At the unearthly hour of 4:00 a.m., the alarm went off and we stumbled into our clothes to catch a bus at 4:45 so we could be at the launch field for our sunrise hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. This is widely regarded as one of the world's top tourism experiences and so despite the cost, cold and early hour we were on it. First we needed to pile into a massive 24 person basket so that you were literally packed into it as we began to ascend.
The air is cold, the sky is dark and you are grateful for the body heat of the complete stranger next to you. If you have not been in a balloon, it is a unique experience as you really feel like you are floating and the higher you get the more zen like the experience becomes. For us, that was especially true about ten minutes into the trip as the sun began to peak over the horizon turning a very cold and stark landscape into a kaleidoscope of color both in terms of the landscape and the nearly 200+ balloons which are all ascending over the horizon line.
I have been to mass ascensions before and they are impressive, but to see one in this environment with the arid rock plains stretching endlessly as far as the eye can see is really awe inspiring. There was literally a collective oohing and ahhing as the balloon begins to do a slow 360 degree turn and everyone sees the rainbow of balloons in the air with the sunrise behind them.
It was almost completely silent except for the sounds of the gas going into the balloon as we floated magically over unique rock formations, down into valleys of fairy chimney rocks and above and below other balloons.
I was definitely quite zen at this point and it made me realize once again how amazing the world is plus how lucky I am to be here to experience this! After nearly an hour, we landed with our pilot managing to land us directly onto the balloon trailer which was impressive beyond compare. We then piled out and all gathered for a champagne toast to celebrate an amazing morning and a successful flight!
The views were incomparable so there are several pictures below -- trust me, this is just a sample of what I actually took!
It was really hard to come down after this (literally!) so we returned to the hotel for breakfast and to prepare for our next adventure which took us deep underground to the subterranean city of Derinkuyu.
This is one of several underground cities that was uncovered in Turkey and where thriving communities lived. We climbed down nearly 300 feet to get to the main infrastructure which was an endless maze of tunnels, passageways, and rooms forming the basis for a bustling civilization. They used air shafts for ventilation and had intricate ways to drop goods down from up above so that they could live, eat and worship all below ground.
Some of the passageways were so tight that you almost had to crawl to get through and the steps were incredibly steep.
They also contained a ridiculous number of steps -- we must have done at least 500 while we were there. I had images of hobbit like people with the agility of goats climbing and scurrying their way through as they lived in this subterranean metropolis. It was truly amazing to think that they were able to take care of almost everything they needed while living so far below the earth's surface.
When we were done we had a chance to wonder around the call rural town where the underground city is located and got a great sense of what life is like there for the locals. I have included a few pictures below to give you a sense of truly rural Turkey beyond the cities and resort areas that we have primarily been visiting.
We then went to a local cooperative which is a rug factory that employs local weavers from nearly 80 different places in Turkey in order to help preserve the art of rug weaving and stop people from moving into the city to need to find jobs.
This particular one only employs women as weavers and part of their claim to fame is that it is this entity that produced the rug in the Vermeil Room at the White House and Martha Stewart had apparently visited them as well!
It was so interesting to hear how the silk is woven and then loomed to create these vastly detailed creations. MR and I even got to try our hand at it although neither of us is going to quite lawyering to take up loom work any time soon!
We also resisted their very persuasive sales pitch (I make you good price on rug pretty lady -- you tell me how much, I make you good deal) so no rugs for us.
Apparently they would come to America to build extra rooms on our houses though for the rugs if we bought!!
Finally we ended what was becoming a VERY long day by going to the Goreme Open Air Museum which is an outdoor complex consisting of over 100 churches carved into the rocks and in the caves.
At this point, I was a bit rocked out to be honest as all the caves were starting to look alike and after being up since 4 a.m. my mind was much more on a nap and a Coke then seeing more cave structures. However, these were well worth the effort of climbing up and down the various rocks to see the interiors of the more important churches. We were not allowed to take pictures inside them, but they contained very detailed and colorful paintings of the various saints, Jesus, Mary and other religious figures. They date back to the Byzantium era of 1500 B.C. so it is truly a miracle these have survived for so long. It was incredible to see them and wonder how they could have been created so long ago with such attention to detail.
At long last we got back to our hotel and our guide was leading an hour long hike before dinner to go explore even more rocks. My feet were rebelling at this point since we had been going nonstop all day and had climbed over 1000 steps up and down in heat up to 100 degrees so the idea of one more hike was just not doing it for me or MR (on the plus side, this is like a real life boot camp so it is whipping me into shape!). We decided instead to stay back and chill by the pool instead opting to end our day with drinks by the pool!!
While this has been an incredible trip, the pace is unlike any other tour we have done -- every day is like a marathon in that we cover a ton of stuff, go full tilt without stop and then return exhausted to our rooms every night. It is necessary to see everything, but I am definitely going to need a vacation from my vacation when this is done! Your happy to not be climbing any stairs right now travel correspondent
Alright armchair travelers get ready for some fun eye candy in the form of pictures from today's Adventure Girl post! In keeping with our pledge to go wherever we need to in order to bring you all back home the most exciting experiences, today MR and I went way up in the air (1500 feet to be exact) and then way down underground (about 300 feet). We also climbed over 800 stairs in the process, but more on that as today's adventures unfold.