This morning, bright and early, I capped my “escape trip” to Cappadocia, Turkey with a marvelous balloon ride. I was picked up from my hotel at5:20 am, well before sunrise and taken to a remote field that had balloons stretched out and warming and a tea cafe on a slight hill. There was coffee, tea and cookies available to the hundreds of people gathered. None of us knew what to do other than grab a beverage and cookie and sit or stand around. I don’t know how it was organized, but eventually each of us was picked out, person by person, to board yet another van to be driven to our balloon.
I’ve flown balloons before… and acted as the chase car for a ballooning friend years ago. His balloon held about 8 people max. This balloon held about 25. A BIG balloon! And I estimate that there were more than a hundred balloons that took off that morning. I really don’t know how they organized it all, but it went smoothly!
To understand what a wonderful trip we had, you have to understand the Capadocia region of Turkey. It is an area that had seen repeated volcanic activity. Periods of volcanic ash and mud flows (which form a soft stone called tufa) were covered by periods of lava flows (which forms a harder stone layer called basalt). As the top layer of basalt eroded and cracked, the softer tufa layer eroded faster than the top layer of basalt. The result was amazing geological formations, the most impressive of which are “fairy chimneys”. A “cap” of basalt stone sits atop a thin, cone-like pillar of tufa stone.
The mud and ash tufa stone is soft. It is easily carved either naturally by wind and rain or artificially by human hand. The residents of the area made use of this property by carving caves into the tufa layers. Over the centuries the Capadocia residents made their livings by cultivating the rich volcanic soil of the valleys and housing their produce, livestock and selves in caves carved into the tufa. As marauding armies came and went across Turkey, the Capadocians found it relatively easy to wait out the invading armies by ducking underground and living off of their food stores whenever an unfriendly army came into town.
One group that found Capadocia particularly appealing was the early Christians, who carved many a church into the soft tufa. Whole of communities of Christians took up residence in Dr. Suess-like monasteries carved into fantastical hills and mountains or deep underground. I spent a couple of days on group tours exploring these ancient sites. The tours were very good and the group was a lot of fun… the people you are stuck with all day can make ALL the difference! Each of the past few evenings I have had dinner with an Australian name Judy. Last night we decided to just make a meal from grocery store offerings, so we brought home some wine, cheese, olives, bread and baklava… and ended up in the kitchen of the Swiss hotel owner discussing all manner of world events.
So, this morning I spent about an hour floating aimlessly over the amazing Capadocia landscape in a hot air balloon… and had a wonderful time! I have the rest of the day free, so I took another nap in the morning and I am now downtown Urgup, where I am enjoying tea and cookies for lunch. (I just saw one of the many well-fed stray cats here use the cross walk and look both ways before crossing the street… smart kitty!). Tomorrow I return to life in Istanbulall the richer for my excursion into this interesting country side.
I’ve uploaded a file of photos from my balloon ride that can be found at: http://summerthor.phanfare.com/5779312
And a separate file of Capadocia photos can be seen at: http://summerthor.phanfare.com/5779312
Since I last blogged, I was honored to have been invited to spend an evening with my friend Ummuhan and her family who are living outside ofIstanbul. Ummuhan had been a teacher atEastCarolinaUniversityinGreenvilleand I had met her there. They recently decided to move back toTurkeywith their three children. They invited me for late afternoon tea and dinner. Her in-laws were also visiting. They had recently returned from a holiday trip toMecca(they had made their Hajj some years ago) and they honored me with an offer of zam-zam water. This is water from the spring inMeccathat was created by God to quench the thirst of Abraham’s son Ishmael. I appreciated their kind offer. We had afternoon tea, walked to the mosque together for evening prayers and enjoyed a delicious traditional dinner cooked by both women. It was wonderful to share their family life for the evening.
I also had the chance to get together a couple of times with a couple fromSouth Africathat I had met two years ago in the Plaza Mayor inMadrid,Spain. Brian and Dale had rented an apartment not too far from mine. Dale prefers to cook, as her allergies are bothered by the smoking habits of the Turkish people in restaurants… you really can’t enjoy a meal without being bothered by smoke. So… we enjoyed Dale’s marvelous cooking while we chatted and solvedALLthe world’s problems… if only people would listen to US! LOL! Great pair!
Hopefully, I can upload the rest of my photos and send this out when I get home… there have been a few internet issues back at the hotel. If not,. I’ll get it sent once I have returned toIstanbul.
Life’s a trip!