Before we can leave the marina, someone needs to take care of the cats. Someone is our good friend Marina. And so she took the opportunity to stay on our boat for a change from her smaller Halberg Rassy mono-hull that pitched in the marina whenever there was a swell. Marina knows at least we could stay on board when it was a bit rough, and the living space is very nice. Additionally, the cats didn’t seem to mind Gioia, Marina’s lovely little dog- although she loved to steal the cat food when she could.
Because we wanted to make an early start, we arranged to pick up our hire car the night before. We planned a long day driving. From Finike we travel the D400 familiar route to Antalya, but from there, will be new for us. We unexpectedly catch Antalya peak hour morning traffic as early as 7.30 am. So having been delayed at least two hours, we decide to use the bypass to Konya, rather than visit that city, to reduce travel time.
Getting to Kapadokya
Along the way, we rise to 1810 m above sea level, with snow-capped peaks making for beautiful scenery. The higher we drive, the closer the snow comes to the side of the road. Snow seems so novel, to us given the mild winter we were having in Finike. This trip is in early March 2021, so autumn is just beginning.
Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkey. It is known for its distinctive “fairy chimneys,” tall, cone-shaped rock formations that cluster in Monks Valley, Göreme, and elsewhere. Other notables sites include Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians. The 100m-deep Ihlara Canyon houses numerous rock-face churches. © Google maps.
Arriving in Goreme
Hence, driving through Goreme National Park, where our accommodation is to be in a “Cave Hotel”, seems like arriving on another planet. Seeing the fairy chimneys, confirms for us that we are in the area we need to find our accommodation. We are in Göreme Tarihi Milli Parkı, Nevşehir, Turkey
Our cave hotel
Built on top of the city’s storied caves, this refined all-suite hotel within Goreme Historical National Park is 4 km from the Fairy Chimneys rock formations. Our room is deep along the alleys and stairways within the compound of the hotel, decorated with historic pieces. We find our suite and open the door. Lovely ! Our suite is spacious and very comfortable, including a huge claw-foot bath as well as the typical shower and basins.
Breakfast at Sultan Cave Suites
To begin with, the location is at the top of the stairways, so the view is unparalleled. Amazing. We have a view right across Rose valley, which fills with balloons early morning on the days they are flying. The traditional Turkish breakfast includes cheeses, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, jams, fruits butter, fruits and spreads (including “nutella?”?!?!), honey, kaymak (the equivalent of tripple clotted cream), breads, Turkish sausage. Eggs are always on the menu. They offer us a choice of omelette, fried eggs or menemen. This is Turkish scrambled eggs with onions, green peppers, spices, tomatoes cooked in olive oil. We choose menemen! The meal is accompanied by çay “chai”, orange juice or Turkish coffee. We are actually enjoying this style of coffee
This is an amazing performance where skill, food, and art combine. The contents are pre-cooking inside the sealed pots. Mutton, tomato, garlic, green pepper, butter, salt, and pepper are all steaming slowly before coming into the restaurant dining room. A special glaze covers the jug. For those who want to try this themselves, here’s a recipe link. https://turkishfoodie.com/testi-kebab/
The sealed pots arrive to be set alight in front of the diners’ eyes. The waiter wears an asbestos-looking left-hand gauntlet and a huge sabre in his right hand. He makes a huge blow, then rotates the pot, tapping to complete the breaking of the seal. The top lifts easily from the base, before the contents are poured into the serving bowl.
Why is this local dish so famous? It is a “testi kebab”. Perhaps it is a test of the skill of the chef and the waiter. Actually, it is a word for Crock (a pot). The dish is registered as a “Yozgat provincial food”. Yozgat is a couple of hours north of Goreme. However, the pottery that makes the pots is from Avanos, a pottery-making town, close by Nevsehir. So it is certainly a localised dish. We have not seen this anywhere else so far.
Manti- Turkish traditional dumplings
The video includes a dish called “Manti” at the end. For those who want to try to make this, here is a link to that recipe. https://www.giverecipe.com/turkish-dumplings-manti/
Underground city- Derinkuyu
“There are more than 200 underground cities in the Cappadocia region. The Underground Cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are the most popular and visited ones”. https://allthatsinteresting.com/derinkuyu-underground-city#4
The purpose of these cities was to house Christians hiding from Muslim persecution. We choose to visit Derinkuyu. Although a guide is good idea, we stumble onto one leading an English tour group and listin in. It is remarkable to understand that these cities housed people right up to 1923, hiding from the Ottomans.
“The city could accommodate as many as 20,000 people and had all the usual amenities found in other underground complexes across Cappadocia, such as wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels.
Unique to the Derinkuyu complex and located on the second floor is a spacious room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Possibly, this room was used as a religious school and the rooms to the left were studies
Between the third and fourth levels is a vertical staircase. This passageway leads to a cruciform church on the lowest (fifth) level.
The large 55 m (180 foot) ventilation shaft appears to have been used as a well. The shaft also provided water to both the villagers above and, if the outside world was not accessible, to those in hiding.” https://brilliantmaps.com/derinkuyu/
We are very lucky. There have been no flights for ages as the Turkish Meteorological Department cancels flights if the weather is unsuitable. It is ten to six am and we are waiting outside our hotel for pick up to the balloon launching site. Many drive past us without stopping. This is a good sign, as it suggests the flight is approved for today. But we won’t know definitely if the flight is approved until we arrive on site.
Early morning start
The launch site is pitch black until its’ eery blackness is lit up briefly by the balloons being inflated. And as the balloon first lifts off the ground, we are invited into the basket. Importantly, a safety briefing begins before the balloon is fired up fully to rise. We see there are four separate sections in the basket, holding sixteen people. We have our corner to ourselves. As it is Covid time, this is reassuring that we are not mixed with people we haven’t spent time with previously. And then we rise. We appear to be one of the first balloons up. The view is thrilling. Repeatedly.
It is so remarkable to see the landscape light up by the flares of flames that inflate the balloons we see all around us. Even more remarkable is seeing the moon set and the sun rise as we rise higher and higher! It is very magical. This landscape is like no other.
The skill of the balloonist is faultless. I say this because on one descent he drops almost to the ground, then rises up again higher than we’d been the whole trip.
The final skill is landing the basket onto a trailer precisely. We are able to then step down from the basket and admire the remaining balloons still in flight.
The ‘official’ video- Jill de Vos
© Jill de Vos 2021