Travel Notes – Cappadocia Day 02

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

We woke up the next day at 5 in the morning to get ready but ten minutes later there was a knock on the door and a man’s voice said, “Balloon cancelled!”. What a damper! We had been told when we arrived that there had been no flights in the past 7 days due to heavy fog and bad weather but we had hoped the sky would’ve cleared up today. Disappointed, we crawled back into bed and waited for the Fajr call to prayer.

We had also booked the History & Adventure Tour that day with Turkish Heritage Travel so after a quick shower, we headed up to the hotel’s breakfast room and oh my god, what a spread! The selection of bread, cheeses, fruits, cakes, jams, salads and so many other stuff was just delightful! The kids kept on going back to the buffet table to try out the various items and it was probably one of the best breakfast buffets we have ever tried.

Full and satisfied, we headed to the reception area at 10 to wait for our tour to start. There were three other people besides us, a couple from Taiwan and a solo female traveller from NYC. Five minutes later, our tour guide Jihad (love the name!), arrived and after a brief introduction, everybody jumped into the van and off we went!

Our first stop was the hike up Rose Valley. The scenery around us was just gorgeous. It was like a barren and forgotten land and winter had turned everything brown. The trees no longer had fresh green leaves on them. We were surrounded by brownish pink caves and as we slowly made our way up the valley, I felt an eerie sense of quiet around us.

We continued to hike and would occasionally stop for pictures and after about more than an hour uphill, we came across a small clearing where there were seats and tables and a crate of pomegranates and oranges lying in one corner. Above the clearing was a little entrance to a cave etched into the valley. Jihad asked us to step in and wow! We found ourselves inside a little tea shop, crammed with pomegranate and oranges on one side and a little TV on one corner. In the middle of the space was a traditional stove with a pot boiling over it filled with mulled wine. There were wooden benches on two sides of the wall where people could sit and we were told to look up where we saw a pigeon’s nest resting on a small ledge up above. We were greeted by the caveshop owner, Imin, who comes every morning and serves mulled wine, fresh juice, tea and coffee for hikers who pass by his cave. It was truly a remarkable thing to see. A little tea shop etched into a cave in the middle of nowhere and up a valley too!

The group stayed here for a while, ordering drinks and chatting while enjoying the warmth of the cave. After about half an hour, we said goodbye to Imin and headed back out. We continued to trek and were just mesmerised by everything around us. Nothing but frozen vineyards and rose-coloured caves as far as the eye could see. We began to make our way down and just before we jumped back into the van, we stopped at another teashop, this time next to where our van was parked, to have hot apple tea.

We left Rose Valley around 1 and made our way to Pasabag which is an ancient monks valley with mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys and cave cells, used by the monks who inhabited this area many years ago. We took some pictures and by this time we were all getting super hungry. Jihad then took us to have lunch at Bizim Ev Restaurant, a fantastic Turkish restaurant in Avanos. With lunch done, we continued on to Guray Muze, an underground ceramic museum/workshop not too far away. Here, we saw artisans at work, designing and skillfully decorating various plates, vases and bowls. We were given a tour by a family member of the museum owner and had fun watching a demonstration from one of the pottery masters. My son was even invited to try his hand at the pottery wheel to the delight and amusement of everyone in our group.

Our next stop was Kaymakli Underground Village. Another surreal place as we headed deep into the ground to see the living quarters of people in this area from thousands of years ago. By this time, my legs were beginning to hurt but I couldn’t help but be amazed. We saw sleeping chambers, altars used for praying as well as kitchens, cattle quarters and storage for food as we went deeper underground.

The day was beginning to get dark as we made our way back to the hotel and all of us were cold and tired. We arrived back around 6 pm and after a good but long day, everyone just wanted to shower and sleep. Before heading back to our room, I had asked the hotel staff to ensure we were booked for tomorrow’s balloon ride in case the weather cleared up. I was getting nervous as we were only in Cappadocia for three days so if the flight doesn’t happen tomorrow or the morning after, we will have to leave without having done this activity. The staff told us that there was no more space with Butterfly Balloons, the balloon company we had originally booked with. They offered to make reservations with Kapadokya Balloons instead which I quickly agreed to. We just want to get on those balloons!

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