6 October 2022
The Call to Prayer woke me at 5:28; the unmistakable roar of burners blasting a flame into balloons got me out of my room before 6:15. Walking outside, I was met with an unbelievable sight. Balloons – overhead!
I had thought I would hike up to sunrise point this morning and hope for a view of balloons, if they flew today. Instead, I walked just feet to overlook Göreme and balloons, balloons and more balloons. I returned to my terrace to watch the amazing sound and flight of scores of balloons floating majestically through the sky. It was impossible to count them all but at least 70 were above and around the city. One looked as though it squeezed past the minaret just below me.
I had hoped for views but I was not prepared for the awesome sight of colorful balloons and their large gondolas passing directly overhead for the better part of an hour. Eventually, the balloons drifted southwest to disappear over the mesas and land around Love Valley.
My day started perfectly.
After breakfast, I boarded a van for the Red Tour, joining much the same group as on yesterday’s Green Tour. Today, I visited:
Uçhisar’s Panoramic View and Castle and from its placement above the valley it acted as a very effective watchtower for this region of middle Turkey. The ubiquitous pigeon houses, trees with the evil eye for colorful photos, bored camels, and tea houses top the panorama.
The Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, is a must for carved churches and some of the best frescoes in Cappadocia. The caves and surroundings have seen inhabitants for centuries. By the 4th century, Christians arrived, fleeing persecution elsewhere. When the Romans threatened, Christians dug in, so to speak, and carved rooms and tunnels for homes and additional security. Superstitious locals saw their twinkling flames and thought they were fairies, thus the origin for the so-called fairy chimneys.
This open museum includes several monastic churches and occasional well preserved frescoes as in the St. Basil Chapel. The wonderfully frescoed Dark Church is an extra fee but well worth it, though it does not include photos. Many of these 11th century frescoes were destroyed by the invading Ottomans but were eventually recognized for their value and restored. Even more vibrant are the beautiful frescoes in the Tokalı Church (Church of the Buckle).
The tour is slow, waiting for people and lines. There are hoards of Korean and Indonesian tourists. I am told the Chinese are still at bay. The crowds are awful!
We return to Göreme for lunch, Turkish style. I am befriended by Sybil from Sidney who is traveling with her sister and two friends, one a male. They take me in hand and lead me through eating Turkish style. I pass on the chilis and cigarettes. Once again, Turks prove to be incredibly kind and welcoming.
We drive to Love Valley. Our guide informs me this is the place to come with wine when a full moon and the rest was left to my imagination. A mesa of sulfur (yellow), red (iron) and sand dominates the horizon. Cones are topped with their basalt caps. Eventually, the sandy cones will erode and these caps will topple to the ground, but not in any recent time.
On all the tours here, you will be subjected to a forced shopping visit, this time it is the Avanos Pottery place. For marriage a woman had to weave a carpet but a man had to make a perfect pot and lid. So I guess this visit is for training? Actually it is an awful sales pitch in which we are briefly shown pottery making then led to rooms full of pottery and glazed stuff. It is a maze or rooms with a painful, painful walk back to the exit. In each room I am pointed to “priceless” plates that I can “buy, we will ship, if broken take photo and we will replace, wonderful plate takes days to create”. Only $945 but 30% off! He computes final price in his head. My head is saying “No. Don’t want any of this shit and get me the fuck out of here!” How do I explain this doesn’t fit my life style or belong on my walls? After multi-rooms and endless sales pitches, I wouldn’t buy a cup from this guy. I have to pretend I care? Tip: NEVER buy from these guys as you will find the same thing in area shops for MUCH less.
Truthfully, just the experience of yesterday’s “jewellry” shop and this pottery shope makes it worthwhile to hire a private driver and read Wikipedia.
We pass a Starbucks of Cappadocia on our way out of town.
Deviant or Imagination Valley, or the animal zoo, is an interesting stop. Our guide pointed out some sculptured rocks resembling Napoleon’s hat, a penguin, maybe a bird. I do see the horse up the bluff, a real one. I think there is a snail but then we Californians have a lot of them. Funny how wind and water sculpts while locals desire to name rocks for us tourists.
A final stop is at the Paşabağı Fairy Chimneys. Chimneys are everywhere around the valley but one doesn’t get tired of seeing more. They make for a fascinating landscape. Each formation is unique. It’s a balancing act. Like the pottery master who uses the wire to cut the pot off the wheel, large balsalt hats have been cut from their sandstone base and tetter on oblivion.
Not much of a sunset tonight. All restaurants pause their recorded music as the Call to Prayer reverberates across the city. When you are in the midst of such timelessness, one knows there will always be another day. I retreat to my spacious cave room, climb to the terrace and enjoy an Efes looking forward to tomorrow. My balloon ride is on!