The Balloon That Never Flew

Trip Start Jun 03, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  , Cappadocia,
Friday, July 24, 2009

We took a long overnight bus from Olympos to Goreme, a small city in Cappadocia. It is one of the most surreal places we have ever been. The landscape has pillowy looking cliffs and tall naturally occurring sandstone pillars. The strange rock formations were formed over thousands of years by wind and rain erosion. The people living in this area of Turkey have carved their homes into the pillars (sometimes called fairy chimneys by the locals). Our hostel was carved into one of the chimneys. The rooms were cave like, and smelled a little musky, but the sandstone kept the rooms cool during the hot afternoon.

After a nap, we went to explore the valleys. First we went to the open air museum. Early Christians in this part of Turkey carved their churches and monasteries into the rocks to hide them from enemies. It was very cool to walk through small doors in the rocks and see churches and homes.

Then Sarah, Brittany and To went for a hike in red and rose valley. We wanted to hike to the church of the 3 crosses. When we got there, there was a shady man selling water out of a cave who wanted to charge us money to get into the church. He definitely did not look legitimate. Tom sneaked into the church, and said it was a lot like the other churches we had seen earlier.

That night we went back to our hostel and sampled the BBQ there. We sat with 4 British student and then moved to the Flinstone bar, which was carved into a cave. There was a woman there dancing all by herself in a completely ridiculous "sexy" manner in the middle of the bar. Lindsey got up to join her, but the other woman was not interested in Lindsey stealing her spotlight and refused to dance with her. As more and more people went to dance, she was overshadowed. Lindsey and Sarah ended up getting pulled into a Russian style huddle complete with leg kicking in unison with a group of Korean tourists.

The next day we went for a hike in love valley where the sandstone columns have taken on a very particular natural shape. Before we left for our hike we went to the restaurant we had chosen for the night, Dibek, to put in our order for the traditional dish of Goreme, the Testi Kebab. Meat, garlic, tomatoes and eggplant are put into a sealed pottery jar and cooked for 3 hours. Then, the jar is broken in front of you.

As we left on our hike, a cute dog from the hostel, Tina, decided to tag along. Even as we were walking out of the town, she would not leave our side...except to dart out in front of speeding cars. We were  walking along the highway, and Tina would stay out of the street until a car came into view. Then, no amount of yelling or pleading could get her back to the side. The drivers on the highway were being forced to stop or swerve, and they were giving us nasty looks or even yelling at us. We had no idea what to do- she wasn't our dog, but we didn't want her to get hit!

We had planned to continue our hike after Love valley to Honey and Dove Valleys. We planned to hike about 4 km  to the next town, and then catch the bus back to get our dinner. Now we didn't know what to do. We had a tiny suicidal dog who we didn't think could ride the bus or find her own way home. We were forced to abandon our plans to walk further than Love valley so we could escort Tina home. Again, she was darting out into the street, and Lindsey ended up carrying her most of the way back into town. We had lot of fun doing the sexy pose in the place sexy poses were meant to be done. Unfortunately we didn't think these were blog appropriate.

 Our dinner that night was amazing. We had ordered two of the Testi Kebabs, one lamb and one chicken, and then ordered an assortment of other dishes on the menu. We tried out a traditional dessert from Goreme made of flour, oil and grape molasses. It tasted almost like the top of an apple crumble, and no one could decide if they liked it or not.

We went to bed early that night because we were very excited about our activity for the next morning. We woke up at 5, all excited and ready to go on a balloon. As we walked out of our cave we soon realized that our dreams of ballooning were probably going to be shattered because it was pouring down rain. We remained hopeful and optimistic and waited out the weather with the rest of the potential balloonist. We waited an half hour and there was a phone call which perked us all up, but they told us to wait. so we waited an hour and a man showed up and again we all perked up but he told us to wait. We waited again, others gave up and went to bed but we stayed strong determined to ride our balloon. Another man showed up this time telling us our balloon would fly but then once again shattering our dreams and hearts when only 3 people from our group would fly, and none of us were the chosen ones. So we went back to bed crushed.

When we woke up, we learned that the people who had gotten to go with the man had ended  up sitting in the rain for two hours and didn't end up flying after all. Unfortunately, the night before we had withdrawn the money for the balloon flight- about 300 dollars- and we had about 24 hours left in Turkey. We knew that we would lose money changing it, so we decided to spend what we could.  We had a great day- we bought the souvenirs we wanted, and decided to try all of the different Turkish snacks that we could manage to find.

We took the local bus to a few towns over to visit the underground cities. The people of Cappadocia built these starting in 1500 BC and continued through the Byzantine Empire. They go down 8 to 16 stories into the ground and have large stone doors that prevent invaders from entering. There are deep wells for water and tall chimneys for ventilation. The underground cities include wine presses, oil storage, livestock pens, kitchens and elaborate churches. Communities could live in these cities for weeks or months. 

As we explored these caves, we found different rooms off the main passages that were not lighted. We started daring each other to see who would go the deepest. We saw other people doing the same thing, and a brilliant idea was born. Tom decided to hide in one of the holes (it was actually a half circle with two different exits) and wait for the next  person to come through so he could scare them. Lindsey Brittany and Sarah loitered around outside and had cough-signals to let him know when someone was coming in.

After we decided to start the game people became much less brave. I don't know if the three of us hanging around the dark entrances made people suspicious, but no one was looking into the dark caverns. Tom started to get a little bored, and began to make deep growling "monster noises" which made people jump or nervously run away. The pinnacle of this was when a huge tour group came through and Tom was roaring so loudly the group could not hear their guide. Lindsey, Brittany and Sarah were laughing so hard they had to hold on to each other, and the wall, to remain standing.

Finally, a Swedish girl bravely entered the tunnel only to be chased out by Tom. She did not seem to think it was quite as hilarious as we did. We were having so much fun that when we saw another hole that people were taking pictures of, probably to see with their flashes how deep it went, we had Tom wait at the end of the hole in a monster pose. Then, when people went to take pictures, the hole would light up, and there would be Tom, completely unexpected. The results were nothing short of hilarious.

After our visit to the underground city we caught our bus to Istanbul. The long day of travel was just beginning, and we had no idea what we were in store for. We took a 12 hour overnight bus to Istanbul. Despite the promised free transfer, we ended up having to take the subway to the airport. We arrived early, and found a Gloria Jeans there. We decided to have a big splurge before changing the remainder of our money, and we each ordered an extra large blended coffee drink.

When we checked into our flight, which was supposed to take off at 1 pm, we were told it was delayed a half hour. Egypt Air gave us a free soft drink, which we thought was very nice. However, once through passport control the delay had been changed to 1 1/2 hours. Then as 2:30 approached it was changed to 3 hours. Then 5. Finally, our flight was canceled. We had no money left because we had already changed it but luckily they gave us a free meal. Unfortunately, only fast food was available, and since we had been traveling since the night before we hadn't eaten real food in forever. We spent 12 hours in the Istanbul airport playing Bananagrams (thanks to Grammy), Yuker and other card games. We eventually got on the 11 pm flight, scheduled to land in Cairo at 1 am. We were not excited to arrive in a new city at such a late hour...

Glums (Besides not Hot Air Ballooning!) and Glows

Glum: The guy who made us get off the bus to Goreme to try and sell us tour packages
Glow: Being a cave man in the underground cities

Glum: We would have been pinned for the death of Tina
Glow: Love in Love Valley

Glum: Having to pack by candlelight (the storm caused the electricity to go out the morning we left, and the cave was too dark to pack without a light)
Glow: Dance circle at Flinstone Bar

Glum: Puking in the bushes after the open air museum and missing the first hike in Cappadocia
Glow: Doing sexy poses where they were meant to be done.
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peej81 on

I didn't realize you guys knew how to play euchre! I have only really heard of that in the detroit area. I can't imagine having to sit around in an airport for so long though :( I do not envy you! I hope to someday see some shots from the Love Valley Forbidden Photo Shoot! And for the record, no, I do not currently look this fantastic--this was from back when I was a security guard up in rural Maine.

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