Balloons, Bikes and Fairy Chimneys
Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
12Trip End Apr 21, 2009
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Where I stayed
Wednesday morning we woke up to our last delicious breakfast at Anzac Golden Pension in Kusadasi. After packing our belongings we were ready to take off, once again having to navigate the extremely narrow and bumpy streets. This time however, we made it pretty much unscathed until getting a little confused when trying to return the rental car at the airport in Izmir. Apparently here they like to meet you at the terminal entrance to get the car from you. Quite nice actually but just not when you are initially driving around trying to find a place to return the car.
Our flight to the Cappadocia region was are smoothest yet (landing still a bit rough). We arrived in Kayesri which is about 100 km from Goreme where we were staying
Immediately upon arriving in Cappadocia, we were impressed by the landscape, which is unlike anything either of us have ever seen before. It actually sort of feels like you are on another planet, or the moon perhaps. It's hard to explain and the pictures really don't do it justice, but the landscape is covered with large rock formations as well as tall, narrow ones (called fairy chimneys), many of which have caves within them. The landscape is apparently the result of volcanic ash which has slowly eroded over thousands of years, leaving different shaped peaks and valleys, which enabled ancient civilizations in this region to build caves and even underground cities. Back in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, the people who lived in these caves were farmers and artisans. Many areas in the region are still very fertile regions and there are also a village which is still very famous for it's pottery. Outdoorsy tourism is now the area's main draw, and is what made us want to visit!
We decided that while we are here, we might as well experience life as cave dwellers, and decided to stay in a cave hotel
We started our day very early Thursday morning, waking up at 5:30, and then got picked up at our hotel at 5:50 for our hot air balloon ride. Balloon rides are very popular in this area due to the beautiful views, so we decided to splurge and do it. And we figured while we were splurging....we might as well do it right, so we paid extra to go deluxe-style, which meant double the flight time and half the amount of people in our balloon
Since our flight began so early, we were able to make it back to our cave in time for a delicious Turkish breakfast and some more conversation with the Germans. We spent the rest of the morning checking out the Goreme Open Air Museum, and were even able to briefly meet up with Atacan for some tasty Turkish ice cream at the cafe there. He is in the area with his tour group for several days, and we were lucky to cross paths for 15 minutes! The Open Air Museum is an outdoor museum which features several large caves which were utilized as churches back in the 9th and 10th centuries. Many of them featured superb Byzantine frescoes depicting biblical scenes. Though impressive in it's own right, we have seen so many incredible things in the past week that we are sort of a tough crowd at this point, so we didn't spend a whole lot of time there
We enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch at Mercan Cafe, overlooking "downtown" Goreme. We weren't going to eat very much, but then our waiter reassured us that the Turks say "a man without a big belly is like a house without a balcony. This does not apply to women." So we sat and enjoyed a few Turkish Pides (Turkish pizza) before heading out on an afternoon hike through Pigeon Valley. We took a bus up to Uchisar, the village just past ours, and enjoyed a nice hike back to our hotel. The views were beautiful, but we did apparently take a wrong turn at one point, as we suddenly found ourselves overlooking a huge canyon, with no way to go but backwards. After backtracking a bit and making our way around to the other side of some huge rocks we found our way back to where we needed to be, so it worked out ok!
After our hike, we ended up back at our hotel, where we enjoyed a dinner of left-over pizza and Cappadocian wine. We then headed off to see a whirling dervish ceremony in a nearby village. Whirling dervishes are members of the Mevlevi order of the Sufi sect of Islam. They are known as whirling dervishes because of their practice of whirling as a form of remembrance of god. The show was an hour long, and the combination of the music and watching them whirl put me in somewhat of a trance-like state
Friday morning we awoke to gray skies and rain, and were immediately thankful that we had done our ballooning the day prior. Mark and Cheryl, our previously mentioned Canadian friends we met in Cappadocia, met us bright and early at 9 am. We had decided to rent a car together for the day so that we could explore some of the more distant regions of Cappadocia. Our plan was to first visit Derinkuyu, an underground city, and then head to Ihlara Valley, a lush and fertile hiking area about 100 km away from Goreme. We decided to go with the original plan despite the rain and gloomy weather.
The four of us arrived at Derinkuyu at about 10:30 am, to find that there were no guides there. This was unfortunate, as we had planned to hire a guide to help us navigate the underground city and put things in perspective for us. We proceeded without a guide, and climbed around the underground city ourselves. It was quite impressive, as it went down about 7 stories, with many rooms and narrow winding hallways and staircases
Although it was still raining when we left Derinkuyu, we decided to go ahead with our planned hike anyways. As we drove away from Derinkuyu, we noticed a drastic change in the landscape, which became much more green and fertile. By the time we made it to Ihlara the rain had turned to a persistent drizzle. We made our way down 320 steps (seemed like way more on the way up...not gonna lie) to enter the valley. The hiking path followed the river on either side, though it was frequently broken up with rock formations which we had to navigate our way through. There were also frequent churches carved into the rocks forming the walls of the valley, several of which we visited on our walk. We had an enjoyable hike despite the rain, and took a lunch break when we got to the next village, Bellisirma.
Our hike back to Ihlara was equally enjoyable, other than some very annoying sheepdogs which followed us barking for quite a while. We really enjoyed the walk, as well as getting to know Mark and Cheryl
On Saturday morning, we awoke to our usual delicious breakfast at Elif Star. We enjoyed a lazy morning before heading off to rent some mopeds for the day. After a quick lesson on how to use the scooters, we were off! I should mention that the weather was absolutely gorgeous....sunny, 60 degrees, blue skies. We started our scooter adventure by heading north to the sleepy town of Cavusin, where we explored the "ghost town" and took a quick hike through the beautiful red valley. We then continued our journey, heading to Pasabagi where we relaxed and enjoyed some tea while overlooking the Zelve Valley. Michael's moped decided it no longer wanted to start up, so we had to call the rental company and wait for them to bring him a new one
We made our way towards Urgup through the Devrent Valley, also known as the valley of fairy chimneys. After stopping and taking a short hike through the valley, we continued on to Urgup, where we stopped for a lunch of Doner Kebap. We then headed south for one last stop in the village of Mustafapasa. This was an interesting village, as it was a mainly Greek village prior to the revolution in the 1920's. This was very obvious in the architecture of the homes and buildings in the village. We drove through the quaint town for a bit, and then stopped for some Salep at a beautiful little cafe overlooking the main square. Salep is a Turkish wintery drink, made from orchid root which is heated with sugar, milk and cinnamon. It is quite tasty.
After a long ride back to Goreme we dropped off the bikes and headed back to our favorite coffee bar and A'laturca, where we are now enjoying a relaxing few hours of blogging and reading before we grab dinner.
Tomorrow we will head back to Istanbul for our last few days in Turkey. We hope all is well at home, and GO SPARTANS!!! (That was obviously Michael)
Until next time,
Bianca and Michael