Trip Start Nov 17, 2007
Trip End Nov 30, 2007

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Saturday, November 24, 2007

Early morning hot air balloon ride ($172) was a little anti-climactic.  Unfortunately, the wind gods were not smiling and we didn't move much at all.  It was a nice view from up there though.  My juvenile side won out and as I spit off the side, the sunlight was just right and I was able to follow it all the way to the ground.  The time it took made me start to realize how high up we were.
Hike through 'Red Valley' - acres of lunar landscapes filled with fairy chimneys, rock formations and churches.  This area had to be the inspiration for the Flinstones.
Çavusin Village - an entire rock-cut city - chapels, churches and some rock houses that are still inhabited.  The impressive 5th century Church of St. John the Baptist had colonnaded and molded face and wall paintings from 6th-8th centuries.  Climbed through and got video of what appeared to be a 7 story house carved out of the rock - fantastic.  The second video just continues the tour started in the first.  Video is very slow to load - best to hit the pause button until it loads 100%.
Pasabagi - also named as "Monks' Valley" has double and triple coned fairy chimneys.  One is carved out as a huge, 3-level chapel with a monk's cell at the top.
Avanos is on the banks of the Kizilirmak River that gets its name from the clay that it deposits. This clay has provided Avanos with pottery for centuries and the town is still dominated by this industry.  Of course my tour allowed me the 'opportunity' to see a local producer and shop their wares.  This local clay is also used to make 'broken pot' meat dishes.  Everything is cooked inside a sealed pot and then broken open tableside for serving.  It was good, but I had it a very touristy restaurant - maybe better elsewhere.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is a collection of rock churches and chapels comprising the largest of the area's religious complexes.  Contained in its over 30 churches are some incredibly well-preserved frescoes.  Part was just designated UNESCO.  Most of it dates from the 7th to 9th centuries.  The vibrant red of the frescoes in the Elmali Kilise (Apple Church) were stunning.
Kocabag winery in Urgup - The wine snob had very low expectations for Turkish wine, especially from a winery that was part of a tour.  Pleasantly surprised that red wine made from grapes I've never heard of (Öküzgözü, Bogazkere) was quite nice. 
Very difficult to arrange transportation to Nevsehir airport in early morning (much of the town closed for the season).  Had to pay a (locally) outrageous $45 to ensure that the driver would show up at 5am.  Interesting security - it is a small airport and after checking in your baggage, you must then point it out on the tarmac before they will load it on to the plane.  I suppose some bombers would prefer to not be on the plane they are blowing up...
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