Eeek! It’s been over a month since we took this little weekend trip, so it’s about time I catch you all up. On Veteran’s Day back in the first half of November, we decided to make the drive up to the Cappadocia region and spend a few days away from what was starting to seem like Adana’s eternal summer. Known for it’s unique landscape, it’s history, it’s cooler temps and its cave hotels, Cappadocia must be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey, besides the beaches. (In fact, just take a look at the cover of the Lonely Planet for Turkey and you’ll see an image of Cappadocia’s “fairy chimneys.”) Even though we deliberately chose an off-season time to go, we still encountered our fair share of tour buses full of Germans, Spaniards, Koreans, Aussies, and probably many others. It certainly was beautiful as well as very hospitable and tourist-friendly, so I definitely understand the appeal.
Check out where we stayed!
Here’s the inside of our room:
No clocks, no t.v. and no radio (oh, and no heat the first night because we couldn’t get the radiator going…), so it was the perfect antidote to feeling cooped up on base.
When we arrived into the town of Goreme, which seems like the most central place stay among the handful of small towns in the area, the hotel owner, Hasan, offered to hop in our car and guide us through an extensive driving tour of the area to get us acclimated. His tour took a good couple of hours and then culminated (of course) with a little carpet show at his carpet shop.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early and witnessed this from the upper terrace of the hotel:
This picture hardly does it justice. It was a ballet of balloons, like bubbles floating up from the ocean floor. They brought the sunrise with them as they appeared to lift off from hidden corners of the town, rising up, swirling together in slow motion, and then drifting away as the sun rose higher. Our intention was to be up in one of those balloons, but our reservation ended up being set for the following morning. Personally, I think it ended up for the best, because seeing the balloon dance the first morning made riding in one even more thrilling.
After breakfast (fruit, cheese, olives, tomatoes, scrambled eggs and plenty of hot tea) we visited the Goreme open-air museum. It consisted of a short walk in and among a handful of the stone formations that featured a collection of the preserved cave churches. Most of them were carved out of the rock sometime in the 9th century, and many were complete with pews, arches, burial chambers, and baptismal baths–all carved right out of the stone. A lot of them also had extensive paintings and murals. Wandering in and out of all of that history was quite impressive, but the crowds of European tourists pushing to get their entire bus tour group inside the entrance to each cave made it a bit of a race to get in and out of a given given cave before we were squished against walls and railings and forced to listen to lengthy German or French explanations. If November is part of the off-season, then this would certainly not be an activity I’d recommend for the summer months…
That afternoon, however, we got to experience an entirely crowd/tourist free hike through another lovely valley led by Hasan’s oldest son. He was home from university for the weekend and apparently enjoys opportunities to take the hotel’s more active or kid-free guests along some of his favorite trails and walks. J got the opportunity to learn all about Turkish football (i.e. soccer) teams as we wound along a small creek bed at the base of a small canyon. It was so nice to see fall colors on the birch and apricot trees. I never realized how much we can miss the seasons with all five senses. I needed to see those golds and browns as much as I wanted to feel that nip in the air.
The next morning, 5:30am to be exact, the air was a bit more than just nippy. I broke out the hat and gloves and leggings under my jeans–yep, I’m a chicken–to ride in a hot air balloon. The ballooning company’s shuttle bus picked us up from the hotel before sunrise, and by around 6:30am we were here watching as our balloon filled:
Our little section of the balloon basket ended up being right next to the pilot, and his propane tanks, so I think we were a little warmer than most. We also got to see the flames shooting up into the balloon.
We took many more pictures, so this is just a sampling. But, despite the fact that our basket held around 20 people, riding in that balloon was quite a quiet, peaceful and contemplative experience. People did chat a bit and plenty of photos were snapped, but I think we were all mesmerized by the the gentle way that we hung in the air and by the fact that floating so high without any feeling of movement. I hardly felt a breeze and when the flames were off the silence was profound.
After about an hour, we landed gently, directly onto the bed of the truck. The pilot and his crew then poured everyone a cocktail right at the landing site–a mix of sparkling wine and sour cherry juice–and we then filed back into the shuttle buses where we were dropped at our respective hotels in plenty of time for breakfast. Food was definitely on our minds at that point.
After we ate and packed up, it was time to head back. By the time we got back to Adana a few hours later, we were sweating in our long sleeves and even had the AC on in the car.
By now, the rainy season has finally kicked off to an intense, if late start. It’s been in the mid-50’s on wet days, which is certainly chilly compared to the summer. Fairly soon, though, we’ll have the chance to see some snow, and we’re definitely looking forward to it! More on that to come!