Dream come true – Floating above Cappadocia

Adventures

As I mentioned in my Cappadocia post; flying in a hot air balloon above the magical landscape of Cappadocia is what brought me to Turkey in the first place.

And I honestly couldn’t think of any other activity that could get me to set my alarm for 3:37 am. For the hot air balloon I did it without complaining.

Getting up was actually easy peasy. It always is when you’re truly excited for something, regardless of the time. And it also helped that a few other people in my dorm room were also getting up, and for those that were still a sleep I couldn’t leave my alarm ringing.

After quickly getting ready I walked out of my dorm room and saw the stars, and instantly got the most amazing feeling in my stomach. The sky was completely clear and I could see sooo many stars. Also at this point in time I knew that the trip was really happening. This was a major relief since it had been cancelled three days in a row before I got to Cappadocia due to too much wind.

I got picked up by a car that did a few stops around Göreme and then took us to the balloon central. Coincidentally the three sweet Australians that I had watched the worldcup finally with were also in my car. Here we had a tiny breakfast and was briefed on what was going to happen. We then got in a car with the pilot we were granted, and off towards the ballons we were. At first our driver couldn’t find our pilot or our balloon. We probably spent an extra 10-15 minutes driving around before we finally located Deniz. That made me a bit worried, as I was about to majorly challenge on of my fears (heights!) and really just wanted everything to run smoothly. In the end everything worked out, and before I knew it the balloon was slowly but steadily being filled with air.

As we first started ascending a little girl on board started singing “I believe I can fly, I belive I can touch the sky” – It was so cliché, but with those words she nailed what I was feeling too.  But now, let’s let the pictures do the talking.

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Seeing the big valley with all of the balloons going up was beautiful in itself, and at this point I still didn’t even know what was coming for me.

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Thats me right there! We were about 20 people in the basket, but it was big enough for everyone to stand by the side. The basket was dividided in to four parts. I shared my little compartment with a an aussie couple on their honeymoon and a british couple (living in L.A) on a quick get-away from their kids.

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The landscape though…

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The background on my Iphone has been a picture of me surfing in Sri Lanka for the last 2 years, but this picture have beaten it for now. Just. Wow.

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Hiiii from a happy potato

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I mean……

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Notice the bride in the middle of a photoshoot!!!!

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There’s about 100 balloons in the air each morning.

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Descending!

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Bye bye my beautiful balloon.

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Our lovely pilot Deniz.

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As we were landing one of the guys catching us plucked a flower mid-landing and gave it to me. So sweet.

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We celebrated our trip with a cherry juice champagne drink and a piece of cake.

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The landscape bathing in the orange dawn light was too good to be true.

I got back to my hotel at 7 am and wow. They brand it as being an experience of a lifetime, and it truly was. It was worth every penny. It didn’t feel real. I was left, and really still am, speechless.

// Annika

Hiking through Cappadocia

Adventures, Travels

The whole reason for my Turkey trip was visiting the Cappadocia region and more specifically; flying in a hot air ballon above Cappadocia.

I had decided to take a night bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia to save time and not travel during the day. This was a BIG mistake. Here’s a little something I wrote while on the bus:

I’m awake after a night of horror. I woke up when a crying baby was sat down next to me. Why? How? Nightbus never again.

We made a stop. I took of my sleeping mask and pulled out my earplugs. I ran to the bathroom. I got Oreos. I returned to the bus.

We took off again and my eyes were starting to adjust to the light. When I really opened my eyes I realized how beautiful it was. Mountains to the left, flat fields and a lake to the right. A sheephurder passed by with hundreds of sheeps. The sun was rising, and the light was orange. Everything was peaceful, and the baby had stopped crying.

A dead sheep on the side of the road put a dimmer on my joy for a second, but then there was sunflower fields. And how can you not smile when looking at a sunflower field?

The bus driver and steward only spoke Turkish. We made multiple stops, but each time I didn’t understand what they were saying. I kept checking Google maps; a lifesaver for always being able to check you your location, even with no service. I still kept asking “Goreme?” just to make sure. But no no, not yet. I got flashbacks to China visiting the Chinese wall. I looked up from typing this and all of sudden the scenery had changed. The caves, the fairy chimneys. There they were. And it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Welcome to Cappadocia.

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Happy camper!

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The first view of the incredible Cappadocia landscape

I spent four days in Cappadocia, which I’d say is the perfect amount of time. You can do a lot of hikes, but still rest and relax. There’s no stress. My time in Cappadocia was affected by the fact that I had a cold and couldn’t do crazy hikes, so I relaxed a bit more than I usually would’ve done. I can definitely return in a few years to see the rest, but I still feel like I experienced a whole lot. My days went someting like this:

Day 1
The first day in Cappadocia was unreal. I saw what I think is the most spectacular landscape I’ve ever seen (but then what about all of the other places I can’t help but think). I had the most gewy ice cream and mashed potatoes of my life (I love gewy as a consistency) and I slept in the softest bed sheets of my life. Wowza that’s a good day. Not to mention my incredibly adventurous and thrilling hikes.

I arrived early in the morning at the bus station and walked straight to my hotel. I had booked a bed in a dorm room at a hotel, which was really nice since the place manages to both have the more luxurious hotel feeling and the feel of a hostel at the same time. I arrived at the hotel too early to check in, so I just changed my clothes and dropped off my bag.

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Like most of the hotels in Göreme, the place I had booked had most of its rooms placed in caves

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I headed straight for the famous Open Air Museum, but on the way there I spotted some caves of off the side of the road that I wanted to explore. Doing so turned out to be the best possible start to my Cappadocia adventure, as I ventured through some seriously cool caves off of the beaten track. And I had it all to myself.

Being all by myself and venturing into the caves, it turned out that I was a bit scared of actually entering the caves. For some reason, my solution to this was filming myself while doing so, which actually worked really well. A big bonus to that is that I was left with a bunch of videos of my actual reactions of seeing the caves, and with those videos I’ve made this little film (I speak danish though..).

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This landscape. I have no words.

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My happy face after exploring the first cave. I could not have been more in my element.

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Back on the track I headed toward the Open Air Museum. The museum was really cool, mainly because it had quite a few churches where the murals had been preserved. However, due to my adventure earlier in the day I arrived at peak hour, which meant multiple tours and hordes of people. I rented headphones that told me all of the details of the museum and wandered off on my own, trying to avoid the mass.

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This was a seven story building that used to house af group of nons

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When you see murals like this inside of, what from the outside looks like, a rock, you have to be awestruck.

After the museum I was exhausted (mainly due to the horrible nights sleep I had on the bus) and walked back to my hotel for a four hours nap.

When I woke up it was both dinner and World Cup finale time, so I walked into the town center and found a restaurant showing the game. I was quickly joined by a Turkish man, that worked as a tour guide in Cappadocia. We were chatting when three aussies joined us. They had been on a tour with my new guide friend earlier in the day, and coincidentally we had been on the same night bus. We had a fun few hours together, but when the game was over I was more than ready to return to my bed. My new friend offered to take me to see the sunset in his favorite valley and stop by his local deli to try a traditional turkish sandwich, but I didn’t feel completely safe doing so and really just wanted my bed.

When I made it to the hotel the view was looking a bit too good to go straight to bed, so I headed for the roof top terrace and enjoyed the sunset.

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Day 2
The second day was the most eventful out of my time in Cappadocia. My alarm was set for 3:47 am as it was the big hot air balloon day. Since this was such a big deal for me and I have way too many pictures from the trip, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blogpost just for the balloon.

When I came back from the balloon trip I grabbed breakfast and went straight for a nap. img_4132

After waking up from my nap it was lunch time (food-nap-food – What a pattern huh?). I went to the local pide place (the turkish version of pizza) and had a delicious eggplant and cheese pide.

I had decided to hike Rose Valley, which was quite a far walk away from where I was staying. On the way there I strayed from the main road a few times and discovered more awesome caves all on my own. img_3720img_3724img_3737

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Spot the self timer queen

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One of my stops away from the main road was when I decided to walk towars this church (that I’ve forgotten the name of..). When I got there I pad a tiny entrance fee and was given a flash light from an incredibly nice turkish man. I was sent in to the church all on my own to explore.

This building turned out to be really cool cause there were multiple rooms to walk through, connected by stairs and little walkways. My journey through the church ended when clausthrophobia hit me as I had walk a few seconds crouched down through a tiny alley without any light appearing. That was a bit too much for me to handle, so I turned around and continued my walk towards Rose Valley.

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When I got to the place on the road where I had to make a left turn to head for Rose Valley I was already pretty exhausted. I had a cooking class to attend later in the day, so I had a time frame I had to keep my hike within.

I started walking towards the ally and could see from above how beautiful it was going to be. The closer I got though, the more intricate the walkway became. Those who know me knows that my sense of direction is incredibally bad, so walking through the path heading there I was starting to get a bit worried. Walking further, my worries turned into feeling a bit scared and uneasy, and I could feel in my stomach that this hike maybe wasn’t the best idea. Baring in mind that Lonely Planet advised solo female travellers not to hike alone through the vallyes, and the fact that I hadn’t seen another person for about half an hour. I considered walking back for a bit, but ended up going for the hike anyways. Because adventure you know.

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These are the rock formations that Rose Valley are know for, but once you make it to the ground an incredible landscape of many different rock formations awaits.

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Look at this house!! It’s a full on mansion. The small square holes were made for pigeons to stay in. Why the pigeons needed a house I never really figured out.

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And then all of the sudden it looked like this

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And then like this

After walking for a bit I ended up meeting a couple, which settled my nerves a bit. At least I wasnt the only person in the valley. I also met a group of three young russians, one of their reactions being “are you walking alone!? Isn’t that scary??” … But at this point it wasn’t scary at all. I was just enjoying the incredible scenery surrounding me. Sadly I had to walk pretty fast through the vally to make sure that I would get back in time, but it all ended up working out.

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Towards the end of the hike this little turkish family had a small “cafe.” I bought more water (I had run out, which is never good when hiking) and couldn’t help myself when they had fresh squeezed orange juice. The oranges were surrounded by wasps and I’m pretty sure that a fly was squeezed into my juice, but at this point I really didn’t care.

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This gianormus house marked the end of the house. Today I regret not going in there, but I was in a rush to get back to town and still had about 3,5 km to walk. Next time!!!

After walking a big further a man passed me on his moped. He ended up turning around and came back for me. “Göreme?” he asked. Yes was the answer. Up until this point I had turned down rides from all of the men that had approached me, but I was SO exhausted and really too tired to care about what might happen. Afterall I could always just jump off of the moped, right?

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My knight in shining armour

While driving he asked me what I was doing the next few days, and I said that the only thing I had planned was to go on an ATV sunset drive. As it turned out he ran one of those tours and got me a reservation with a “special price for you.”

With the ride I had enough time to jump in the pool (oh myyyy that felt good) before showering, and then it was time for my cooking class.

The cooking class was something I had read about in Lonely Planet, where it is praised as one of the top five eating experiences in all of Turkey. I think I can agree with that.

The class takes place in the house of a turkish family, where they life husband (Tolga), wife, two kids and the parents of the husband.
Tolga picked me up from my hotel, and as soon I got in his car I could tell that this experience was going to be special. For the entire half hour we talked, and Tolga told me all kinds of details and stories about each town we would pass through.

When we got to the house I got to meet the lovely grandma (she was the main instructor in the cooking class, but as her english wasn’t the best, Tolga was helping too), the wife and the two kids. They were so warm and welcoming, and I was sat down in the couch with tea and cookies while the grandma and son entertained me. There was a language barrier but we managed to get by and still have conversation, the son helping out with his bit of english.

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It was me and a sweet Australian couple that did the cooking class together. They were on my hot air balloon in the morning too, such a fun coincidence.

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Grandma rocking away with her incredible cooking skills

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SO MUCH FOOD

Now, I won’t get into too much detail about the night or the conversations we had, but it was a very special experience that I will never forget. Getting to be a part of a family like that and seeing the local life upclose was amazing, and even though they have cooking classes almost every night they made me feel as though this night wasn’t just one among all of the others.

When I left I promised the grandma that I would return for my honeymoon (she was really excited about the idea of me finding a husband) and the sweet, sweet Tolga told me “you’re not alone, not single. You’re family now” and made sure that I knew that if I ever needed anything while in Turkey, I should just let him know.

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My new turkish family pictured with me wearing the handmade scarf that the grandma gave me as a gift

Day 3
On day three I felt the effects from my incredible day two. I had had three huge experiences packed in to one day, and I was left exhausted. I managed to sleep until 11:30 am (pretty good for a dorm room), and stayed in bed until 1 pm before I dragged myself up the many stairs to the pool. I stayed by the pool, enjoying my book and the feeling of the sun on my skin until the late afternoon when I had gathered enough energy to go for a hike.

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On the way to Rose Valley and the Göreme Open Air Museum I had passed a valley on the side of the road that I really wanted to visit. It was called Honey Valley, but I have later given in the name Penis Valley. You can see for yourself in the pictures.

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I obviously had to have a timer picture with one of the penises.

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After my hike I went straight to dinner at the Top Deck Cave Restaurant; a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. The mixed meze plate (gets me every time) was amazing, so I was a happy girl.

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Last activity of this very quiet day was watching the sunset from a place in Göreme called Sunset Point. I walked through the town and uphill and was very pleasently surprised with the spot. You had a 360 degree view of Göremes surroundings and everywhere you looked it was nothing short of beautiful.

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I LOVE this picture

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And this one.. Look at the moon!!

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Day 4
On day four it was time to watch the hot air ballons from the ground, and so I set my alarm way too early again to wake up and walk to Sunset Point. As the pictures show it was well worth the pain of waking up. I sat there in awe until I was the last person left and every single one of the ballons had returned to the ground.

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I had my usual breakfast at my hotel and went straight back to bed for a long nap. At arond 1 pm I managed to get out of bed and drag my body to the pool. I relaxed and red my book for a few hours before heading for an early dinner. Still feeling a bit sick I wasn’t up for another big hike, so I saved all of my energi for my last Cappadocia activity; the ATV sunset tour.

I arrived at my new friends tour hub and went straight on a shuttle bus. The bus took me and a bunch of other people to the ATV parking spot where I was given a mask and helmet. I was starting to be a bit nervous, thinking back to the last time I had rented a vehicle. In Sri Lanka I had rented a moped and after having it for 5 minutes I had already crashed it into a house…. So…. High off of reading the Power of Now I decided that right in this moment there was nothing to be scared of, and so I got on the ATV.

Luckily it was quite easy, and after a few minutes I was speeding ahead. Now, the tour was a bit so and so. Riding the ATV was SO fun and it’s definitely a really good way to see the landscape and head to multiple valleys quickly, but the next time I’ll rent one and head off on my own. Riding just isn’t as fun when you’re a part of a snake of 15 ATV’s… Still worth it though, and now I know that I am more than capable of riding one.

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I felt pretty badass sitting here

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My new friend that gave me the ride back from my hike

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So. Much. Dust. I usully have quite dark hair on my arms, but not this evening.

I had initially made plans to meet up and have a cup of tea with my new turkish friend from the cooking class, but after the ATV tour I was completely out of energy, so I ended up cancelling. I’ll have to see him the next time I go to Cappadocia instead.

When I returned to the hotel I jumped in the pool, and after getting out two german men staying in my dorm room invited me to have a beer with them, and so I spent my last night talking, laughing and sharing stories with them. I’m now more convinced than ever before that I need to go to October fest i Münich.

Day 5
On the last day all I did was wake up, grab my bag, head into an airport shuttle and stare out the window until I reached the airport. I was flying to Izmir and heading to a small local coastal town called Gülbahçe where a week of kitesurfing was awaiting.

Going to Cappadocia should be on everyones bucket list. Just saying.

// Annika