Today we are up early. Four o’clock in the morning. Just to ride in a basket hanging
from big bag of hot air. And we paid good money to do it!
The crew was already inflating the balloon when we arrived. It took about 20 minutes
and then they were ready for us to load.
We were a group of 11 plus the pilot and co-pilot. The Turkish government has rules
similar to airplanes, just like the USA. We had to give the same information to the
company as when we flew to Europe. There are over a hundred balloons taking off in
two waves this morning. We are in the first wave.
We got off early and looked down on the other launchings. It is quiet with no apparent
wind. There is actually a light breeze but we are traveling with it so, to us, there
is no breeze.
Our hotel is on the lower left of this picture. The first two picture of caves on
my previous web page are in the bluff behind the columns. The town of Goreme is
in the lower right.
The dawn approached and the sky filled with balloons. On the ridge in the foreground
many people were up to take pictures of the dawn and the balloons. We floated just
over them and missed the ridge by less than ten feet (3 m.) and then dropped down
on the other side.
Among that group of early risers were several “Instagramers”. My word for those who
take over a place and pose for the perfect picture to immediately post online for
the world to see. They hold up other people who are trying to see the same sights.
On this ridge it was not a problem but in the caves and other areas it can be a real
problem with their takeover of the site. No one else can move until they are satisfied.
This is a new problem since our travels in Europe 15 years ago.
Some balloons were too close and bumped into each other. Our pilot did an excellent
job in showing us the sights and avoiding close encounters with land or balloons.
We booked our ride with Royal Balloons. There are dozens of companies. I emailed
4 of them and Royal was the only one that replied. So they got our business. It was
100 Euros ($120) per person for a one hour flight. We felt it was well worth it.
We had a celebration after landing with Mimosas, souvenir medals and a logo shopping
bag with logo hats. As our home state of Washington just passed a law against single-use
plastic shopping bags it will come in handy.
Now for the second day’s tour. Turgay and his driver picked us up at our hotel again
and we headed farther out than yesterday. First we are going to one of several “underground
cities”. It has hundreds of rooms on at least four levels. Below that is blocked
by a cave-in. When I said “levels” I did not mean that as we think of floors in a
building. They are not flat and parallel. The rooms are connected by various tunnels
and doorways with openings (windows?) between some of them. The rooms were cut at
various elevations and directions with each other, making a labyrinth of huge proportions.
Working or living in here using just a weak oil lamp to light your way must have
been hard. Most tunnels are short but at least one was about 10 m. (35’) long. The
people were smaller than us but the tunnels were low even for them. The long one
was about 1.5 m. (4’) high. These cities were used daily for things like wine and
cheese making because of the temperature stability. But they did not live daily inside.
The valley was farmed with grain, grapes and stock. Horses were a popular item. Their
horses were widely known and raised for sale.
Next is another hike, about 3.5 km. (2 miles) down a canyon. We have about 400 steps
to get to the bottom. From there is is an easy stroll to the other end, where our
van will be waiting.
The trail is easy and follows a small stream down between lava cliffs. This is real
lava, not compacted ash. No way to dig shelters, except that it lays over a layer
of ash that is used for caves.
About halfway along there was a hike-in only cafe. It had tables on platforms over
the water, a pool for wading, a restroom, and food and drink.
We watched these women make a the most popular item. They rolled out dough in a very
thin, round sheet. Then covered half of it with various thing, parsley, cheese, meat
and other stuff. Then folded the sheet in half and cooked it on the metal dome in
the center rear. Then the man took it and cut it into slices. It was called a pizza
but to me it was very much a Mexican quessadilla. Whatever it is called it was delicious.
Our last stop of the day, and the tour, is a nearby monastery. There are multiple
Some with huge chapels. The ceilings are black from accumulated smoke but one can
just make out where there were frescoes at one time on the ceiling and walls.
The rooms are larger and the carvings are more elegant here than in other places
we have been.
After the Christians had been driven out by the Muslims in the 600’s A.D. It became
a caravanserai. A motel for camel caravans traveling through the area.
Two last pictures.
The left one is in the center of town. There is a small stream and a nice park along
it giving a pleasant area to wander and shop the cafes and shops that line the sides
of the park.
The other is a picture on the wall in our room ,without any explanation. It does
show what goes into making a room. (This is not our room, we have two windows next
to the door.)
Tomorrow we are on the road again. This time to the city of Konya. It is a center
of the Mevlana religious group. Which are better known in the west as “Whirling Dervishes”.