Another bright and early start for me. I am not a morning person, but when it comes to getting up to do something as cool as this, I don’t seem to have as much trouble getting up! I was in my section of basket with a very nice family from New York City. They adopted me as part of their family for the balloon ride which was very nice of them. It’s a little nerve wracking getting into a hot air balloon for the first time, and it was nice to feel I wasn’t totally on my own! The day was perfect. There was hardly any wind at all, and the air was clear and crisp. The feeling of when the balloon first leaves the ground is incredible. There is hardly and movement at all, it just starts rising from the ground, rather quickly, yet gently. Our pilot Mustafa was a jokester, pretending he didn’t know what he was doing, that it was his first flight. He’d say, “Hmmm, I don’t know what this red cord is for? Maybe I should pull it and see?” In reality you have to go to school for 2 years to get your balloon pilots licence, and he was in fact quite experienced so I felt good about him, jokes and all. We went very high at first and saw the sun rise over the mountain (well, it’s actually a volcano) and got a great overview of Cappadocia. When you’re in a balloon you’re at the mercy of the winds to get you where you want to go, so in order to go in the direction we needed to go we had to go even higher to catch the right wind, then we were able to go lower to have a better look at the fairy chimneys and other geological features up close. We got so close to the ground at one point that our basket was brushing the tree tops. It was an incredible experience that everyone really must do at least once in their life. Cappadocia is considered to be one of the top places to balloon in the world, and you can clearly see how popular it is from how many balloons there are in the air.
Mustafa, our fearless leader.
This is the EXACT kitten that I want!
So, after my hot air balloon ride I was taken back to my hotel and had just enough time for breakfast before I was being picked up for my “Cappadocia Undiscovered” day tour through Heritage Turkish Travel. I already knew some of the people because we were all on the balloon ride too, so it was a good group of mostly Italians, some Kiwi’s, a Japanese and an Indian couple. Oh, and me, solo traveler! Our first stop was one of the settlements of Greek houses called Mustafapasa ((Sinasos’ in Greek.) Until 1924 there was a large number of Greek people living in Turkey (over 1 million) and over 200,000 Turks living in Greece. After living in relative harmony for years the governments decided that they were going to forcibly remove them and return them to their home lands. These people had homes, lives, friends and family here, and they had no choice but to return to Greece or Turkey. The Greek houses are quite distinctive from the Turkish houses and there are a few examples of the Greek houses in the area.
Next we went to the Keslik Monastery. It is one of the churches carved into the rock, and has the biggest refectory in the area.
There are sunflowers everywhere here!
This is a brand new archaeological find called the Sobessos Excavation area. It doesn’t have an official name yet because it’s been found so recently. A farmer was tilling the land when he came across an artifact and called the Turkish government to let them know of his find. It turns out it’s a 4th century Roman Byzantine settlement. There is a large baths area, living quarters and what they call the general hall. This is where you can see the beautifully intact mosaics. Just imagine what else is buried in the world, just waiting to be discovered!
More fairy chimneys. It’s incredible just how many of these there are here. They used them for houses, churches, storage and protection. Just incredible.
We did a short walk from the monastery to the place where we were having our lunch. We had a traditional Cappadocia meal with lentil soup, Ramadan bread, olives, honey, salad, spicy tomatoes and a sizzling clay pottery chicken dish. The food is really, really good here.
Our last stop was Derinkuyu. Cappadocia is a place like no other.