29.04.2016 - 03.05.2016 14 °C
After dropping our rental car with little trouble in Izmir, a city of almost 3 million (via traffic at 5pm...), we flew to Nevsehir for the final leg of our Turkish adventure: Cappadocia. We stayed in Göreme, a central town amongst the unusual rock formations for which the area is famous. For our first two days we enjoyed a traditional 'cave hotel'...
Then for the final two days we moved to a 'stone room' at a beautiful new hotel.
Both were interesting and comfortable! They had more modern comforts than the historical cave/stone dwellings occupied by locals centuries ago (and some locals today, although we did see one cave with a satellite tv dish).
On our first day our mission was to book a hot air balloon, which we managed quickly and then were off to an 'underground city' at Derinkuyu - created in 8th - 7th centuries B.C. but enlarged and used more prominently by persecuted Christians in 8th Century A.D.
We returned to Göreme for the Open Air Museum. This is a collection of 8th-11th Century churches carved into the stone outcrops in the hills.
It was a good idea to do this late in the day, with many tour groups leaving as we arrived. Tourism in Cappadocia hasn't taken the same hit that the big cities and Aegean coast have, which was irritating for us as we weren't able to explore empty attractions!
On day two we rented bikes, cycling a loop of the valleys, rock formations and rural towns.
We were emulating a chunk of the standard "red tour" circuit and getting some exercise doing it.
Our last stop was at Ürgüp, where we had googled a couple of vineyards at which we hoped to try some wine before our slog home over the hill back to Göreme. The first, Mahzen, didn't allow tastings, nor wine by the glass - it was essentially a bottle shop. The second, Turasan, did have a small free tasting, or alternatively a NZ$10 paid tour plus tasting of three wines. We enjoyed the free tasting red so we purchased a bottle for $14, and didn't pay to taste more. We cycled back to our hostel to enjoy it with some chips and other snacks, but first we watched the sunset over Göreme from Sunset Point.
The next morning we left at 4:45am for our dawn hot air balloon tour. This is what Cappadocia is famous for, and we can see why - this was a magical hour or so. Even on a Monday in low season and with the downturn in Turkish tourism, there were at least 50 balloons above, below and around us.
We started with a low ascent over the rocks, drifting higher for sunrise, before we dipped down (the sun 'set again' for us!) and flew low amongst the 'fairy chimney' rock pillars of one of the Cappadocian valleys. The pilot showed extreme control to guide us through the valley and with balloons all around.
We then rose 700m for a bird's eye view of the valleys and balloons. The whole balloon flight was a breathtakingly beautiful experience.
Back on land, we enjoyed a glass of champagne as the balloon deflated, then second breakfast at our hotel (the balloon tour included hot drinks and snacks before the fight). We packed our bags for a day hiking through the pigeon valley to Uchisar.
Here we visited the highest point in the region a 'castle' fashioned into the rocky highpoint, before trying a few wines at Kocabag winery.
After a nice 'sung lunch' at House of Memories (apparently every dish and drink is sung to the table by the waiter), we were too full of food and wine to contemplate a walk home, so we caught a bus back to Göreme for an afternoon nap.
That night we ate at a fancier restaurant, Old Cappadocia. I ordered the traditional claypot cooked 'Testi Kebab', which was served on fire!
The next day was our final full day in Turkey. We checked out and caught a lift to Avanos with Lisa, a kiwi who works at our hotel. We bussed to Kayseri, where we fly out from early tomorrow morning, to spend an afternoon shopping and relaxing. We met several locals who insisted they had friends in obscure NZ towns (Ashburton, Kerikeri, Te Kuiti). Inevitably they were all Turkish carpet wholesalers... We even had tea and an explanation on carpet process with one - who will be visiting Aotearoa in November... Look out!
We'd recommend the parts of Turkey we visited to anyone... vibrant Istanbul, emotional Gallipoli, 'Greek' Aegean coastline, and the alien landscapes of Cappadocia. Ask us if you have questions.
Our next European blog may be some time away - once we have jobs in England!