Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cappadocia: Day Two

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When Mike and I found out we'd be moving to Turkey over a year ago, I began looking up what to do in Turkey.  One of the things that kept popping up was hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. It looked absolutely beautiful, but I wasn't sure how my fear of heights would handle being so high up with nothing more than a glorified basket to hold us in. I decided to bite the bullet and just go for it.  We made a reservation with Butterfly Balloons and never looked back. 

The morning started out a little rough.  The flight times are coordinated based on wind conditions, which are best around sunrise (convenient, right?).  This means that you have to wake up and be ready to be picked up at 4:30am.  I don't wake up easily and these early mornings were killing me. Luckily, I was so excited that waking up didn't seem quite so bad.  We waited downstairs for the shuttle to come pick us up, but it still hadn't shown up by 5:00.  We panicked and checked the confirmation email, only to realize that they had the wrong hotel.  I know I checked the hotel a million times when I made the reservation, just out of fear that this would happen, so I take no responsibility. Luckily, our friend the front desk guy was asleep on the couch in the lobby, so we woke him up and he called them.  They were there in a matter of minutes to pick us up and we still had time to grab a quick breakfast with the other ballooners at the meeting site. 

After breakfast, we were broken up in to our balloon groups and each group boarded a shuttle to head to their balloon.  Each group was made up of 16 people.  We were in the "couples" group, which was 8 couples all around our age.  Other groups were pretty similar, but there were a couple groups of families with kids.   Our tour guide's name was Mike Greene (not the hockey player) who spends his summers in Cappadocia flying balloons. He was great!

When we pulled up to the balloons, a wave of panic came over me.  I'm not sure what I thought I'd be in, but this was not it.  The baskets were pretty small.  There was no turning back now though, so I climbed in and said a little prayer.
Getting ready to leave

Inflating the balloons

After everyone was in, we began to ascend slowly.  We started out cruising close to the ground, which was good for my nerves.  It was also a good start to the flight because we were able to cruise in the valley and see the mountains from that perspective.  Not long after, though, we began to rise and we got pretttttyyyy high.

Looking up into our balloon

Natural Chimneys

There was only one point where I actually felt my fear of heights kick in.  We were coasting along the ground on a little bit of a plain and the next thing I knew, we were flying over a huge drop off, so we went from about 25 feet off the ground to at least a few hundred feet.  My heart definitely skipped a beat!

The city of Goreme


After over an hour of cruising around Goreme, we slowly descended and were greeted by the crew. We were able to take pictures with our balloons, and were given a certificate to commemorate our ride.  We celebrated with champagne and strawberries.

Hot air ballooning was by far one of the coolest things I've ever done (as you can tell by the number of pictures I have).  It was such a great way to see the beautiful town of Goreme in Cappadocia, especially at sunrise. I'm glad I bit the bullet and did it because it was totally worth it. 

After champagne and strawberries, we boarded the shuttle and returned to our hotel.  Despite the fact that we had been awake for almost four hours, it wasn't even eight o'clock.  I don't mess around with sleep and know that I need a good seven to eight hours to be a pleasure to be around.  So, when we got back into bed and napped for the next couple of hours.  

Once we woke up and regreeted the day, we grabbed lunch and headed out for the afternoon's excursions.  We had heard that there was a winery in Cappadocia that was pretty close, so we jumped on a bus and headed out there. 

It was so cool.  Since Cappadocia is comprised of a ton of caves, I shouldn't have been surprised when the winery was in a cave as well.   We took a tour and were able to see how they store their wine.  In the US, they store a lot of their wine in wooden barrels.  Here, they store it in the cave.  How cool is that?

After we finished the tour, we did a tasting and were pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted.  If we hadn't just bought an entire case of wine from Izmir, we probably would have bought some in Cappadocia. Luckily, they ship for free all over Turkey!  As we were leaving, a tour bus showed up with tons of people and our tour guide said that they get tons of buses and tours throughout the summer.  We quickly exited the chaos and headed back to the hotel.  

Once back at the hotel, we changed into some hiking gear and headed out for what was supposed to be a casual and leisurely hike.  We reached the path and realized that it was actually a flat, dirt road that went through the valley.  We broke off from the road to go see this church up on a hill and were greeted by the ticket collector who was very friendly.  He told us all about the different images on the walls and their meaning.  

When we left the church, Mike decided to be "adventurous."  Instead of heading back down hill to the dirt road, we followed a small path to the top of the hills. This trail seemed to be a little worn in places, but we were always able to follow it up to the top of the mountain. At one point, there was a drop off and I wanted to turn around, but Mike reassured me and helped me cross, despite the tears that came due to my lovely fear of heights.  Once we were at the top of the mountain, we were greeted with beautiful views of the area, but quickly noticed that the trail kind of ended.  

Being the melodramatic girl that I am, I began to have visions of spending the night out in the woods and the news headlines that would appear the next day. "Young Americans Lost Hiking in Turkey" was flashing before me. I wish I was kidding.  After wandering around looking for the rest of the trail, we gave up and headed back down the way we came, conquering that drop off once again, despite the tears that made their appearance.  By the time we got back to the hotel, we were definitely glad to be home. 

That evening, there was a music concert in Cappadocia. There was a month long music festival in the area, which is why we chose to come when we did.  We headed to the bus station, where there was supposed to be a shuttle to take us to the concert.  We couldn't find the shuttle, but there was a cab driver there with another American who was also going to the concert, so we jumped in.  When we pulled up to where the concert was supposed to be, we were told that the location had been moved because of weather and wasn't going to be starting for another hour.  After chatting a bit, the cab driver offered to drive us there and drop us off.  When we arrived at the new location, we were pleasantly surprised to find out it was in a cave, just like everything else in Cappadocia!  The cab driver offered us a flat rate (50TL) for the rides and promised to pick us up.

The concert was pretty incredible.  It was a jazz trio and the music echoed in the cave in a way that wouldn't have been possible anywhere else. When the concert was over, we met our cab driver and got back in with our new friend Laina (the American who had come with us).  

He dropped us off at our hotel and we proceeded to get out, thinking the fare had already been paid earlier as promised. Nope.  Mike ended up getting in a huge argument with the cab driver who was obviously trying to scam us.  As we were arguing, the hotel front desk man came out and took pictures of the license plate, which was enough of a distraction for the taxi driver so Mike, Laina and I could leave and get inside.  Laina hung out for a little bit in the lobby while the cab driver left before Mike and I walked her to her hotel down the street.

Overall, it was a great day, even if it ended with a not-so-great ending. We did some great hiking, saw a great jazz concert and most of, went hot air ballooning!!