My welcome to Peanuts For Travellers readers is dedicated to a magic region that holds a special place in my heart: Cappadocia. Land of ancient kingdoms and mysterious people, lunar landscapes and soft colors, a romantic place for today’s visitors and a dangerous one for people who once lived there.
In 2018 I planned to spend my summer holidays in a country I had never visited before: Turkey.
It’s August. Together with my better half I leave for a 19-day-long self-managed tour, focused on discovering the vast Anatolian land. Our wanderings bring us to Cappadocia for a few days.
Un unusual accomodation
We stay in the small village of Uçhisar, dominated by a scenographic fortress. The place is quieter and more picturesque than the main touristic center of Göreme. Moreover, in order to make our stay as special as possible, I book a peculiar accommodation: a small tuff cave turned into a very comfortable house by a skillful French architect.
We have a kitchen, a bedroom and a bath at our disposal, as well as a cute sunny patio overlooking the famous Fairy Chimneys. What more could we ask for? Every morning, as if by magic, we find a small basket hanging on the door, full of fresh fruit and vegetables and all the necessary for breakfast. The icing on the cake! Premises are excellent. We settle in our accommodation and relax thinking about our plans for the following days.
Let’s start exploring
In Cappadocia you can do many things. In order to galvanise our enthusiasm we start visiting the Göreme open-air museum (Unesco heritage). It encloses a series of rock churches with magnificent frescos, dating back to 1000-1200 B.C. A unique place that absolutely cannot be missed!
We spend the rest of the day exploring the paths in the Rose Valley, looking for bizarre rocks painted in rose and vanilla shades. Every now and then, we come across a small cave, maybe an ancient house or church. We walk under a shining sun, very few people around and a young just married couple having a photo shoot in this otherworldly landscape.
On the way back we meet a group of tourists driving their noisy quads on the dirt road. They raise a big cloud of sand that we can’t avoid… doesn’t matter. We’re tired and dusty, and with our last bit of strength we plan our activities for the following day: after consulting a couple of local tourist agencies we book a hot air balloon tour!
A hot air balloon flight: a unique experience!
What a unique chance to look at the landscape from a higher perspective! Will we ever have such an amazing experience again? The perfect moment to fly is very early in the morning, when the winds are lighter. We get up at 4 o’clock, and soon after we’re picked up and brought to the agency meeting point. A big breakfast is prepared for all passengers while technical operations are going on (but I wonder who could be that hungry at 4:30 a.m… I’d have rather slept half an hour more. Anyway, I’m just way too excited to eat anything right now…).
At 5 a.m. or so we jump into the vans that bring us to the take-off area. It’s dark outside. Once there, we see dozens of balloons being inflated. They are lightened by the flames that heat up the inside air and they look like huge lanterns. Soon the balloons are ready to fly. The assistants give us some practical information and when it’s our turn we jump into the big basket.
At the moment of take-off, the unexpected sensation: I can’t feel any jolts! We go up slightly, moving just a little bit at first, and then more and more! No fear nor sense of vertigo, we feel secure in the basket. We are surrounded by silence, only the sound of the flame interrupts our thoughts. We are floating in the air driven by the morning breeze and a few minutes later we watch the sun rising behind the mountains. All around dozens of other balloons. It’s an extraordinary and unforgettable view!
The flight goes smoothly, the pilot let us go up and down, but the direction is given by the winds and we are at the mercy of their will. We enjoy a wide view from above and we can focus on the places to visit once we reach the ground again. It’s like having a three-dimensional map under our feet.
After a quiet flight over the valleys and the Fairy Chimneys we’re now approaching the landing. The pilot tells us to assume the landing position, a couple of jolts and it’s done! A glass of champagne is waiting for us. It’s 7 a.m. and with no hesitation I grab the wine and cheer to the beginning of this wonderful day!
Are we landed on another planet?
A quick rest and we are ready to go again. After a short drive we reach the Zelve open-air museum. An easy path brings us to a place that could be the movie set of Star Wars, and I wouldn’t be surprised to meet some alien creatures while visiting the caves. Only few tourists are visiting this place and there is an unreal atmosphere, I feel like an astronaut landed on another planet.
At the end of the visit we make a quick stop to see Paşabağı with its strange rock formations and then we spend the rest of the afternoon lazily relaxing ourselves in Uçhisar village. At sunset we reach the Uçhisar Castle. From its top we enjoy a wide view of the surrounding territories, and once again the warm late evening light feeds our eyes with incomparable beauty.
During our last day in Cappadocia we go for a walk in the Love Valley. Here are the strangest and one of the most famous phallic rocks, visited by many young couples (do they bring good luck?). We enter a lonely and easy path for a walk. We meet only a just-married Turkish couple with their photographer, and another mature couple of Australian travellers. They are travelling throughout Europe and will be staying abroad for months before going home. I admire them and I dream to do the same sooner or later…
The mysterious underground cities
Back to the trip! Cappadocia hides other important secrets: the ancient underground cities, for example. There are hundreds of cities, but only few of them have been discovered in recent times. We choose to visit Kaymakli (Unesco heritage). After half-an-hour drive from Uçhisar we’re there. We enter underground paths, walking along narrow tunnels and a labyrinth of rooms built on several levels.
We are in the heart of a city that was probably built for defense, and it is told that thousands of people lived there once. In the half-light, we walk along a guided route assuming a stooped posture every now and then. It is quite a claustrophobic place, but it’s really interesting and worth the visit. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Eventually, we head for the surface and see the sunlight again. What a pleasant sensation! Now we are ready to continue our travel, looking for the many treasures of this vast country.
- Cappadocia has a desertic climate, it is hot during the day and chilly in the evening (bring a sweater or a jacket with you).
- The nearest airport is Nevşehir.
- Over the past few years the number of tourists has decreased. Places were uncrowded even in August.