You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Well you can’t go. You can stare into it, but you can’t go. But you can go to ‘Heaven’.
For these are the names of two dramatic caves on the southern Turkish coast reached by a winding mountain road from the town of Narlikuyu. In Turkish, they are named ‘Cennet Çökügü’, or simply Cennet (‘Heaven’) and Cehennem Çukuru, or Cehennem (‘Hell’). They are interesting for those who like geography (particularly caves) and also those who like mythology. The mythology of these two places are fascinating.
Heaven involves a descent into a valley, or a pit. Down over 400 steps, the air gets colder and everything seems still, the cavern opens out in front of you. Birdsong bounces off the walls of the valley, giving a slightly disorientating feeling. Keep an eye open for the hundreds of pieces of cloth which have been tied to the tree branches – visitors exhibiting religious ritual. Continuing the walk over to this enormous wound in the rock makes you feel very small indeed. The valley is over 100 metres wide and almost 100 metres deep. The mouth of the cave yawns in front of you. The big shock is when you see what’s in the cave though.
Yes, that’s right, it’s a 5th century Byzantine Chapel – you really can’t move for them these days. It’s called the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, and we’ll see how that came to be there, later.
Heading past the chapel you go further into the cave. A table and chairs have been rigged up to provide somewhere for a bit of a rest. Not at the top – at the bottom.
It’s not possible to go right to the very end of the cave, as last reports indicate that it was blocked off by a barrier. But beyond this barrier is a free running underground stream (videos of this underground water source can be found online). In winter, when there’s more water running here, the stream can be heard as quite a distinctive roar apparently. It was this noise which convinced ancient peoples who visited the cave, that within the depths of this dank place, lived a monster (see the note on ‘Typhon’ below). The chapel mentioned above was so placed to try to neutralise and defend against the threat posed by this monster.
Going back up, into the burning sunlight, thoughts turn to ‘Hell’. Wandering over and away from Heaven, this cave is a massive sinkhole. The floor of the cave is inaccessible. The bottom of this huge chasm, or pit, is some 130 metres straight down. Apparently, there was, at one time, a steel ladder which led to the bottom of this pit, but there were no signs of this. The best view you can now get is from a steel viewing platform which is positionedslightly beyond the lip of the chasm, and overhanging the drop. Not for the faint hearted.
The sides of Cehennem look scorched. This is where the mythology comes in. The King of the Gods Zeus, was said to have battled Typhon, ‘The Father of All Monsters’ – a creature with over 100 serpent heads. Getting the upper hand on this slippery devil, Zeus threw Tyhpon into Cehennem, where the beast remained imprisoned. The scorch-marks are said to have been caused by Typhon’s fiery breath, in its rage, unable to escape.
So, as you can see, in this case it really is easier to get into ‘Heaven’ than it is to get into Hell.
See a video, said to be of the stream in the depths of Cennet HERE
See where this place is on a map over at TRAVPAD