Friday, August 29, 2014

Hot Air Balloon Ride

June 17th, 2014 – early AM

Our morning in Cappadocia started early ……..VERY early….. with a scheduled pick-up at the Cappadocia Estates Hotel at 4 am! No time for even a cup of coffee at the cute little table on our patio. We were off for a hot air balloon ride!

When we were researching the Cappadocia area, every source said that a balloon ride was a ‘must’. We had been on one other balloon ride before and loved it….so I thought, “Why not?”

Balloon flights are generally scheduled around dawn to take advantage of the wind currents. We arrived at the Butterfly Balloons location at around 4:45am and had a quick bite of sweet roll and juice. Then, all the gathered customers loaded into vans and drove to our take off point.


The crew was already on the ground getting the balloons ready and inflated.


And, with a quick climb over the side of the basket, we were ready to go! This was a large basket that held 16 passengers and the pilot.



We were not the only balloon flying. Butterfly Balloons had at least 4 balloons, and there were other companies taking off.


We later learned that there was a total of 70 balloons in the air that morning!


The sunrise really highlighted this unique landscape.


I keep trying to figure out the art of the ‘selfie’.  I think that the problem is that my arms are too short! Probably ought to let Fred hold the camera.   ; )


These formations, caused by the erosion of different volcanic rock layers, are called Fairy Chimneys,


Flying over gave us a unique view of the homes that had been carved in the rock.


And how towns just built up around these rock houses……..

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Our balloon would dip down into these valleys and just drift along the length of the valley, getting so close to the sides as we ‘popped out’ that we could almost touch the rocks.


Our balloon ride lasted over an hour, and, when we landed, the pilot put us down right onto the back of the trailer! The crew was waiting for us on the ground (they followed our balloon with the help of radio directions from the pilot). Then, the traditional champagne toast to a safe ride!


The balloon is quickly collapsed and all the ‘big strong men’ got to help fold it up.


And a ‘tradition’ that I had never heard of…..these really strong crew members picked each of us (by couples) and carried us over their shoulder, and then dumped us down onto the folded balloon to get our picture taken!

The whole balloon ride experience was one that I would not have missed! And though I have written these blogs a little out of order….I wanted to end with this awesome experience!

After this early morning excitement, we were shuttled back to our hotel where we met Sinem, our guide, for our second day of sightseeing in Cappadocia. Then, we were dropped off at the airport and flew back to Istanbul (it is just a short flight). We spent that night at the airport hotel, and caught our plane home in the morning.

This was quite a trip! And a perfect one to check off of our ‘bucket list’.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cappadocia Estates Hotel and Mustafapasa

June 16-17th, 2014

We had one night in Cappadocia and we stayed in the little town of Mustafapasa, a bit off the normal tourist track.


Mustafapasa has an interesting history. It was one of the towns that was directly affected by the ‘population exchange’ in 1923, when the people of Greek heritage living in Turkey were forced to return to Greece, and vise versa. This forced’' ‘exchange’ tore towns apart and neighbors from each other. This sign in the middle of town depicts both the tearful goodbye and the healing that had to take place.


Many of the local hotels in this region were advertised to be ‘cave hotels, but our hotel, the Cappadocia Estates, was not so much of a cave as it was built into the side of the hill.


We climbed up several sets of steep, outside stairs (fortunately, the hotel staff carried our bags up for us). When we got to our room……..WOW what a view!


Just outside our door was this courtyard area with a table that looked like it might be just right for ones’ morning coffee.


Our room was lovely……….


But, so much more room than our short visit would allow us time to enjoy!


After quickly settling in, we walked next door for a bit of dinner.

The Old Greek House Restaurant was housed in a restored historic old building.


We sat at a table in an open air, though roofed, dining room and ate a delicious Turkish meal of a clay pot cooked  stew (and, of course, bread to sop it all up!).

An interesting side note- Martha Stewart came to Cappadocia with her crew to film an episode for her TV show and ate at this restaurant. They have the pictures to prove it!


Right next to the Old Greek House was this building front. We thought that it was interesting that the building had the emblem of the lions on it, something that we had not seen used very much.


And in the garden next to our hotel, we noticed this woman gathering greens and vegetables, perhaps for her dinner. Note- the traditional clothing. Here in the rural area of Cappadocia we noticed more of the women in traditional clothing. In the city of Istanbul, Few people dressed like this.

On our second day of sightseeing, we had some time to explore the town of Mustafapasa, on foot, with our guide.

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I’ll take a second to introduce you to our guide. Sinem is a sweet 30 year old young woman, originally from Ankara (the capital of Turkey) who graduated from the university in Kayseri, having completed a 4 year program to be an official, licensed guide. She was very knowledgeable, and a delight to get to know. Again, there are so many more similarities than differences. When we asked how her mother felt about her living away from home, Sinem replied that her mother “wants her to be happy, but she does keep mentioning that she could maybe move closer to home”. Sounds familiar……   ; ) 

On with our exploring……..


The town of Mustafapasa is small and easily walk-able, though built on the hills.


We found an interesting mix of old and new. A number of the small, almost rundown houses, had solar panels and satellite dishes.


Yet, as we strolled along, this woman walked ahead of us with her cow.


There are still a number of abandoned cave houses…….It is not hard to picture how the town had grown up around those hollowed out dwellings.


Many of the cave houses are being renovated and turned into hotels in response to the growing tourism industry.


Mustafapasa is a charming little town, not yet spoiled by the great crowds.

I realized that I might not have mentioned that our two days of sightseeing included our guide, Sinem, and a very capable driver who drove us from place to place and waited patiently for us, always there when we were ready to move on. Without our driver, we would not have been able to cover the area and see as many sights as we did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tile Making in Avonos and Carpet Weaving in Nevsehir

Along with our touring in Cappadocia, we were introduced to two of the region’s craft industries, tile making and carpet weaving. Indeed, it was said that a couple could not marry until the boy had mastered the art of tile making and the girl, carpet weaving.


We first toured the workshop area where artisans were working, hand painting vases and other pottery.


Next, we toured the showroom, where we admired the finished products.


I loved the colors and designs on these tiles.


These tiles are similar in composition to the Iznic tiles that we saw used in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Indeed, this is the region where those tiles were made.


Finally, we watched a craftsman working with the pottery wheel.


They offered me the opportunity to try my hand. (First, I had to pull on some rather loose fitting over pants, so as not to get dirty). Then, with a lot of help,  I fashioned a bowl.


I was pretty proud of myself…….


On our second day, we stopped by the ‘Gallery Cappadocia’, where we were able to observe the art of weaving.


All of these wools and silks are colored with natural dyes. Turmeric for yellow, beets and other elements for red, a mixture of barks for brown, and cobalt blue.


Inside, we once again had a demonstration of how silk is spun from the silk worm cocoons.


I loved the colors and textures of the yarns!


In this facility, several women were working at their looms…….


Wool, silk and/or cotton are hand woven in intricate patterns to form rugs. It may take a woman weeks, or months to finish one piece. These are the rugs which have decorated palaces, and they retain their beauty and value for generations.

Whether in facilities such as this one, or in independent homes as a cottage industry, the Turkish government is encouraging the resurgence of these traditional handicrafts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lunch in Cappadocia–Authenticity

June 16th & 17th, 2014

Both of our days in Cappadocia included an authentic lunch experience.


On our first day, we stopped to eat at the house of a local village woman. As we sat outdoors on her small patio…….


This lovely woman fixed us a most delicious meal of simple, traditional foods that she might serve to her family. Each meal, of course, starts with a Greek salad and bread, then we had a soup and an eggplant dish. Very good!


After lunch, we joined our hostess in her ‘living room’ where we sat and visited, with the help of our guide as an interpreter.


We admired the simple decorations, and the pictures of her and her mother as young women.


We asked about her life and found out that she was a bit older than I, and widowed in the past few years. Her 85 year old mother was living with her, and helped her with the cooking. There was much that we both could relate to. She had spent her life as a homemaker, and raised several children who now lived away from home. She had grandchildren that she missed.


Upon our hostesses’ suggestion, I tried on a traditional scarf. I had asked about the clothing, and found that she was dressed as she might always dress, not a ‘costume’ to look more authentic. Indeed, during our two days of touring, we saw many women who were dressed similarly.


On our second day, we stopped in at a sort of informal ‘restaurant’ – really just a family’s home that they have set up to cook for groups at certain times.


Again, we sat outdoors and enjoyed the amazing view of this very unusual landscape.


Today, our meal was to include several dishes cooked in a traditional fire pit.


These clay pots, filled with delicious foods, were slow cooked over hot coals. We had beans, two kinds of meats, and stuffed grape leaves.


But first, there was bread…….We watched our hostesses – this time a daughter-in-law and her husband’s mother, cook a sort of flat bread. The daughter-in-law was rolling out the dough…..


And her mother-in-law cooked it on a sort of upside down wok that was placed over a fire pit. The hot bread was placed on our table along with a variety of spreads and toppings, including cheeses and a sort of grape syrup. (Yum!)

The opportunity to dine with a local family each day, eating what was served as their typical lunch, was a highlight of our trip.    : )