Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Living in a Cave

Caves of the Ilhara Valley in Cappadocia (notice the little spots for pigeon nesting, which people used to encourage near their houses)

As you can imagine, a cave is not the best living environment.  It’s cold, cramped, and the walls are hard and rough.  However, thousands of years ago, people in the Cappadocia Region in Central Turkey perfected this lifestyle.  They didn’t live in caves all the time. They built monasteries and churches in which to worship, as well as dwellings that have lasted for thousands of years. In my visits, I could see doors, pillars, and air shafts in the caves.  I also saw places to tie up animals, blackened ceilings above cooking areas, coffin-like trenches for the deceased, and religious paintings (frescos) on the walls. The people who built these, by hand, must have been very smart!

Since I arrived in Turkey, I’ve also been trying out cave life.  In Goreme (Cappadocia), my hotel was built into the rock, amongst the real ancient caves.  This is common for the hotels in that town, and I loved it!  My only complaint was that it was a little dark since there was only one small window.  Overall, it felt very peaceful and it was fun to fit into the natural world around me.  Many of you requested a video tour, so here it is. It was pretty unusual:

Busy Istanbul, as viewed from the Bosphorus River ferry

I’ve also been living in a cave-like room in Istanbul, although I don’t think these hotel managers had that intent in this case.  Istanbul is just more expensive to travel in.  So, for about the same price that I paid in Cappadocia, I have a room that is so small that I can barely walk around the bed. In addition to the small size of the room, my bathroom has that musty smell that unfortunately is coming from shower mold this time and not from natural rock.  It’s not ideal, but it’s otherwise clean and in a great, centrally located spot.  You don’t need a video tour of the hotel though — it’s not so exciting.

I also felt a bit like I was living in a cave today because it was my first real lonely day since I left the United States.  I’ve been lucky to have met so many warm new friends in Ukraine and Turkey.  Today, I spent most of the day by myself.  In the morning, I tried to meet up with a Turkish woman who was actually my sister’s middle school penpal.  Unfortunately, due to the Labor Day holiday here (May Day), there were many political demonstrations and roads were closed. I spent close to two hours trying to take public transportation to meet her, but eventually gave up. The journey was challenging but interesting.  I had one bus driver spend a long time trying to help me figure out where to go, even though he spoke no English. He drove me to the spot to get the right bus and wouldn’t let me pay him.  I also had a second bus driver who literally got out of the bus and had a fist fight with another bus driver (a bunch of passengers on my bus got out and broke up the fight — they were responsible bystanders!).

An old Turkish man on Prince’s Island gave me these flowers, even though he couldn't answer my question about directions due to the language barrier.

In the end, some people here are very kind and some are not, like anywhere you go. I mostly did my own thing, wandering the city and taking a public ferry to a place called Prince’s Island. It was nice to explore on my own, but I am starting to look forward to coming home to the familiar places that I know and love.

It’s likely that the early people who lived in the Cappadocia caves were squished inside in large groups. While sometimes our classroom space can feel squished like that, I imagine that it would be easier to live in a cave if you had good company. I do wish you all could join me over here! Tomorrow, I will try to visit some of the big tourist sites in Istanbul, like the ones listed here.  Since you can’t fly over yourself, let me know what sites YOU think I should visit!

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23 thoughts on “Living in a Cave

  1. Cora HB Edelman on said:

    It didn’t let me watch the video tour. It said this video is private. It says you have to give me special access.

  2. Great post Sara! Sorry that you were lonely today :(( Enjoy the sights and sounds of Istanbul. It is an amazing city. Take care and be safe!!

  3. Edith Collins 7th grade student on said:

    ummm, it wont let me watch it, it says its privite =/

  4. anna HB Edelman on said:

    hi Ms. Krakauer!!!
    i watched the video, and i showed it to my mom, she thought it was really cool, and pretty good. i thought it was cool too!
    i like the picture you took of Istanbul, it looks pretty cool. i also like the picture of the flowers that you took, they look good. are they daisies?

    anyways, here are the places that i ABSOLUTELY recommand that you go to:
    – Underground Cistern
    – Hippodrome
    and
    – Princes’ Islands (i know you already went to one of them, but why not try the others?)

    and here are the places that you CAN go to:
    – Pera & Galata Area
    and
    – The Blue Mosque

    IACS misses you!!! ;)

    • Thanks, Anna! I went to the Blue Mosque, Underground Cistern, and Hippodrome today. They were very cool! Not sure about Pera and Galata Area, but hope to fit that in too. Having a great time but looking forward to being back to IACS soon too.

  5. What is the hotel made of, like was it caved into the mountain.

  6. Lovinia on said:

    I think I like the magical land of turkey! My aunt visited there once after the iron cutain fell when she was a kid. =:)

  7. Lovinia on said:

    Ms.Kalpus told us about Italy today. (May 2nd) She talked abou thow the romans tried to conquer a bunch of countries. Did they try to conquer turkey too?

  8. Sophia M. on said:

    In your posts of turkey there are always hot air balloons. Do you see those a lot? Is it meant for fun or actual transportation? Have fun!!!

  9. Aria (HB KELLER) on said:

    This hotel is amazing! I looked it up to see more pictures and it is 4 and 1/2 stars! :)
    Does it have dirty floors like a cave would? Also, is there many bugs where you are staying? Have fun!

    • I can’t remember exactly what the floors were made of, but they were clean. And the hotel provided little slippers, which was fun. I didn’t see any bugs in the room. Outside in the dirt I’ve seen lots of bugs though!

  10. emily gray on said:

    I bet it’s cool to stay in a cave, how many days did you stay for in the cave? Were you a responsible bystander? Did the second Bus driver that was in the fight speek english?
    Hope you answer these questions, and come back innovation real soon we all miss you and can’t wait for you to return!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Claire Ahn on said:

    i can’t believe it is so pretty in your cave hotel! How does it do that???

  12. Pingback: Students at Innovation Respond « Innovation on Earth

  13. Monica L on said:

    I have never been to Turkey. I wonder how hard they worked to build the hotel into the mountine like that?It mush have been hard. I’m not sure if I would like turkey that much. I would have liked trying to ride in the hot air balloons though. I read that a large population is muslem but what language do they speak and are there a lot of poor areas. Do people climb the mountians? The mountian looked amazing. What do kids do for fun there?

  14. Sydney C. on said:

    What language did they speak? Turkish? Is that even a language? And did you learn how to speak it? How was it different from Boston? Well, I hope you had fun!

    • Thanks Sydney. Yes, Turkish is the language most commonly spoken in Turkey. I was able to find enough people who spoke English to get around ok in touristy areas. For example, most people who work in restaurants and shops speak a little English! I had a lot of fun learning and trying to get around despite the language differences. I did lots of observing too!

  15. I liked how everything was set up,thinking about sleeping in a cave seems cool. It also seems nice to wake up without straining your eyes on the sunlight. have you gone in a cave for a day while you were there?

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