Underground Cities Fairy Chimneys Hot Air Balloons

Trip Start Nov 01, 2006
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Trip End Aug 01, 2007


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Friday, June 1, 2007

"Wake Up!" "Huh?" I say in a total drowsed state. Daniel is looking at me on the bus, I have no idea what time it is, but I look out the window and all I see is a village that looks like it should be in a Star Wars film. Daniel say's we're in Goreme, Turkey. This is where we are supposed to get off, but me being still half asleep looked at him and said, "Do you think they're going to stop the bus?" He gives me this weird look, obviously because I am talking gibberish, but next thing I know we have stopped and the bus driver is shouting at us to get off. I scramble for my things, throw them out the bus door and zip around to grab my pack from Daniel. Here we are, its 445 am, I'm half asleep and not sure what is going on... welcome to Cappadocia!

I look around to take in my new surroundings. Daniel and I came all this way for a lot of reasons. The region called, Cappadocia, is famed for these amazing underground cities built back in the 7th century AD, fairy chimneys formed from volcanic action and weathering of earth over centuries, and incredible churches and monasteries carved into the mountains all around the region. There is a lot of history here and one way to see it all is by Hot-air Balloon. Being on a budget, I opted for hiking up to a great look out point instead of the balloon ride, but this was Daniels big reason for coming to Goreme.

A few minutes after arrival I spotted the ballooning agency and sent him over to inquire. If he flew that morning he could join me on the bus tour of the area and then come with me to Istanbul that evening. My mission was to see all of Cappadocia in one day so that I could have two full days in Istanbul. He came running back saying they had one spot open, would I do it if I were him? No question, YES!! He jumped in the van and off he went. I left our bags at the bus tour agency and made my way up to this great look out point for a panorama view of Goreme and all the balloons taking off.

6am and all the villagers were still sleeping. I wandered the streets till I came to the top of the hill. Looking out all I saw were these rock formations sticking up like huge mushrooms. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, it was like a dream; something you never thought could be real. I watched as the balloons filled with air and lifted off the ground, swaying in and out of the rocks below giving the viewers a look at the fairy chimneys from above. Deep down I was jealous I couldn't be with Daniel, but that's the life of a traveler. I have to pick and choose where I spend my money and sailing the Mediterranean was my splurge!

A couple hours of lingering around the town I came back to the tour bus company where the kind gentleman agreed to take me to the Fairy Chimneys outside of town. This part wasn't on the bus tour and it was a big reason for coming, so I paid him an extra 10 lira to drive me out and let me look around. Sure glad I didn't miss this, it was incredible. The fairy chimneys were created by the 3 volcanoes in the area and then weathered into the shapes they create by the wind and rain. I walked around in amazement and wonder with everyone else at this site. How could I be seeing this? How could the earth me molded in such a way? It was truly amazing!

930am Daniel comes back from the balloon ride in astonishment at how great it was. Unfortunately, the sky was a bit hazy so he wasn't sure if he got any good clear shots, but the experience he said was worth it, again I was jealous! We boarded the bus as he told me his tail and made our way to the 1st of many stops on the tour, Goreme Panorama. Having done my own hike on the other side of Goreme, this view was no different, but great none-the-less. The next stop was what Daniel and I was waiting for, the underground city of Derinkuyu. Claustrophobics beware; the passageways are so small, that I thought maybe midgets lived there! The tour guide took us through the passages of the 8 open floors of the city. Only a third of the city is open to the public, as the rest has collapsed passages or not safe for visitors. What we saw was plenty for my eyes see. I got a great idea at how they lived in this underground dwelling: where they slept, cooked, worshiped, buried their dead, kept the animals, and even blocked out intruders. I felt like I was in an Indian Jones movie. This sight everyone should see, at times the passages get so narrow you have to bend over at the waste and the walls are touching your hips. The temperature remains cool all year long and huge airshafts circulate fresh air throughout each floor. They don't even need chimneys for smoke because the volcanic rock that they dug into absorbs the smoke making for ideal ventilation. Wow!!

After the underground city it would be hard to find interest in the rest of the tour and Daniel and I were fading fast from exhaustion. We continued on to Ihlara Valley for a 3km hike and churches built into the rock face. Lunch was at the end of the hike and a good incentive to hike quickly. The churches were interesting, being carved into the rock, with vibrant frescos painted on the inside chamber. They used pigeon droppings to create the paint for the frescos and local pistachio trees, poppies and other natural flora to add color.

The tour continued after lunch to another panoramic view at Yaprakhisar, this is where people say it's out of a Star Wars film, and then a tour of Selime Monastery, built on a huge part of the mountain. Finally after a long day we finished at Pigeon Valley before heading back to Goreme to unload. The tour was incredible and well worth the money, its really the only way to see the sight here because its all so far away from each other.

Daniel and I got our bus tickets, but had a couple hours to kill. What else to do, but check email and charge up our electronics. I went to the bathroom and took a sink bath trying to freshen up before getting on another overnight bus. I really don't recommend this, unless you are crazy! Going back to the bus station we had the biggest surprise ever, Becca!

Couldn't believe our eyes when we saw her coming out of the ticket office. Big hugs were exchanged and inquiries asked. Turned out they too were going to Istanbul that night, we were all on the same bus! Funny how we parted with Becca and Katie in Greece and met up again in Turkey. Travelers Fate I call it! Again we would be traveling together, let the fun begin... after the bus ride that is.

830pm we all boarded the bus to Istanbul. This time it would be an 11 hour bus ride, not to bad considering how exhausted I was, but it turned out to be a ride from hell. No sleep was had until I took drugs, although that only gave me 3 hours sleep. The next morning I would be out of the village life of Turkey and into the bustling big city. Two days to see what I could and enjoy my time with Daniel, Katie, and Becca before parting ways.
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