Jodi's Middle East Adventure travel blog

Changing of the guards at Ataturk's tomb

The salt lake












Whirling dirvishes


Wild almonds





Table and chairs carved into the cave




Can you see Josh and Lindsay?

Fairy chimneys



Making gozleme

Beautiful pottery





Tiniest pot ever?


Painting ceramics





March 17

The first stop this morning was at Peace park, a monument to the founder of present day Turkey, Mustafa Kamel Pasha Ataturk. Last names were given sometime in the 30's when he was in power and his means “Father of the Turks”. No one else is allowed that last name. He was very well loved by the people so the park is really impressive. The gardens are made up of plants from all over the world. The museum is huge and full of interesting history.

Next stop was the salt lake. It might have been more impressive if it wasn't so full of water and it wasn't so cold outside.

We drove through more rolling hills and farm land, passing the occasional flock of sheep complete with shepherd and into the Capadoccia (Kapadokya) region. The landscape became something totally different and quite bizarre. Formations called fairy chimneys are everywhere. There are strange rock formations with colours and lines and some that look like waves everywhere. It's incredibly beautiful and pictures don't do it justice.

After quickly dropping of our luggage some of us went directly to the local hamam or Turkish Bath. Men went their way and we went another, stripped down and wrapped in the towel they gave us and went to a lounge area where a lady painted our faces with mud. After that got good and hard we went to the sauna for 15 minutes, then a shower. Next we entered the hamam where women were laying on a big marble table in the middle of the room while the hamam ladies scrubbed them with foam. While waiting our turns we fooled around throwing water at each other until shushed by the hamam ladies. It's supposed to be peaceful and relaxing so we weren't to ruin it for others.

Just when it was supposed to be our turn the ladies left the room and came back with drums and tambourines and began to play music. One took me by the arm and had me climb on the table. Others joined and we danced to the music. Lots of fun and laughter ensued.

We all lay down on our towel with a nice inflatable cushion for our heads while a lady scrubbed me all over, both sides. Then came the foam and the massage....everywhere. It was strange, slippery and oddly relaxing.

After that we left for a quick shower to rinse of the rest of the foam and a dip in the cool pool. Then we were given a nice, thick big towel to wrap in and we sat in the lounge enjoying a cup of tea.

I haven't felt so clean in a long time.

We met the others for dinner and then back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

March 18

The alarm went off shortly after 4:30 am and I dressed layering pretty much all the clothes in my bag, including 2 pairs of pants. By shortly after 5 am we were at the Olympic Balloon office having breakfast. They drove us out to the site where our balloon was being inflated. While we waited we watched the sky fill with hot air balloons full of people. It's a beautiful, peaceful sight. Our balloon was apparently the 101st balloon of morning and only 100 are allowed in the sky at a time so we had to wait until some landed.

13 of us got in the basket and the balloon rose over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. We enjoyed a beautiful, ride up to about 850 metres above the ground. The landing was very soft and he even managed to land it directly on the trailer behind the van used for transport. After enjoying a glass of champagne, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy a second breakfast.

The crisp, sunny, cool air made for perfect conditions for a nice hike among the rock formations. A couple of hours later we visited a man who makes replicas of tiles, plates and other pottery from the Hittite and Ottoman eras. He gave us a demon and allowed some of us to try it as well. The stuff he makes is gorgeous. My bowl was .... well, not bad. ;)

For lunch we visited a local cafe that makes gozeme. It's like a thin crepe and mine was full of cheese and spinach. It was really tasty as was my usual freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

Next we stopped at an area called the Church which had some really interesting rocks and fairy chimneys. We had a great time exploring them. Kim and I climbed up on top and thought we could get down the other side but that didn't work. We got a little lost and were late getting back so were told we had to sing a song as punishment. “Aint no mountain high enough” it was. I don't know who got punished. Kim and I or those who had to hear us sing.

We had a couple of hours so I quickly washed a few clothes, showered and went for a walk to town for a coffee with a few of the others.

Dinner was with a local family who fed us aryan (yogurt drink) salad, soup, bread pastry things, stuffed eggplant and rice. It was a delicious meal and the family very welcoming.

Back at the hotel I again attempted to use the internet but it's pretty useless here so eventually gave up.

March 19

The sun shone briefly this morning but by the time we left at 8:30 am it was raining hard enough to need my dollar store rain poncho for the visit to the open air museum at Goreme. It's a fascinating place they call a monastery as it's full of cave churches complete with carved pillars, alters and paintings on the ceilings and walls. Photos aren't allowed so you'll have to visit it yourself to see what they're like. Other caves had kitchens and dining rooms complete with tables and benches carved out of the rock. We met in a cafe with a little woodstove and pretended we were in Melbourne where it was 7:30 pm so we could enjoy a “pre-dinner” hot wine rather than a 10:30 am pre-lunch drink.

Next we headed to a local carpet shop that's run as a cottage industry and learned more about the making of carpets. Some bought some and I was sorely tempted as they're beautiful but ..... can't have everything.

The van dropped us off in town and we wandered looking for a place to have lunch. Most of us were hankering for some comfort food so settled on a place with burgers and such. It was nice to sit in a warm, dry, comfortable place on such a miserably cold day.

By the time we were done the sun was peeking out. Most went back to the hotel for a siesta but Kim, Emarie and I wanted to walk so talked to a local guy about where to go and set off. We wandered through the hills behind the hotel and found lots more fairy chimneys, caves, a Turkish cow, pretty flowering shrubs and a couple of Turkish horses in a cave. It started to rain again so we headed back. There are LOTS of trails in Goreme and we agreed we could be amused walking around in the Rose canyon area for several days.

Some of us joined Mutlu and went to see the whirling dirvishes. It's a religious ceremonial type thing and was so relaxing I nodded off a few times.

Back at the hotel I noticed everyone getting ready for Turkish night, as in, dressing up and putting make up on. Hmmm. The dressiest thing I've got is a collared shirt and my dirty hiking shoes. Oh well. I'll be comfortable and am not out to impress anyone ;)

The “hall” was like some of the caves we'd been in but with a big centre area and “spokes” coming out of the middle where people sat on stone benches at stone tables. They went up at the back so everyone had a good view. We had all sorts of appetizers, wine, unlimited drinks, lamb and rice for dinner and baclava for desert. The show was loud, fun, energetic with lots of dancing that appeared to tell a story. The costumes were wonderful and the acrobatics quite amazing. There was lots of audience participation, even with the belly dancing which was pretty amusing After the show was over we all got to dance for a bit before we left. All of us had a great time.

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