Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cappadocia, Turkey, Part 2: THE HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE

Moment of the Day:
Getting straight to the point. This section comes first today because it was truly one of the most incredible things I've ever done - hot-air ballooning before sunrise over the gorgeousness that is Cappadocia.

Our company came and picked us up for a 4AM departure (ouch!).  Hot-air ballooning is probably the most popular activity that tourists come to Cappadocia for - you can hot-air balloon here 300 days of the year, which is incredibly unusual. However, the winds usually pick up during the day, and oftentimes the balloon rides have to all be completely cancelled if the winds are too strong (which apparently happened on the day before we arrived).

As a way of limiting air traffic, only 100 balloons are allowed up in the morning.  It's adorable because all the balloons start super close together, but then as you drift upwards, everyone kind of goes on their own merry way.


I have to say, floating about Cappadocia in the early morning hours, watching the sun rise over the crazy rock formations, was one of the most breathtaking things I've ever seen in my entire life. Sam and I kept commenting that the entire thing felt surreal - it didn't feel like real life.

I maybe took a million photos, and I swear I tried to condense them down as much as possible.

All the balloons lift off

Look how high we are! Max height is 1,800 meters above sea level, which is just about where we were at in this photo.  Our guide proudly pointed out that we were the highest balloon of them all
Honestly, photos don't do this justice

The sun has now risen
And then we floated down a little and this cow was staring at us
Put this on your bucket list ASAP
Afterwards, the guide gave us all champagne and then certificates (for doing nothing but standing in the basket, I guess?)  Sam remarked how adorable it was because they read off all our names and after each one, the entire crew would applaud and yell "Bravo!"  Despite the fact that they probably do this every day of their life....it was so cute
Cheers-ing in front of our balloon basket

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Despite the 3:30AM wakeup, and the fact that we didn't get back to our hotel until 7:30AM, and the fact that our hotel man "did not recommend we do both the ballooning and a full-day tour on the same day" because it would be exhausting, Sam and I signed up for a full-day 8-hour tour starting at 9:30AM to visit all these other sites in Cappadocia. Because we're crazy. And that's why we're friends. DO ALL THE THINGS.

First on the tour: overlook onto Goreme
  • Our next stop on the tour was an underground cave city. There are a ton of these around Cappadocia. We went to a city called Derinkuyu. It was believed that groups of people that were persecuted lived in the underground cities, to hide from enemies and such. Derinkuyu is over a couple thousand years old, goes more than 20 stories below the earth, and could hold up to 20,000 people. It was like crazy mole people underground land. Or like those ant farms you used to have as a kid, but in life-size form.  There were kitchens, and bedrooms and small tiny passageways that funneled from room to room.  HOW COOL IS THAT.
The underground-ness kept the temperature cool year-round. There were also a handful of ventilation shafts to the surface so they could breathe and cook and stuff
Funneling through one of the tiny tiny passageways. Apparently these people were super small
They were so small, in fact, that a girl on our tour who was over 6 feet tall had to be bent at a 90 degree angle the entire walk through the passages
  • Then hiked the Ihlara Valley, a very pretty trek down in a valley by the river where people (surprise!) used to reside in the caves along the valley.
A cave monastery in the  Ihlara Valley. These are the old-school frescoes inside
  • Visited Selime Monastery - a cave monastery at the top of a cliff bluff - because apparently monasteries can't be easy to reach!? It was kind of an aggressive climb.
Selime Monastery
A cathedral inside the monastery

Meal of the Day:
To cap off the longest and most activity-filled day in all of history, we went to a local restaurant called Dibek, which is known for one of Cappadocia's popular traditional dishes: pottery kebab (testi kebap).  They take meat or vegetables, seal it in a clay pot, and then slow cook the pot over the fire for hours. Then when ready to eat, they break it open with a hammer, and voila! Pottery kebab. 

Our man getting ready to hammer open our pottery kebab, which we had to call and order early that morning so it was ready by dinnertime
Hammering it open

Pouring onto the plate
Entire spread
We sat on the floor and drank out of clay goblets, which I took as a sign to mean that the entire experience was totally authentic
It was so, so delicious.  Kind of like an olden-day slow cooker.  Our hotel man was telling us that only a couple places do this kind of thing authentically anymore because of the effort involved - most places cook the meat/veggies beforehand, then throw it into a clay pot and break it open for show.  Dibek, however, still does it old school. Nom.

Sam and I were so sad to leave Cappadocia - it truly is adventure-rugged-outdoor land, and there are SO MANY interesting things to do and see and uhhhh who doesn't love a good cave building?!  So, so great.  Next up, the insanity of the big city - Istanbul!


  1. LOVE!!! Keep doing all the things - I love reading :) xoxo from NYC!

    1. XOXO! An e-mail is coming your way, lady! Miss you so much and hope you are living it up in the city (which I know you are)!

  2. Still can't believe we did ALL OF THE THINGS in cappadocia. Still recovering from that exertion. Also, that photo of us in the cave tunnels KILLS me every time. Hehehehe. Writing this comment at 30,000ft on the way back to the States. Miss you already!!!!! Xoxo


      Love you so much and had the best time with you ever!! TURKEY LEG PART 2 REDUX?!!


  3. Awesome - both the pictures and the experiences! You make me want to do all the things. :) Love you!

    1. Thanks love!! Come do all the things with me! Hope newlywed life is treating you well. Love you! xo