. This is why we have initiated work to open St. Mercirius, the second underground city in the district, to tourism,” he said.
Doğan said work began at the end of 2011, adding, “The Culture and Tourism Directorate, the Akaray Museum Directorate and Saratlı Municipality collaborated and finished the cleaning, lightning system and arrangement of four floors of the seven-floor underground city. By 2016, the underground city has become ready to visit.”
Doğan said St. Mercirius’ church and security system made it stand out among the other underground cities in Cappadocia.
“This is a very complicated and functional underground city; a big place, which was designed for big groups to live together for a long time. It has a church and this makes it different from others in the region. There is a rock-carved mass graveyard in the foundation of the church. Its granaries, air-conditioning systems, toilet system and water well are striking. Underground cities are generally safe. Therefore they do not have a different security system. But we see in this city that there is a sliding door system in each room in all corridors. Much attention has been paid to security in the passages and extraordinary security measures have been taken,” Doğan said, adding it was safe and easy to visit the underground city.
“This place is on the route of tourists visiting Cappadocia. They will be able to visit the city quickly and spare time for other places in Cappadocia. The city offers two different alternatives: A long and a short walking route. It also has an emergency exit. One of the most special underground cities in Cappadocia, St. Mercirius got full marks from travel agencies. Visitors leave this place very happy.”
Saratlı Mayor Nedim Uğuz said the Kırkgöz underground city was visited by 17,000 tourists in 2009 and 178,000 in 2014, adding that it “couldn’t handle this capacity.”
“The number of tourists increases all the time. There is a crowd particularly in the morning and evening hours. This is why we have opened the St. Mercuries underground city as a second tourist attraction. This is one of the biggest underground cities in the region. Its church was used at the time of St. Mercurius when Christianity was forbidden in the 250s. There are underground cities in many places of our district. We carried out partial work here and readied this city, which has a church and a visiting place called the ‘Develi Dam’ as well as more than 35 upright stones, for tourists. Our goal is to draw 500,000 tourists to Kırkgöz and Mercuries.”