My Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

A thing one does while in Cappadocia is take a hot air balloon ride. In fact so many people do this that up to 150 balloons float every morning in the Cappadocia sky (weather permitting). For this I did my research and learned it was best to book ahead of time since the rides are so popular. A highly rated one is Butterfly Balloons.

They picked me up very early in the morning and took me to their office to settle up my balance and eat breakfast; well me and about 100 other people. They have a good amount of balloons in their fleet.

All balloons need a permit and they are limited to 150 a day. 150 is still many balloons and you can see all of them in the amazing skyline when they fly.

We are signed up for a sunrise ride but I think you can choose a later ride in the morning. I am in a van with around 19 other people who will be riding in the balloon with me (not counting the operator). There are balloons with smaller capacity and larger capacity and the price and experience will vary with your choice.

I think the price to experience ration was just about right with 20. I would have loved to have less people but it was already pretty expensive so it is ok to be a little uncomfortable to not break the bank too much.

When we get to the lift off site it is still dark and balloons everywhere are being inflated.

Once our balloon is upright we climb in and are given safety instructions.

Soon we are up up and away.

After some time going up and down we start our descent.

After we disembark we have a champagne toast to celebrate. We are presented with a medal and a certificate for participating.

And with a fun group photo we call it a morning.

Green Tour

Pigeon Valley

There are three typical tours people take of the Cappadocia: Green, Red (most common), and Blue tour.

Today I take a Green tour – booked with a highly rated vendor on TripAdvisor. While the sights are great, I am very disappointed with the tour operator.

Below is the first stop on the tour that I later discover is Pigeon Valley.

My tour van is over 30 minutes late. My anxiety can’t handle it. I watch others from my hotel and hotels nearby get picked up and I just know I’m forgotten. I have the office of my hotel call them sure I am not forgotten and they are told there’s just traffic causing the delay.

A guy in a small car arrives 15 minutes later and it’s obvious that they forgotten about me when he says I wasn’t on the spreadsheet for today. However when I arrive down to the meeting point they said they didn’t forget about me so I am getting all kinds of stories.

Initially I am in a small van on a small tour which I thought I signed up for and they take us to this location which is a scenic point and the driver tells us here “join in with the group ahead”. We join the group which is listening to a guide who is already talking about what we are supposed to be seeing there (hint I missed about all of it and had to google to discover where I was at later.

He says it’s time to go in 15 minutes or something but I don’t know where to go and I don’t know what’s my bus and I don’t know who is my tour guide.

It is chaos. They direct us to one bus then they decide we can’t take the one bus and we have to take two smaller buses so it ends up being a pretty large group a group of 35 people but split into two smaller buses. I expected and paid for a small group tour so I’m kind of annoyed at this point. I decide to just keep it cool and reserve judgement until the end.

Our tour guide, who is nice, bounces back-and-forth between the two buses to give his tour. It makes one think we are being short changed with some of the history of the area. It is hard to hear anything he is saying while outside at sights because he starts giving his descriptions when half the group is still catching up….so if you are stuck in the back of the 35 people on the tour then you miss a bunch.

What they don’t get wrong are the shopping stops. Of course we are taken shopping at the end to two different locations: one I was able to avoid by going to the bathroom and having the door closed on me and the second one is for sweets which is actually very tempting but I got out without buying anything.

The only good thing about the tour is the transportation to all the sites, other than that it is a waste of time and money.

However I did see some cool sites on the tour…

Selime Cathedral – thought to be the inspiration for Star Wars set.

Church built in 8th or 9th century BC in rocks.

Ihlara Valley hike

Also part of the tour is a mini hike of the Ihlara Valley. The guide drops us at the top of the gorge and we head down along the water. It is a pretty area but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was left to do it on my own and not part of a huge group.

There is also an old church along the route.

Derinkuyu Underground city

Finally we visited one of the underground cities of the region. Many of these underground caves were created as a place to hide to wait out invaders. It is quite amazing that their entire life would be down there for a long period of time.

Overall I liked the sites, I just wish I had more time and a better tour guide for them. Best to go with a hotel recommendation next time.

Şirince

Şirince is a little town near Selcuk known for its wine tastings. The idea is to visit for the day. Maybe do some shopping, maybe try some wine.

Şirince is where I was almost kidnapped. I joke but I was once again in an uncomfortable situation. I agree to a wine tasting at an outdoor bar. I try to be nice and smile. I am told the building is old and there is some old decor upstairs. I agree to go see it. Then it gets uncomfortable. There is no one else up there. The guy wants to sit up there with me and drink wine together. Because I am uncomfortable and don’t want to give him the wrong idea I tell him I want to go back down. I drink my glass of wine on the lovely patio downstairs but quickly because I don’t want to stick around any longer.

Downstairs at the wine Lair

I do not have the knack for tasting. I walk into a tasting room and are given many to taste. I guess I am supposed to walk out at that point because what am I going to do with bottles of wine; I leave for Cappadoccia the next day. But I feel guilty. Even though there is no markings of expectation of purchase for the tasting (that I can read) I feel quilty and awkward. I am talked into buying two bottles after the insurance that the airline will allow them (note: it is a lie). I drink as much as I can while I am still in town…is my first travel hangover coming? The other bottle I secure in my backpack to bring to Cappadoccia. I needed more weight in that backpack like I needed a hole in my head.

Actually loving a Chardonnay and a Merlot, go figure

I meet a Turkish girl and her Swedish Fiancé. They are marvelous. They notice I am alone and converse with me. I end up spending the afternoon chatting with them instead of wandering to more tasting rooms. It is just what I needed when the only interaction I have had in days is the unwanted advances of Turkish waiters. Truth be told I am mostly ok with being alone but I have been lonely. These are what another traveler friend refers to as backgetters (visit her website, it is inspiring). I soak up her knowledge on everything related to Istanbul (I plan to return) and then we wish each other well. I hope I meet more people like this during my travels.

Ephesus Archaeological Museum

One nice place to enjoy some air conditioning and look at artifacts from local ruins ( at least the ones they were able to get back from other countries) is the Ephesus Museum.

The mother goddess is big here due to the artifacts from the Artemis temple.

There are many statues and pieces from areas nearby. Some are very phallic in nature.

Worth a stop by for a couple hours.

Around Selcuk

I got to visit the 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle. John spent his last days in Selcuk/Ephesus and it is rumored that he is buried here. The Turks destroyed it during the 10th century.

In the background you will see the fortress nearby.

On my way out I took some time to admire some of the plants that were along the pathway.

The next two major sites in the area I did not visit: Virgin Mary’s house and the Artemis temple. Virgin Mary’s house I didn’t visit because there is no public transport to get there and cab rides were very expensive. I didn’t have it as a high priority to visit. I chose not to visit the Artemis temple due to it being mostly destroyed. In lieu of visiting the temple I chose to visit the local museum which provided a good overview of the temple. I’ll talk more about that later.

A nice dinner out

While in Selcuk I decided to have a fancy night out to dinner so I went around the corner to the upscale hotel that had a rooftop restaurant. I enjoyed the sunset views (forgot pictures) and view of the pool.

I can’t remember what I ordered as an entree but this meze platter (see above) was marvelous. I tried for the first time sea beans and I love them. Growing up in Florida it seems like I should have had them before but I have not. I am going to seek them out when I return home. Also in the platter is hummus, yogurt sauce, eggplant and beets; all are excellent.

My only regret from the night is that I did not purchase this lamp that was at my table. It was the only battery powered one I saw in turkey. I really wanted a lamp but the power supply (European plugs) always kept me from buying one.

It was a great night out and I am glad I treated myself.

Ayasoluk Restaurant