Sunday was a great day of learning about Cappadocia’s history and exploring the unique landscape! The day began viewing Cappadocian Valleys from a hot air balloon launched at 6:00 a.m. to capture the sunrise – smile!
Later I joined a hiking group for a walk through rock formations and cave cities in the northern part of Cappadocia. Our hiking included Avanos, Devrent Valley, Monks Valley, and Red Valley.
The last stop of the day was Göreme Open Air Museum in Zelve Valley. “The Open Air Museum forms a coherent geographical entity and represents historical unity. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches containing tables and benches. Most of the churches in the Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.”
The hot air balloon ride was spectacular! Luckily we had good weather. According to our pilot, so far this spring high winds caused many balloon ride cancellations. Our balloon with 16 people was in the air for an hour and included tourists from Denmark, France, Spain, Canada, and me.
Our handsome Portuguese pilot, Carlos, was multi-lingual and good fun. He did a great job of getting us up, around the valleys, and safely down again. Carlos also provided excellent commentary on the region as we floated along. He’s a skilled balloon pilot, an airplane pilot, and former paratrooper.
With the good weather, there were many balloons in the sky and we saw a “kiss” – two balloons touched and remained together until the wind blew them apart. Before exploring the landscape by foot, floating over the area is a tranquil way to get a dynamite birdseye view of the rock formations and fairy chimneys.
I will describe specific areas explored in more detail in other posts. The cave cities are impressive. I often go into detail in my posts and this may be a drain (at best) for some readers. Assume they will just skip that part of the blog if it’s too much… There are centuries of detailed and complex history associated with Cappadocia. It’s fascinating and a bit overwhelming. Makes me think I slept during the history classes of my youth.
I will be here through Wednesday and am doing two day-long hikes, one of north Cappadocia and the other in the south. The first hike was slightly exhausting but I loved every minute. It was nice to be outside and moving.
It gets very hot during the day and the temperatures here rise and fall quickly. Our group was small – seven plus the driver and a knowledgeable guide. We were on the move from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm. The group included a Russian couple, a young couple from Mumbai now living in London, and a woman and her daughter from Germany. The Russian couple was entertaining and flamboyant and the guy was a dead ringer for Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer – the ne’er-do-well from the movie Out of Africa. He teased me about being American, but I didn’t apologize.
Some of the Christian tourists were openly emotional when viewing ancient frescoes created on the walls in underground churches. These ancient cave churches were built by Christians to escape persecution by Roman soldiers. Extremists vandalized and defaced many of the etchings and it was a sad sight. Tourists are no longer allowed to take photos of the frescoes and a Turkish guard is present inside each cave church.
We had a delicious Turkish lunch and later stopped at two craft shops. First we visited Omurlu Ceramic Studio in Avanos where we watched a master skillfully and effortlessly turn a pottery wheel.
Then we stopped by Hadosan Hali, a well-known Turkish carpet company, in Ürgup and watched master weavers who can spend a year or more creating the intricate patterns in one carpet. These people are true artisans and their handmade pieces are treasures and works of art. I purchased a ceramic bowl and two small carpets which they are mailing to me.
More hiking tomorrow…