Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cappadocia



We caught the 15.00 Havatas bus (cost 14TL) to Sabiha Gokcen International Airport on the Asian side of Istanbul, and were soon in departures awaiting our Pegasus flight to Kayseri airport in the Cappadocia area of Central Turkey. Our flight was delayed by an hour but by 20.30 we were on our way! We had a good deal for the flight, and it only cost around 50 Euros for the return trip.

The flight was smooth and an hour later we are in arrivals at Kayseri airport. We had arranged with our hotel a transfer (10 Euros per person each way) in a minibus to Goreme, the location of our cave! It took about an hour to drive to Goreme and we were first to be dropped off in the darkness outside our hotel. 



We were greeted by Osman the owner of the Vineyard cave Hotel. he showed us to our room that was carved out of the rock. It was fabulous inside, with a Persian style seating area, around our big double bed. The bathroom was huge with 2 showers, a whirlpool and even a Turkish bath! Great value too at 70 Euros per night. We have pre-booked a hot air balloon flight for tommorow morning, and Osman told us that we would be picked up at 05.10AM in the morning - if the flights were going ahead! The previous 4 days all flights had been cancelled due to high winds.



Our alarm went off at 04.20 and by 05.10 we were outside the front of our cave, waiting for the bus. The winds were low, and stars were shining in the clear black sky!

 Our flight was going ahead! We were picked up and taken to the Turkiye Balloons HQ for a buffet breakfast, and to wait for the pilots to decide were we would take off from.

We were taken by another minibus to an area about 20KM out of Goreme, just as it began to get light. Hot air balloons were littered all around us, waiting to be inflated.













We watched as hot air was blasted into the balloon, and gradually they began to inflate. Fifteen minutes later we scrambled into the basket and we were off! The sky began to glow pink and orange as the sun decided to join in with the party. It was an incredible sight as the sun peaked over the horizon, throwing its light onto some amazing rock formations. Cappadocia really is a stunning area, quite like nothing that I've seen before.












More and more balloons were joining us in the sky, some flying high, some very low, and all of them looked amazing. We flew over a village called Cavusin, which had numerous Churches formed out of the rock, and the minaret of a mosque in the centre. The pilot took us down low amongst the rocks, and then we quickly rose as it looked as though we were going to make an unscheduled landing into the side of the rock face! These guys have the best job in the world, flying these balloons, and they are incredibly skilled the way they control the balloons. They can't steer as we are carried by the winds but they make the balloons rise and fall to pick up the different wind currents.



Cavusin









We carried on through valleys and over and into some weird "phallic" shaped towers! The towers and rocks have been formed over thousands of years as water flowed through the area, and have been shaped by the winds.




After an incredible hour we landed smoothly next to the vans for a champagne reception, and we were each given a certificate of our flight.

It probably goes down as my top travel experience, and is a must for anyone travelling to this beautiful area. We arranged it via Osman at our Cave Hotel, and he can get his guests a special rate of 130 Euros for the Goreme flight. You are advised to book well in advance as the flights are quickly sold out.











We were dropped back to our cave, in time for breakfast on the stunning roof terrace. It was still only 09.00, so we had time to chat with Osman and his father Hassan , about what we could do over the next 3 days. They are a great team, and excellent hosts. Hassan makes a delicious Omelet to go with the Turkish Buffet breakfast. 




Vineyard cave hotel


After breakfast we decided to hire a scooter for the day (cost 45TL) at Silkroad Scooters, a short walk from our cave. We set off on a DIY tour of the local area around Goreme. This is known as the red tour. 

Our first stop was at the highest point in Cappadocia at beautiful village called Uchisar. It has an incredible castle/church formed out of the rock at its peak. It also has a great view of Goreme below. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, and bright autumn sunshine, although it was cold zooming around on the scooter.



Uchisar













Turkish delights - Uchisar





Panoramic view of Goreme





Next stop was to an area near Zelve with more weird and wonderful rock formations and caves carved into the stone.





There were a few cafes and restaurants on the roadside, and it was getting on for lunchtime. We ordered a couple of delicious savoury pancakes that were freshly made, and a plate of Turkish pasta. It all tasted lovely and went well with a glass of Efes beer. 












We made a few more stops en route at the different valleys and bought a few souvenirs and some roadside market tents. Complementary Turkish tea is served to all the best customers!









The red route is very easy to follow with all the main sights and valleys signposted along the way, and the roads are quiet and safe. We spotted a sign to Rose valley, which had amazing panoramic views for miles to Goreme in the distance. We stopped off for a glass of wine and coffee at "Crazy Ali's tea garden" . Lounge seats and cushions are perched on the cliff edge, and it was perfect sitting on the cushions sipping wine and admiring the view.













Our last stop was at a beautiful little town  called Ortahisar, not far from Goreme. We arrived on the scooter, just as the late afternoon call to prayer wailed out from the mosque. It sounded mysterious and added to the ambiance of the place.

We didn't have much time here, and I would recommend at least an hour to explore the town and buildings, but we managed to climb to the top of the castle that had been carved out of the natural rock. The view at the top was incredible  over the town below. It was like how you imagine these towns to look many centuries ago. 



Castle - Ortahisar



Orahisar


We had to return our scooter at 17.00, so unfortunately we had to leave, but we had a fantastic day exploring the red route. We returned the scooter with a full tank of fuel (cost 12TL from a nearby garage close to Goreme open air museum) and went back to our cave to freshen up.


Pigeon valley






We had a show booked via Osman at 18.00 in  the next town in an underground cave, to watch the Whirling Dervishes. Osman dropped us off and the show lasted about an hour (cost 15 Euros). The show was very atmospheric and there's no doubting that the guys dancing have talent, but after about 30 minutes the show kind of dragged on a bit. Other than Whirling there wasn't much else to see, but the live musicians/singers and dancers were very good. In my opinion this would be better accompanied with a Turkish dinner and drink.












After the show we were dropped off back to Goreme, and we quickly found a fantastic restaurant to have traditional Turkish meal. We ordered herbal tea, and a Cinnamon flavoured hot milk drink to start, and then we shared a pottery beef Kebap and a Sheesh Chicken Kebap, served with salad and rice. It was fantastic food, and a great way to finish off a brilliant day. We bought a bottle of wine from a local shop, and went back to our cave tired and very happy!





We got up at a more respectable time of 08.00 next day, and had another great breakfast on the roof terrace. Another fantastic sunny day in Cappadocia. We have booked an organised tour known as the Green tour. This is in an area south of Neveshir about 1.5 hours drive away. 

We were picked up by the mini bus, and started off our tour. First stop was at the panoramic view point of Goreme that we saw yesterday, and then we went onto Selime cathedral. This is an ancient monastery that has been carved out of the natural rock. Inside are living areas, kitchens and store rooms. Another huge room has a big Cathedral caved into it, with huge stone pillars supporting the structure. 

Selime had been home to many different civilisations over the centuries including Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans.The monastery dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries and is on many levels. Quite an amazing bit of engineering back in the day.
















We then stopped off for a lunch at a riverside restaurant. I had a Turkish Chicken casserole and Pinky had fillet of trout. Both tasted good, and the  setting was nice. 












After lunch we drove on another 10 minutes until we came to the Ihlara valley. We descended down some steps to the valley floor. The valley is a 16km long gorge cut into volcanic rock. We were to walk 3km of it, alongside the river. At the start was a cave church with Christian wall paintings on its ancient walls, the ones higher up were mostly intact, depicting scenes from the Bible.  



















The walk went through some lovely green countryside and was very easy going, it would make a perfect setting for a wild camp!

We stopped off for a freshly squeezed juice at a riverside cafe along the way.






At the end of the walk our minibus was there waiting for us, to take us onto our next stop. The Underground city of Derinkuyu.

This is a stunning ancient multi-level underground city, dating from the Median empire. It descends to a depth of 60m and is capable of housing 20,000 people and their livestock and stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey, and is an amazing rabbit warren like complex. The ceilings in some points are very low, as are the narrow steps that go between the different floors. Ok if you are 4ft tall, but no good for a 6 footer! 









Our next stop was back to pigeon valley near Goreme. On the way, Ali the tour guide chose a few of the men to make an idiot of themselves at the front of the bus to do a bit of improvised dancing and karoke! I was one of them. 

Next to Pigeon Valley view point was a shop that sold delicious Turkish delights and different flavoured teas and coffees. 

Our final stop was at a factory/shop that gave us a demonstration on the production of jewellery from Onyx stone, and then the opportunity to buy said jewellery.

It had been another great tour at 60TL each including lunch and entrance to the different sites. The tour guide Ali, and his driver had been very good. Entertaining,  informative and good value.






















We were dropped off in Goreme just in time to dash up to sunset point over looking Goreme. It  has great 360 degree views up there of the surrounding area, and a Mosque wailed out its final call of the day for prayer.

 We passed a nice looking restaurant on the way down and had a lovely meal in the outside terrace. It was getting cold but we were wrapped up warm , and the food was nice and hot. Our table for 2 quickly became a table for 3 as one of the many cats in Cappadocia kept jumping up to join us!

It had been another fantastic day.



We checked out of our cave on our last day and had breakfast on the roof.  We left our bags at the hotel as we have a full last day in Cappadocia.  Our flight back to Istanbul doesn't depart until 20.40, so we intend to make the most of our time. 

We decided to go for a DIY trek out of Goreme through the Gulludere valley. The landscape is really unusual throughout Cappadocia, and each valley has its own variety of rock formations. It was a pleasant walk in the warm sun for a couple of hours and it was nice to finish it off with a cold Efes at a bar at the end. 




















We returned to Goreme at 12.30 and then went to Elis Turkish bath for an hour of relaxation. We have a discounted rate of 60TL which includes a mud face mask, sauna, scrub and soapy bubble massage and some time in the jacuzzi.










Fully cleansed we spent the next couple of hours at Fat boys bar in Goreme to have a Mixed Grill and Beef Pottery Kebab, all delicious with a few pints of Efes. We also had a few puffs on the Hookha pipe and felt completely relaxed.









We finished off our time having coffees and cakes and wandering the streets taking in all the sights of this great place.

Its been a fantastic 3 days in Cappadocia, we had perfect hosts in Osman and Hassan in our fantastic cave hotel. The tours have been great and the place is just so different to anywhere else on earth. We had a great time on Planet Cappadocia!








Check out my Istanbul blog here.

My other blogs, please check them out


India by Rail. South India

India by Rail. North India

Central Euro Rail

Baltic States

Thailand

Hong Kong

Croatia

#Microadventure

Nimes

London



1 comment:

  1. Wow! Fantastic pics, impressive presentation. I leave for Cappadocia next week. Thanks for the preview.

    ReplyDelete