Day 5: Cappadocia Part 1 - October 16

No, it's not an episode of Survivor. We're waiting for direction from the hot air balloon folks. The van from Göreme Balloons picked us up dark and early at 5:30 am. Off we drove out of Mustafapaşa and into the darkness. We picked up two other young women form their hotel. We arrived in an open part of a field where the company (possibly more than just Göreme Balloons?) had hot tea, various cookies and coffee cakes for a breakfast treat. The first traces of light were appearing beyond the unique rock formations of Cappadocia. Suddenly, a voice yelled, "Rick Steves group, come with me!" We were packed into a van and driven someplace more private. Too many balloons taking off from that one area. We arrived in a small open field surrounded by those wonderful rock formations and only two balloons were being inflated. It's quite the ordeal to inflate something so big. We'd not been in a balloon before. I learned plenty. There is no "door" to the basket. A couple of notches are provided in the basket for your foot. You climb and heave your butt into the basket. Likewise, you climb and heave your butt out again. The basket had five sections, the center and biggest section for the pilot, Jerry, and the tanks. I think we were 12 people plus the pilot. Another thing I learned was how intimate ballooning is. Luckily, the third gal to climb into our basket section was slim. As it was we were all kissin' cousins in any section of that basket. I was unlucky enough to stand right under the blast of fire. My head became uncomfortably hot with each prolonged blast. But that was only discomfort of the entire experience. Jerry, a native of Birmingham, England, met his wife, a native of Alabama, on the Internet. Jerry came to Turkey about 15 years ago looking for work as a balloon pilot and never left. Click on this picture to enlarge and you can see how this piece of rock was once used by the people who lived in the rock structures. Cappadocia is known for its cave dwellings. The volcanic rock in this area is soft enough to carve by hand. Whole villages carved out of the rock were inhabited for thousands of years until the 1950's. I don't like heights. Not a bit. I don't even like driving over the I-90 bridge. Don't like bridges over water. I assumed I'd be afraid in the balloon. After all, ballooning is all about height. But I knew I would do it because I wasn't going to let the fear keep me from enjoying the trip and getting the most out of it. However, once in the basket I never gave heights another thought, seriously. I wasn't afraid of heights or anything else for a second. Look closely at this balloon. Poor Dennis.
Here is one of the villages I was talking about early. To the right, you can see the remnants of the stone village. A couple pictures further down is the whole village. Click on any photo to enlarge.
Sally gazes out over the Rose Valley and the other balloons. We were hardly alone. Dozens of balloons were afloat. We spotted this shepherd and waved and shouted, "Günaydin!" That's goon-EYE-din, good morning. A cemetery on the edge of the village. And here is the original village before the inhabitants moved or were moved to the new village. A big reason why people move from these stone dwellings is safety. Earthquakes are common in Turkey. Additionally, this relatively soft volcanic stone is completely and eternally exposed to the elements. Sooner or later, something's got to give. Rock formations and the neat rows of a farm. When the too-short ride is over, like I mentioned before, you climb and heave your backside out of the basket. Not all at one time! Two or three climb out and two or three from the next group climb in. If we all climbed out at the same time, the balloon would float away. Mimosas and personalized flying certificates were waiting for us at journey's end. This is our balloon with the next waiting group as passengers. Another thing I learned about ballooning, there is no steering of the craft. The pilot controls the up and the down and that's it. If you're getting too close to a rock, try to get the up mojo working. Ballooning really gives one an appetite! We came back to the hotel as the non-ballooners of the group were finishing up breakfast. What a spread. Jams, breads, cheeses, olives, a cornbread type pf bread which was too smooth to be pure cornbread but had enough corniness to not be just bread. I should have asked about this cuz I would have loved to have walked away with the recipe. A common site in Mustafapaşa, grapes drying on the roof. Grape molasses (along with pomegranate molasses) is very popular. We tried some of each on salads throughout the trip. Old Greek House. Here is almost the entire group. I believe three are missing. Our guide, Mine, is in front. We walked around Mustafapaşa and here are some of the everyday sights. I loved the doorways all over Turkey. Like much of Western Europe, doorways are special. Whether it's a wooden gate or new door with elaborate trimmings, doorways convey so much about what might lie behind the door. These Turkish pumpkins are not used for people food except for the seeds which are hugely popular. Other than that, the rest of the vegetable is left behind for animal food. A local woman greets us as we pass her home. I really dug the detail on this building. Here are local women, dressed as I explained earlier, cracking open the pumpkins with a hatchet, scooping out the seeds, and tossing the remaining pumpkin parts aside. People in Mustafapaşa use every container they can to grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc. Downtown Mustafapaşa. The men sit and sip tea. This is the Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen. Long before this village was Mustafapaşa, it was the Greek village of Sinasos. The front door of the church is beautifully decorated in grape vines and leaves. The inscription above the door is, of course, in Greek. I found a wonderful blog, Nicole's Turkish Travels, which Nicole maintained for one year, from August 2004-August 2005. Check out her long post during which she translated the inscription: "I am a church of the most August Royal Couple Constantine and Helen. In the times of Sultan Ahmet entirely built, in times of Abdul Medjit I was adorned as befits me. And in the era when the renowned Paisios was Bishop through efforts and expenses by the public of Sinasos erected from its foundations 1729, repaired in 1850." I really liked this door. So many components make it personal. This is the back of a very old military looking jeep. I wondered if each skull and crossbones represented a pumpkin gutted of its seeds, or a pedestrian in the wrong place at the wrong time, or a girlfriend...? A typical moment in time in Mustafapaşa. We happened across a man with a wagon-load of this fruit. I missed what Mine called it. The fruit is about the size of a big grape. When opened, it yielded this fuzzy, soft and sweet insides. Have no idea what it is. I'm at a loss. I've been looking on the Internet with no luck. I saw these again at the farmer's market but didn't ask. Silly of me. Cappadocia Art & History Museum. Notice the twin goddesses as the symbol for the museum. Liek some of the twin figurines in the Anatolian museum. Came across this Tuetonic looking dude sketching the local scene. A snack of hot çai (pronounced chai, like the well-known Indian tea) and gözleme (GURZ-leh-meh). This was our first taste of gözleme but not our last. So very tasty. It's a flaky thin crust stuffed with spinach and cheese in this case. It's available everywhere in Turkey. I tried my hand at making gözleme and I'm proud of the results. Go to my food blog, feed yourself, to see my post about gözleme. Old Greek House's mascot keeping a close watch on us from the up in the grape vines. This is a Turkish Van Cat. Notice how part of one eye is blue. One blue eye is a common trait in this breed. This breed is from the Lake Van area of Eastern Anatolia. We all snack on çai and gözleme and no one is shopping in the lobby. Too busy eating.
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