On the final two days of this trip, we have been enjoying one of the highlights of our time away – a visit to Cappadocia and a hot air balloon ride.
Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey that is famous for its fairy chimneys. It is an ancient volcanic region and the volcanoes showered the region with hundreds of metres f a soft rock called ‘tuff’. With erosion and later deposits of harder rock, small conical and tubular shaped domes have been created.Some of these domes are capped with hard rock and look like enormous toadstools and others have a shape something like a ‘pixie hat’. Over centuries, people have dug into these towers and converted them into shelters, houses, churches, barns and hotels.
We arrived on Friday night by flying into Kayseri – a large city of 800,000 people. We had an individual tour organised and -we were met by our guide and driver. From Kayseri we drove 80 kilometres to Nevsehir, the largest town in Capadoccia. (We were interested to learn that the city of Kayseri was known as Ceaseria in biblical days).
Our exciting time began with a 4.30 am start on Saturday morning to go on a hot air balloon ride (taking off at 5.30 am) with Goreme Balloons. We had organised a wake up call with our hotel and set our alarm so that we would wake up on time. However, these were both redundant as we were woken up by the call to prayer from the local mosque at 4.12 pm. We had a fantastic ride and counted over 25 balloons in the sky. At times we flew low enough to pick leaves off trees and at another we were bas high as 3600 feet. By changing altitude, our pilot (an Australian named David) was able to change direction.
It is a little hard to effectively describe the land over which we flew, so I’ll use some photos to illustrate the scenery.
We were back at the hotel by 8.30 and had time for a shower and change of clothes before being picked up by our tour guide. For the last tow days, she has taken us to some of the most interesting sites we have seen include:
Caves in the cliff faces that were dug out by the Hittites around 4000 BC. Some were used as houses and others were used as defensive retreats in times of attack. The Hittites were always one of those old testament cultures that I always used to struggle to pronounce properly. To be standing in their living area was quite incredible
Most of the fairy chimneys are located in the valleys where most of the erosion has occurred. In some towns like Goreme, complete hills were dug out as a series of houses.
Many individual chimneys along a valley housed churches from the Hellenic and Byzantine days. Some had the remains of murals from as long ago as the year 1100. Small chapels, complete with basilicas, were dug into the rock and nearby monasteries contained living and cooking areas.
In the city of Kaymakli, we explored a Hittite underground city over the first four of seven levels. At one stage, we were 90 metres below the surface. There wasn’t a supermarket, but there were stables, wine cellars, churches, living rooms, community kitchens, wells and even disguised traps through which any enemy invaders would be captured.
We found a new and interesting use of those terrible birds, pigeons. Many of the old caves have been turned into dove cotes. Along the valleys, there are thousands of them. Pigeons are encouraged to roost in them and their guano is collected and sold as a very rich fertiliser. Their roosts are cleared out each year and their fertiliser sells for about 20 Lira (AUD$16) per kilogram.
An ancient caravan refuge on the original silk road. These were established through Turkey to encourage trade and were constructed every 25 kms – the distance that a laden camel could walk in a day.
The wildflowers were prolific along some of the valleys. Turkey has 12000 species of wildflowers and 2000 of these are endemic. We saw more flowers on our 2 hour walk today than we did on our total Botanica tour which was meant to specialise in them. We noticed that the field (Flanders) poppies had become darker as we have travelled further east, but here they were bright orange.
Now, we are at Kayseri airport to begin our trip home via Istanbul and London. Our flight is 30 minutes late, so we won’t get to our hotel in Istanbul until 11.00 pm and then we have a 2.30 pm flight tomorrow to London. Not the best start, but we’ll handle it. (We eventually reached our hotel- in Istanbul by 1.00 pm and I’m posting this on Monday morning)