2013 Cappadocia

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I don't know who would say no to the chance of spending New Year's Eve at Cappadocia but that's not me for sure. Late December I catch a flight to Istanbul where my good friend Jale waits for me at the airport with her brother's brand new VW Golf. I always prefer to drive but in the insane traffic of Istanbul I am more than happy that she does it for me. The traffic jam is so heavy that my stomach starts feeling bad due to the polluted air.

We leave mama Europe behind to enter Asia crossing Bosporus while I enjoy the "15th of July" bridge's night lights:

As we leave the traffic behind I take the driver's seat and we continue driving in the cold icy night. I must say I am very impressed by the grip this car offers under such terrain and conditions. Those electronics do wonders. At some point we are stopped by some authorities - it's night and I'm not sure if they are army police or traffic police but Jale rushes to do the contact and give them the papers. I offer to contribute but she says in my ear to stay in car as I shouldn't claim to be the driver or at least that's what I understand. Fortunately in a minute we're done and continue East. After 250ish km we arrive at the hotel of the Fenerbahce complex which is (as far as I can understand) where this football club prepares for the next season. All I can see at night is this:

Everything is under snow's blanket including the local lake. The hotel is rather luxurious and a huge chandelier hanging from the tall roof attracts my eye:

We later step down for dinner to realise that the dinning area at the ground floor is hosting a wedding party. Not exactly my cup of tea but interesting to see that anyway. Great food and nice service from the staff.

Next morning allows brighter shades of white to be captured:

The sun is penetrating and though Jale insists I can't be the model of her dreams:

What you see behind me is the frozen lake of Topuk Yaylasi. I didn't dare to walk it though, we had lots of km to do but you can safely have a look at it without the risk of walking on (who knows how thin) ice:

We take the car and drive a reverse C on the map of 50KM South to visit Abant lake. It's also (partially) frozen and Jale is glad that I am a bit more of a model there:

Lots of snow around the lake:

We get in the car and as we leave the lake behind I take two more pictures:

From Abant lake I drive another 500+km South East and that brings us to Goreme at Cappadocia. Before we enter the town at night I stop the car to take a picture:

The picture can't really tell but the place looks unreal at night with all these lights reflecting on these unique rock formations. We stay at one of those cave hotels and living inside the rock definitely adds something to the whole experience. Next morning our Turkish breakfast definitely has a view:

I don't know how but during our breakfast I end up talking with a Californian lady on the next table about Van Halen as she came with her husband to spend the New Year's Eve at Cappadocia as well and she knew guys from the band personally. What a small funny planet ours is...

Breakfast is over, time for a walk around icy cold but fortunately dry Goreme. Those volcanic rocks make the whole difference there with their formations:

I must admit that the local chickens not only make fantastic eggs but are among the cutest I've seen:

I tend to picture the (often gross) contrast between old and new:

This is how the area outside Goreme looks like:

We visit an earthware workshop later where I see some interesting wine bottles:

The guy in charge explains me how their shape was convenient to serve wine on glasses:

Nice items nicely decorated by hand from those talented girls:

As we exit the place I can't resist picturing this massive copper door:

A short ride around Goreme led us to more interesting local rock art:

Zelve open air museum:

Climb any of those tops around and the view pays back eternally:

If you wonder how the whole area got shaped like this just imagine that this used to be a valley of volcanoes that once got flooded by lava. Then time and elements of nature applied their own artistic touch.

The reason behind our small ride was the fact that normally we'd be having a balloon tour around starting early in the morning but the wind was more than the maximum allowed limit (10km/h) so they cancelled the flight. At noon they told us we were good to go so we enter their bus which leads as to the take off spot.

This is me in front of our balloon:

If it looks big to you then wait for the next picture to get a better idea of its size:

Did you see how tiny the guy inside it looks compared to it? And it's not even fully inflated yet. Here's another one in its full size:

And here's ours as we're taking off pictured from inside:

The pilot put all people inside the basket in certain places and I notice that we are like the light ones on one side and the heavier ones on the other. I wondered why...if only I knew why...Keep in mind that I said heavier and not heavy. That's because it's me, Jale and another 20 Japanese guys mainly girls. There's no such thing as heavy in a group like this.

As we take off I am already impressed by how safety is not a priority for these guys since we already collide with another balloon but the view is already impressive and we are not at full height yet:

Here's one more image that gives you an idea about the size of those things:

As we fly over those sharp rock formations they really look like razor blades:

It's so lovely to watch the other balloons colouring the freezing air:

I think it's fair to stop talking and allow some pictures to speak for themselves:

It's a unique experience and especially when the pilot is not using the gas to gain height the perfect silence (thank you Japanese people you are the best) brings you as close to a bird as it gets. Beyond amazing. Until it comes to landing...Remember I told you how the pilot put everyone in certain places? Well that's because the landing plan is to crash land and as the basket will probably flip the lighter ones will fall on the heavier ones. I realised it seconds before we hit the ground. By instinct I decide to place my head between two others so we don't play the headers in the worst way possible. Boom! The first crash is taking place but the balloon still goes and jumps up. Bang! The second crash and still we're not done yet. By the time everyone's like "when will this end" we have a couple more and we drift for some meters before the basket flips and my last minute positioning worked perfectly with (thank god!) light Jale over me. I step off the basket unscratched but not everyone else was - see how people hold their heads at the first images I took post landing:

Unavoidably some people were injured:

Yep, you can call it an adventure right? And it's not over yet! A car arrives with some party supplies to celebrate...I don't know what...probably the fact that we're still alive to tell the story:

So the pilot goes to open the champagne and offer us the classic boom followed by foam but there's neither of the two as that thing is probably expired. We all laugh at this as he rushes to grab another bottle which fortunately is in more festive mood. As we finish our champagne we get back on the bus to drive back to Goreme. Well, I told you the adventure is not over didn't I? We get stuck in the mud in a bus overloaded like this on a terrain more slippery than soaped marble. After many attempts from the driver and a shitload of cursing (thanks Jale for translating) he decides he just can't make it. To my opinion if he was less nervous with so many helping hands around we could make it under the proper coordination but me no Turkish, he no English, and the rest being Japs it would be the best comedy ever. So he calls for help on the radio and the send two Land Cruiser to help us. We get on the bus again with the hope that this would work:

It didn't. Now picture this: We have 2 Toyota and 22 people. Guess what happened? Yes, we all got cramped in them and made it back to Goreme worse than sardines do in cans. I took a picture but it's too dark to tell the story. As we arrive back at the "base" waiting for our certificates of the tour Jale tells me "I just heard on the radio that they still miss one balloon". And if that's not funny enough to you, my certificate arrives with my name misspelled. Cracks me up even now typing this...

Next day I picture the view outside our room:

And we later hit the road to visit other points of interest of the area.

"Atay panorama" offers nice view and sweet little things to buy:

The local cafe is a local attraction as well:

We drive up to the underground city of Kaymakli where at the entrance of it I spot a rather interesting way of business promotion:

The underground city is a must but not for the claustrophobic ones. Even short Asians had to crouch almost all the way in there but it really worth a visit to see how people made a living in there back in the day:

On the way back to Goreme we made several stops to picture this exotic landscape:

We stop at Uchisar for some Salep:

I am sure you are more interested to see what's the background of my Salep like.

There you go:

A rather sad dog is my last view as we leave the place:

In the evening back at Goreme this restaurant offered me one of the best dinners ever:

I found it jaw dropping what they do about bread there. They bake it in a wood oven after your order so for the two of us it looked like this, around 40cm long:

However, behind us there was a group of around 20 guys and it took 4 waiters to carry a long as a ferry bread. Amazing food and wine and the owner is a fantastic guy as well.

Goreme time is over and I drive back West on a cold day while the car suggest I should stop for a coffee break:

I didn't stop and we do 500km West straight to Eskisehir. The hotel is really nice but the city is the big surprise for me. So beautiful and live flooded by students hence looking way much more West than I expected:

Don't forget it's still freezing:

After some nice local Chebureki I pleased my stomach with this delicious dessert:

This is the last overnight over Turkish soil. Next day I drive up all the way up to Istanbul airport and as soon as I enter the plane I am offered one more champagne for the New Year's Eve:

This time there was no name misspelling and no crash landing fortunately - just beautiful view over the clouds on the way back to Athens:

See you on the next one!