May 6

The village of Goreme in Cappadocia, Turkey. Far far from home...
A map for orientation.
The accommodations of note in this area are the cave hotels offering rooms actually cut into the rock. I was hesitant as I'm not so much for dark places so I booked an 'open air' hostel for the first two nights thinking I'd check out the cave rooms for the last two nights.

This turned out to be good for me. I did check several of the cave rooms in three different places in my price range and even a bit above - wow, those cave walls hold smoke and every other smell that has ever lived there.

I'm sure the more upscale places have bigger rooms and are cleaned more throughly...but I'm happy to stay in my bright airy room with lots of windows that open, and a big half-glass door that opens onto a balcony too!
The hills are full of places like this.
My first stroll was to the nearby Pigeon Canyon. Goreme, and all of Cappadocia, is on a high plateau (1000m/3280f) so now the air is still crisp (in summer it is HOT and very dry), it was silent except for the rustling trees, the stream that gurgled up from time to time, and the birds carrying on their insistent conversation.
These guys all looked so surprised to see me.
A little like Sedona, with a twist.
Walking on, at the entrance to the Open Air Museum in Goreme, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and the rest of Cappadocia a World Heritage Site since 1985.

What I read: the rocks here are volcanic, called tufa, (certainly different from the black volcanic rock I'm used to) and all these shapes are the result of erosion by wind, snow, and rain. The tufa is soft which makes for easy tunneling, the surfaces hardening when exposed to air "and various accidents of history meant that early Christians sought refuge here from Roman persecution and marauding Arabs."
These ice-cream guys are all over Istanbul too, and always dressed in a similar costume, always with a similar cart, and they've all got similar tricks but here was the best I saw.

They get great blobs of ice-cream up on those paddles and swirl them around their heads - I haven't caught it in a shot yet but it's quite something.

Anyone know why they wear those costumes? From Ellen: "I am hazarding a guess about why the ice cream (dondurma) guys dress as they do, in answer to your query. I think it may be a holdover from the days--not so long ago--when street hawkers had identifying garb. This would hark back to Ottoman days when everyone had identifying garb, particularly head gear. You could tell a person's social status and occupation and religion from this. In the '90's there were still men who sold cups of water from a big silver jug on their back, pouring it into metal cups that they stashed in a cupholding contraption around their waist. They wore similar outfits as the ice cream guys."
One of the structures in the Open Air Museum where the church below is carved.
"Over the 7th to 14th centuries, monasticism flourished here, and hundreds of tiny churches were carved out of the rock."

"These Christian sanctuaries contain many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period. These frescoes are a unique artistic achievement from this period."
These places are in fact carved into the rock and these are the original paintings without any benefit of restoration.

I definately never learned the history of this region. Here's just an example: "The Cappadocians, supported by Rome against Mithridates VI of Pontus, elected a native lord, Ariobarzanes, to succeed (93 BC); but in the same year Armenian troops under Tigranes the Great (Tigran) entered Cappadocia, dethroned king Ariobarzanes and crowned Gordios as the new client-king of Cappadocia, thus creating a buffer zone against the encroaching Romans. It was not until Rome had deposed the Pontic and Armenian kings that the rule of Ariobarzanes was established (63 BC)." I did not know that.
I have photos of all the explanation signs - each of these spaces has its own story, the story of the decorations and the story of who worshiped here.

From an introductory piece: "In the 4th century Cappadocia became known as the land of the three saints; the great St Basil, Bishop of Kayseri; his brother St Gregory of Nyssa, and St George of Nazianus. These three men created a new unity in Christian thought, and many of St Basil's thoughts and actions are still important today."
Called The Dark Church, this structure resembles others that house living quarters.
On the walk back, in the setting sun, ahh. Good night!
May 7, morning

40-50-60 of these guys will fill the sky. btw, it is now 5:30AM as in In The Morning.
The company picks you at your hotel and takes you to their company's 'spot' where you get the breakfast you are promised (a mad shuffle for some instant coffee and a fist full of vanilla oreos) and then load 'em up!

We took off first, that's a sister flight over there.
The photographer who will offer the pictures he's taken for sale at the landing spot.
Another example of the take-off spots for the different companies.

The take-offs are spread out all up and down the valley. One thing, on my ride anyway, you do stay pretty much in the same general area (go up-go down for close-up views-go up, move a little, repeat) so that if you start over near the town you are not going to travel down to the Rose Valley and if you start by the white cliffs you are never going to make it over the town.

If you have a particular interest maybe you can negotiate to get with a company that starts near want you especially want to see. (Truth be told, my sales guy told me all sorts of things that turned out to be simply not true, and it is hugely expensive - but it was a very cool experience anyway.)

These balloons are still getting filled. You can see the fire-jets building up the hot air.
It's marvelously silent for several minutes, then the pilot turns on the jets to keep the balloon afloat, which are loud, and then there's glorious silence again.

What's coming up is a bunch of scenery. I tried to select only a few. I'll try to delete some along the way...
If you read the first day's entry you would have got most of the rap about this landscape. Basically, it's volcanic, and eroded, with caves carved in from prehistoric times all the way through into the present.

You can see some of the irrigated land and places where generations of farmers have grown small crops and still do today.
There are 15 balloons visible in this shot and there are many more to the sides and behind me. Considering the price...I wasn't going to write it down because it is SO much I don't want to see the number myself. But I'll tell you anyway.

'They' say you can get it for 110 Euros but it's like no one will sell it to you at that price 'for your own good'. Most people paid between 130-175 Euros. Each balloon goes up every day with between 10-18 guests. And you've got pilots, maintenance guys, ground crews, tour operators, drivers...quite a kick to the economy I'd think!
Oh my.
Yes more.
Our little village of Goreme at extreme telephoto. The o of Goreme has the two dots over it and is pronounced gore-eh-may. Cappadocia is pronounced capp-a-doe-key-a. That's how I'm hearing it anyway - could be wrong!
My sweet cubby mates.
Cool dude.
Hello Helloooo.
The pilot throws out that catch-me strap and there's a crew of guys around the various landing sites who rush like mad from balloon to balloon pulling them in as they arrive.

We de-balloon in this field...
...they set up the champagne stand and tip jar, have the pictures from the take-off point for sale and everyone has a cheery old time.

We were 10 - 1 American, 1 Japanese, 4 French, 2 Canadian, 2 Brazilian. Everyone except the American (that would be me) and the Japanese were fluent French speakers so there was much hilarity in French which, my imagination perhaps, but I understood enough to chime in occasionally, in English of course, which they Also all understood.
May 7, afternoon and evening

After my morning adventure with the balloons, and my rising before the dawn, I helped myself to a nice rest. Later in the afternoon I joined up with Tina, another guest at my hostel, for an outing to Urgup, a larger town near our village of Goreme. Almost half the population of Cappadocia live in Urgup.

We came in by taxi. Hey! Let's climb up there!
Views of Urgup from on the way up there, the older part...
...and the newer part, from allll the way up there.

The guidebooks report that Urgup offers the most upscale accommodations and shopping opportunities in the area, well-known wines, and handmade carpets.
Look what's going on in the hills behind the hamam.
Just off the main square is this totally down-home neighborhood mosque.
There were several of this kind of place that we passed, this one being quite magnificent. I bought a little bag of random treats and ate them all.
Then, back in Goreme, after another little rest... I joined Tina and her parents for dinner at this entirely entertaining restaurant.

What they say about themselves: "Dibek Restaurant’s building is 475 years old. The ground floor was originally used as stables and storage area. The upper levels were the living quarters. Its one year long restoration and redecoration were completed in 2004."
Some views. You just Know I'm going to like this.
Tina, on a sabbatical from work, and her parents here on a two week tour around Turkey, in the stables of the restaurant, in our soo comfortable private dining room.
We got all the different kinds of their speciality, the testi kebab? - combinations of food placed in a clay pot, sealed, and baked for several hours.

To serve, with a great flourish they break the top off the pot and pour the contents onto a plate. We ate A Lot and I enjoyed the evening entirely.
May 8

I went on a long all day tour today and will not have time to tell the story - I have to go to sleep soon.

This picture totally cracks-me-up. I had not at all noticed that my hand was in the shot. I was trying to herd this crowd (1 Japanese, 1 Korean, 1 Indian, 2 Australians, 2 Russians, 2 Turks) into a picture, calling out 'stop' 'oops, you're behind him now' 'waait' etc etc which brings me to the topic of Mother's Day.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I will be spending 18 HOURS in transit to get from point A to point B those points being less than 400 miles apart. This strikes me as having some strange internal justice.

It'll probably be at least a day and half before I can finish this chapter about Cappadocia. I'm off to Jerusalem...Shalom!
May 8

Usually when tourists come to Cappadocia they take group tours. You can rent a car, or rent a car and guide, but basically, the group tours are so cost efficient it's hard to resist them.

There are say 20 companies who will sell you a tour and there are 3 tours that they sell. Actually there are 2 (not counting the specialty offerings of course). There's the Red tour that features going north, the Green tour that features going south, and the Blue tour that goes to Soganli Valley but no one will sell it to you because, they say, 'no one wants to go there' although I did tell them I want to go there.

So you pick the Red tour or the Green tour and you buy it from one of the 20 companies selling it. I chose Yama Tours because a group from my hostel had had a great experience with them the previous day. When it came time to go, the Yama van was full so they just marched me across the parking lot and put me with another company. I'm sure that's how it works...
...There were several people on my Green tour who had done the Red tour with this company already. They love love loved it so I was feeling lucky as we were only 10 people.

But wait! Our guide on this trip could not have been more disinterested and it became clear that what made yesterday's Red tour so great was the guide. It's All about the guide. Our guide recited a script in a monotone at rocket speed, as fast as he could half-say the words without regard to anyone understanding them, and answered every question with 'I already told you that' and took every opportunity to escape us in order to smoke cigarettes with the driver. No one clapped at the end and no one gave him a tip.

BUT the members of the tour were delightful and I think we all actually had a great time!

First stop, a view point looking to Goreme...
...and shopping. And when there's shopping I go around looking for a mirror in which to take a picture of myself.
Next stop: One of the underground cities that have made this area so well known. They say that this particular one could hold 30,000 people although it never did.
They don't know who began digging the underground cities but it was at least as early as the 5th century BC, and then expanded by every population who needed to hide. They were not meant for permanent living, just as defense, or so I read.

Here's something I'm copying from "The Cappadocia area was ruled by a series of small, independent states, under priest-kings as early as the 6th century B.C. Herodotus mentions it as the region between Phrygia and Cilicia in the 5th century B.C. Xenophon mentions people living underground in his book Anabasis although the earliest residents are unknown."
Then we began our very fast very long march (or so it seemed to me!) through the Ihlara Valley.

Follow the stairs to the platform and inside the rock there is a church.
Some of its decorations.

Here's what I read about the faces of the paintings, and you can see many more examples in the Open Air Museum pictures.

There are two main reasons for the faces to be scratched out of these paintings. First, during the Iconoclast Period (8th to 9th centuries) icons and other figurative representations were prohibited. Around here the earliest painted churches go back to the 4th century so the Iconoclasts went around getting rid of the faces. Second, the Muslims took over, and they too went about getting rid of the faces.

Here's what I wonder - why were they so seemingly random and ineffective? None of this has been restored, some faces are gone and many survive.
She was out with her friend gathering wild asperagus.
Marching on... our lunch spot along the river.

Oh Goodie! You know, I want to enjoy lunch and a nice cold Efes in one of those pavillions. I really really want to.

So as the waiter would stop at a table I'd point towards one of these - 'that would be good'. And then we'd move down a little, he'd point to another table and I'd point to one of these...
...and eventually - We're Here! Not only was it a great spot for lolling and chatting, I got the fish and it was DeLicious.

Ok get-up get-up, three more stops!
This is the Selime Cathedrale, also called a Monastery.

Daah Da, Daah Da, Da Dah Da Dah....
I climbed WAAAY up there. Not all the way to the tippy tippy top, but WAAAY up there!
Then we did a quick photo-stop by a volcanic lake.
And this is the onyx demonstration stop where I turned left instead of right to avoid said demonstration and shopping opportunity and to commune with the pigeons.

More of those pottery trees! This is a lookout over Pigeon Valley so no surprises on the pigeon front.
This picture deserves to be bigger, and I very rarely say so, but there is so much going on in here. Wow.
The wildflowers were out like crazy which was a great treat.
It's my last night, time to bid farewell to lovely Cappadocia. It's been a delight.

This is my hostel where I ended up staying all four nights. Kose Panson. It has completely the hostel feel, for the prices, for the shared bathrooms, and for the community spaces - except no public kitchen, but they do fix good food at a fair price all day long. The inset is my room - just the way I like it.

The gathering spaces are very nice and everyone was extremely cheery except when it took forEver to get their food, and there was a sense of prevailing chaos, but no matter, it was a great price/performance choice.
May 9

My last meal in Turkey! At the airport no less, and it was a perfect farewell. I looove that plain yogurt beverage, and the stuffed simit, this one with olive paste and both goat's and cow's cheese. Most fond farewells, it's been a total Turkish Delight (too silly?!)!
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