We had a massive day today – absolutely massive. I’ve desperately wanted to come to Cappadocia since I was in Turkey 12 years ago, and have finally gotten to see it!
We got up at sparrow’s fart to go hot air ballooning over Cappadocia. We set off at about 4.45am, went to the launch site, a ridge on the eastern side of Goreme, and took off just as the sun was rising. Our pilot, Mustafa… or Mustafasan as the rest of our (largely Japanese) co-ballooners were calling him, seemed particularly good at what he does. He took us straight off the ridge and down into one of the valleys to get in close to the caves and the crazy volcanic landscape. It really is a strange and almost surreal environment. The people here have been cave dwellers for thousands of years, and as the valley has eroded, their caves have moved further and further down the valley, which is why there are homes way up the side of very steep mountainsides. The result is these mountains dotted with holes like swiss cheese that people used to live in.
We floated around for about an hour, and the landscape was amazing, it was worth every cent of the very expensive 289YTL that it cost to go. I took lots and lots of photos (which i have already had backed up to disc 😉 and when we landed, Mustafa did a great job of putting us down lightly onto the back of a trailer…. so they could drive the basket straight back to base! Got to sit around admiring the view and drinking champagne mixed with sour cherry juice, which was surprisingly nice and went down really easy! Several champagnes later (and all before breakfast) we trundled back to the pension to get on with the day.
After a quick breakfast, we went to the Goreme Open Air Museum, which was amazing…. and might have been even more amazing if we didn’t have to navigate around truckloads of Japanese tourists and their extremely pushy guides! 😐 The museum is a series of caves that has a number of churches built into them with these amazing early period frescos painted in the ceilings. There were also a monastery and a nunnery sections built into the cliff sides.
After the Open Air Museum we went for lunch…. kebaps again! And after lunch we had a bus tour organised to try and get a better look at the Cappadocia region…. which covers about half a dozen townships. First stop was Derinkuyu (which means Deep Well). Derinkuyu is an underground city first started about 2000BC by the Hitites who used the underground caves to avoid their enemies. The city goes down in 8 levels and ends up about 50 odd meters underground. They had areas caved out for stables, sleeping quarters, kitchens, wine cellar, church and school … everything. The whole thing is like a maze underground, and if it were not for the benefit of the signs, I think it would be very easy to get lost down there. They used to drag their livestock and valuables underground when ever there was a threat of invasion, and then roll these massive millstones across the tunnels to block the entrance ways. Most of the passageways and stairways are so small that even I, at barely 5’0″ had to crouch over almost doubled to go through them. Yale – you’d never make it down here… the steps are so tiny too, I kept thinking of you having to crab walk your way down them! 🙂