20 November 2012

Heaven & Hell Caves

“The Caves of Heaven and Hell (Cennet ve Cehennem), near Kizkalesi are worth a visit as natural phenomena, and also as historical points of interest,” writes Tom Brosnahan, of the Turkey Travel Planner website. “As you approach the caves along the access road from the Mediterranean coastal highway, you’ll see the lofty walls of a huge Temple of Zeus erected here in homage to the king of the gods who features prominently in the ancient myths related to the caves.” -
Text by TurkeyTravelPlanner.com copyright © by Tom Brosnahan & Travel Info Exchange, Inc. Used by permission. 

Entrance Fee - 5 TL
Getting There - About 2.5-3 hours from Incirlik depending on season and traffic.  Outdoor Rec has trips to this location and rents GPS.
38° 57’ 49.48” N  35° 14’ 35.96” E
Physical Difficulty - HARD. Going down the 455 steps into the cool cave is "Heaven" but climbing out is "Hell." 
If the climb is too difficult wait at the restaurant on sight. There are cool drinks, çay and snacks, restrooms and a bit of shopping.

“Look upon it as a nature walk: old trees, birdsong, seasonal flowers. The air cools as you go down along the mostly shady path to the great mouth of the cave, where the air is really cool and damp.”

According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “Access to the bottom of the hollow called “heaven” has 455 steps built during the Roman era. The steps to the hollow were restored in some parts. The mouth of the Heaven Hollows is about 200 meters wide and the deepest point is 70 meters below the ground.”

Brosnahan warns, “In the cool, damp atmosphere of the cave mouth, the rough stone steps can be slippery. Walk with care. If you are injured, it will take time for help to arrive.
Once you’ve descended two-thirds of the steps, you’ll come down to a flat area below the chapel, where it’s blissfully cool, and a table and a few chairs provide a place to rest. Yet another 97 steps and you are down into the cave itself, with enough natural and artificial light that you can walk without a flashlight/torch.”

From the Turkish Ministry of Culture & Tourism:

The Virgin Mary Chapel

“There is a chapel assumed to be constructed in the 5th or 6th century A.D. The entrance door of the chapel, is an inscription that a religious person call Paulus constructed and devoted the chapel to the Virgin Mary. The inside of the dome is decorated with frescoes of Jesus and his 12 apostles. At the bottom of the hollow there is a small river that reaches to the sea from Narlikuyu after traversing a long distance under ground.”

Legend of Hell Hollow

“It is believed that a famous legend from the ancient polytheist Greek culture took place in this region. The story which also has some different versions is something like this: Typhoon, which is a great dragon with 100 heads and fire in his mouth, was fighting with Zeus, god of the gods. The dragon wins this battle and imprisons Zeus in the cave that is now called Hell Hollow.

Another important goddess, Hermes, rescues Zeus with the help of Pan. Zeus begins to follow Typhoon, and when he catches Typhoon he throws the volcano Etna at the giant dragon and imprisons him deep in the ground. The story of the volcano Etna in Sicily - which was the most thrilling volcano in the ancient times and is also active today - has close links with this legend. Possibly because of this story or for its thrilling depth, the hollow is called Hell.”

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