Eregli was not quite “ereg-ent” ….. however, it offered a farewell to The Black Sea, which here is indeed blue.
I opted for a side-road, eventually connecting to the main one leading me past Ankara towards Goreme. My destination was Cappadocia.
Let me tell you that my ‘side-road’ choices are in need for improvement!
Single lane, very very narrow and very very winding, very sharp corners I couldn’t see around. Sunlight into my eyes and deep shade through the dense vegetation, and then came a long truck !
…. from the other direction!?
I just managed to stop and squeeze onto the edge, narrowly missing the end of the long trailer. Bugger that! Form then on I continued even more careful. Once I ‘attached’ myself to a car, appreciating its ‘sweeper’ quality. Turns out it was a local who turned into a driveway in the next village.
Villages, one smaller that the next were many and I wondered if an Australian motorcyclist had ever ridden through them ….. then on second thought: Australian motorcyclists probably have been almost everywhere.
In Goreme, I checked into a really quaint little Hotel, The Elysee Cave Hotel. Looking around I soon realised that there are many, many carved-into-the-stone hotels in Goreme are all ‘quaint’ or novel. This one had very friendly staff, a hammock in the garden and a terrace for brekki with sweeping views over Goreme. Excellent choice!
Next morning, up at 4.20am to be collected for my self-inflicted Fathers Day present: a Balloon flight above Cappadocia. I did feel slightly apprehensive. Never been in a Balloon, always imagined being totally delivered once I stepped inside the basket. In a way it is much as flying – the ‘being delivered’, but in a balloon it is much more present, the height, the feeling and the fear ….
Alright, if not now then never, I convinced myself. Together with 11 other would-be passengers we were driven a little outside of Goreme.
Everywhere you could see Balloons being readied for lift-off. All in various stages, some being fully inflated, some already slowly rising, all in colourful skins. The sun was still absent, when our balloon had ‘lift-off’ at 6.00am.
Before, when I climbed into the wicker-basket (it is indeed made out of wicker), my confidence grew. This basket was a super-solid container. Inside it is kind-of parcelled-up into five spaces: in the centre right under the burner one for the Pilot/Driver/Captain or the-one-who-holds-my-life-in-his-hands. At each side are further two spaces; each space had plenty of room for three people and one could move around easily. Each space also had some robust slings attached to the wicker-basket. We were told we had to grab’em and hang on, kneeling in emergency-position when, upon landing, the basket was sliding over the ground. “This can happen quite often” ….
I wasn’t even worried! For me it meant we indeed were landing, thus returning safely to Mother earth gain.
Our Captain Yuxil was confidence inducing, just by sheer appearance. He just looked like a competent Captain. The way he managed the start – a gently lift off, but steadily rising, confirmed this all quite nicely in my mind – seeking confirmation….
The fire blown into the balloon form the four burners was much welcome, it shone some warmth onto my shoulders, much needed as it was ‘fresh’ indeed.
Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon …. the Fifth Dimension I seem to recall, a song from the sixties, or ??
And it was F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C !!
Why did I wait so long to try it out??
Feeling safe as in Abraham’s lap I truly enjoyed the entire one-hour flight. Or is it ‘gliding’? No steering possible, just selecting different heights to catch different winds.
To see about 50 Balloons floating in the air, being in one yourself is just an amazing view!
Later our Captain showed off a little, and he did it confidently and safely. We – purposefully – touched the top of a tall Poplar Tree, grabbing some leafs. And we sailed past one of the many unusual stone formations which make up Cappadocia. almost being able to touch the rock.
At one stage we were 3000 feet above ground – that is almost 1000 meters! Considering that this part of Anatolia is already about 1200 meters above sea-level … well, for me a PB – and a truly enjoyable one!
I soooo recommend it – it’s not funny!
Landing, Captain Yuxil showed again his skill and experience. He managed to land the basket right onto the trailer towed by the company’s ute! Only a little help from the ground-crew made sure it exactly fitted. Excellently done!
The morning concluded at 7.30 having a glass or two of local champagne and a little celebration handing over our maiden-balloon-flight certificates. What a start of the day! Now I am ready of everything? 😉
I also spent about three hours wandering through the Goreme Open Air Museum, one of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Basically an area declared as a Museum and appropriately fenced so an entry fee can be charged – 30TL.
In the past this site housed initially some hermits, who soon had to stop going about their hermit-business, as a small groups of monks moved in. I am somehow reminded of a scene in the Monty Pythons movie The Live of Christ … can you guess it? The hermit who hadn’t said a word for 30 years …
These monks further carved into the stone and created living spaces, kitchens and – of course – several ‘churches’. The dome-like feature was provided by the natural shape of the rock, and the various ‘naves’ were carved in. I wonder how long this took considering we talking 17th century. Once carved, then the beautification begun applying Byzantine artistry.
Paintings about the events in Jesus’ live are foremost. Many are destroyed, I noticed that often the faces are scraped away. AFAIK Muslim religion does forbid to show faces in a mosque, even angels are depicted seen faceless (Hagia Sophia) or are drawn looking at their the back.
The most spectacular and best preserved paintings were in the Karanlık Kilise -‘Dark Church’. Unfortunately photography is forbidden and so I only have this clandestine shot:
Wrapping up my stay in Goreme was a sunset Quadbike tour. Well, never ridden one, so here was my chance! Goes a bit harder than I thought. Holding on to the handlebars and providing strong steering input is essential. I got stuck once, but soon found my mojo for this mode of transport.
FUN! .. but very dusty. we were a group of eight Quads, but ‘lost’ a few after the first stop. I think they opted put, judging by their driving abilities earlier. I really liked it, it was a hoot mixed with more views of the unusual rock-formations including a sun-set rock.
My pictures do not justice to the landscape – Guido B! put it on your bucket list!!
Continuing on, the ride from Goreme to Konya was easy and accomplished relatively quickly. The landscape after leaving Goreme changed back to the barrenness. This Capadoccia landscape therefore seems rather concentrated on a relatively small area, what a curious fact??
I wonder if this dry, dusty and indeed barren looking high-plan – I still travel in about 100 meters above sea-level – is seasonal or indeed ‘normal’ I read that Konya is a main area for growing wheat. I see no evidence of it, instead I spot several trucks loaded up with boxes of tomatoes.
Konya being the centre of the Whirling Dervishes displays their history in a special Museum Mevlâna Museum. Here one also can admire the tomb of the Rumi, the great philosopher and his poetry and religious writings, mostly in Persian, are among the most beloved and respected in the Islamic world.
The Museum once functioned as the home of this ‘lodge’, religious movement, brotherhood, but since Atatürk saw the dervishes as an obstacle to advancement for the Turkish people and banned them in 1925.
Several orders survived as religious fraternities. In 1957 the Konya lodge was revived as a ‘cultural association’ to preserve a historical tradition I this place. I am surprised how many – seemingly – locals and/or Turkish tourist visit this place. It is packed and this is a Tuesday. The dervishes whirl only on Saturdays, not today. So having seen them whirl in Istanbul was the right choice.
Walking through Konya, after visiting the Museum, I noticed the overwhelming a majority if women, above the age of – I guess – 11 all wore headscarfs. The few who don’t, stick out. These are almost always younger women, dressed in contemporary – frayed jeans – fashion. I am not even sure if they are indeed Turkish. They may be Lebanese or other tourists from the Middle East.
The other, head-scarfed women, follow their fashion equally: long coat-like dresses, some sporing a rather fashionable pattern, others look elegant, most are uni-coloured and black. It appears, and I didn’t want to stare: as if they also wear trousers underneath these long-sleeved ‘coats’, I saw jeans, especially visible if the wearer opted for a ¾ length coat. Mind you we are talking 30+ degrees in the sun today. Moving in crowds provides NIL peripheral vision, as the headscarfs are pulled right to the front. So navigating one-self past requires extra space to avoid embarrassment when bumping into each other, After all, I am an infidel …
The number of women completely veiled, i.e. only their eyes are visible is much less here, in this staunchly religious city, compared to Istanbul.
Men are dressed, well just like Turkish men. Not specific fashion, neither elegance. If the latter, “dogs-balls” I’d say! – albeit with a positive gist.
To add a little balance, I read in my travel guide that Konya is a place of both: strong traditions and progress. It is written that Konya has a university with many students behaving and dressing like their Western-European counterparts. Well, I haven’t been there, but happy to take it at face-value.
Today, for the second time, I have been mistaken as a local. It happened before and as then, young girls approach with some questions. Being in Turkish (I think) I understand nothing. I lift my shoulders, show my open palms, smile and don’t even get to my full excuse of no speaking Turkish. The poor girls realise their wrong pick and become a little awkward. Poor things, I so wished I could understand and help them. Although in both instances a bystander – a male – offered to respond to their request.
On reflection, I noticed that on both occasions I didn’t wear my black cap (semi-Touri look) and I also wore long trousers. Turkish men, hardly ever wear shorts, other than on the beach. So, perhaps unconsciously I start to blend in, melt, at least in appearance. Don’t mind it at all, as I feel happily comfortable everywhere in Turkey.
I must say that I am learning more and more about Kemal Atatürk, no doubt a strong-handed Reformer of Turkish society. His picture is at least once in every shop and restaurant. Despite his death in CCCCC he is still front-of-mind in contemporary Turkish society.
Few days ago, I rode past groups of people all dressed completely in white. They came from all directions walking towards a specific venue. My road fortunately passed this spot a little later. A crowd of people dressed in white had already gathered, TV cameras present. The cause? Erecting a massive, I guesstimate about 25 meters tall, statue of Kemal Atatürk all in bronze, holding in his palm a globe – yes, the world. And this world was in full colour. I couldn’t detect which way this world was positioned. I have little doubt that Turkey was on the top …