In the few minutes I actually enjoyed the hot air balloon ride, I looked down and saw what was in store for us for the next three days. As I said before, we arrived at night to the very interesting "KAYA" hotel in the small town of Uchisar. Uchisar is in the famed Cappadocia region of Central Turkey where thousands of years ago volcanic activity started the process of the an unusual lunar landscape. After the erosion of the softer organic materials, what was left (and is still eroding) were "fairy chimneys" and caves.
Our hotel was partially carved out of one of these rocks, and the hallways and rooms resembled the "modern" insides of the ancient caves. Thanks to an ingenious ventilation system, people were able to breath fresh air when hiding out in these structures. The early Christians found refuge in these caves when hiding from the Romans. They have proved a safe haven for Turks in times of war. A maze of tunnels reaching 4 stories deep held as many as 3000 people and included churches, dwellings, and public spaces, and were being used as recently as 50 years ago. It is now becoming fashionable in this region to purchase a cave and make it into a B & B or some other dwelling. We tromped all over this region, exploring this fascinating area where early Christians carved out over 3,000 churches in the porous rock. Some of these caves still show splendidly preserved scenes from the old testament.
On the last day Steve and I and our guide, Kaan, decided to "climb' the old rock citadel in Uchisar. It gave us an outstanding view of the whole region, and I didn't have to worry about where a balloon would land! Everywhere one looks there are "fairy chimneys" with windows, doors,and decks. Some of the old softer rock material has eroded showing some fine examples of the inner chambers. We could see where the former dwellers could roll a thick stone into the entrances and keep intruders out. It was a fun place to explore, and I thought how much fun our grandsons would have running around underground.
So here we were in Central Turkey early in the AM stuck in a precarious balance on the side of a fairly large plateau..in a basket of a rapidly deflating hot air balloon. We saw the ground crew arriving far below and heard our pilot issuing multiple frantic sounding commands. Everyone was hanging on and afraid to "rock the boat" so to speak. Steve, being an experienced paraglider, didn't think it was that dangerous...but he was the only one. I was really nervous. The ground crew climbed the hill with this big new canister of air and we carefully hoisted it aboard so as not to topple over. It was too little, too late. They finally decided to "bounce us" down the steep slope hanging on to ropes attached to the balloon. So we slipped a few feet, righted back up, then slipped a few more, tipped, righted...all the way down the ridge until we could get enough level ground to secure the balloon basket. Finally, somewhat secured, we crawled up the basket, and with a lot of help, we each were hoisted to the ground. It was over!
Lugging fuel canister up the hill
Finally down the ridge
...and the power lines were too close!
Back in the van!
This was not my first time in a hot air balloon, but I decided it would be my last time. I think we should have gotten a refund, but all we got was a bottle of champagne, which no one felt like drinking at that time.
So......we get up in the dark, and I still haven't seen the area since we arrive in the vast Zelve Valley. The night before we decided to take a hot air balloon over this valley at dawn. 9 of us arrived in a field somewhere all sleepy and cold. We climbed into the basket of our balloon with our 'experienced' pilot, Ismail. I was glad he was 'experienced' because I had talked 5 other apprehensive travelers into joining Steve and I on this adventure. As we started to rise, it was evident that there was NO breeze, just thick cloud cover. In fact, we repeatedly rose into the cloud cover looking for "air"...not an enjoyable experience, and I was nervous when we could not see anything. Our pilot spoke English well, and kept saying all was O K..not to worry.
We were in the "Sultan", and do I look worried? Nahh...but I did notice were were using A LOT of the fuel canisters to go up and down looking for a breeze. A full hour went by and people were getting cold and the pilot was looking for a flat place to land. We came out of a cloud cover and I saw a big mt. directly below and it sure didn't look flat to me. The pilot's slow perfect English now turned into very rapid Turkish, and even the Turkish people who had been laughing and joking the whole ride turned silent! We were descending toward the Mt. top, and then brushed the side. Steve seemed to think this was fun stuff, and even reached out and grabbed a rock from the side of the Mt. top! We all braced for impact, and I didn't see anyone else thinking it was fun. In fact, I had decided I would climb over the backs of everyone in front of me, just to get out of the basket and make my way down the mountain side on foot. Well...that wasn't going to happen because, we were tipped and hanging on tight...and the captain said he needed us all for "ballast"', as he tried unsuccessfully to "right ' the balloon and inch us down the side of the Mt. by pouring more fuel into the balloon and trying to rise! We ran out of fuel to inflate the balloon.. The Turkish really got frantic and loud as I suppose he was trying to get his ground crew to find us and carry one of these huge canisters up the side of the mt. to help us.
These are pictures while we were going up. You can see our Mt. which we posthumously labeled "Suicide Mt." in each picture
After a final swim in the Mediterranean, we pack up and leave our beautiful hotel perched on the cliffs in Antalya. So far, this town of 1 million is my favorite.
We turned N. and drove through fertile fields and "seas of greenhouse" growing tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, and most of Northern Europe's winter vegetables. We continued to climb on excellent roads into the Turkish Mts., seeing Nomadic people (still called Gypsies) and their goat herds. We see the beautiful Lebanese Cedar trees, ans surprisingly many roads side fruit stands featuring the sweet, small, and deliciously sweet Turkish banana. These fruits are displayed in enormous bunches hanging from the rafters of the fruit stands. As we head out into the high Central Turkish plain, the landscape changes to flat fields of cotton and sugar beets, which are being harvested by hand. There are also many sheep herds, big and small, but each is guarded by the fierce Anatolian Sheep dog. This breed is placed as a puppy into a herd, and as it grows it will defend "it's" herd with it's life. It will literally fight to it's death, but woe be to the predator that takes one on. This part of Turkey still has wolves, wild boars, and a few other predators. Below is a glimpse of only one of the sugar beet storage's that we passed. The Turks love their sweets and do not have to import any sugar!
We stopped for lunch in the conservative town of Konya. Conservative because the Muslims here observe the "rules" of dress and alcohol. Dang! No wine with lunch! But, lunch was served in an open courtyard where the lamb served had been cooked since 5:00AM in a crock buried in ashes. It literally fell off the bone and melted in one's mouth. We were also served a strange and delicious 'orka' soup made with 'ropes" of dried tiny okra. Also, my favorite desert so far...a "flour halva" with pistachios...to die for!
After our "dry lunch" we toured a Mosque dedicated to Mevlana Rumi, founder of the Sufi Islam. Many people pay pilgrimage to Rumi and the mosque was crowded.
This was ithe longest drive of our trip, and we arrived in the town of Uchisar in Cappadocia Provence well after dark. Our hotel, "The KAYA" was built part way into a cave in the area, and as we entered the stone conclave, my mind was turned into another place and time. I could not wait to see the strange, magnificent rock formations in the daylight.
After a final swim in the medeterainian, we packed up and left our beautiful hotle perched on the cliffs of Antolya.
We turned turned N. and drove through miles of agriculture and "seas of greenhouses" growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and most of Northern Europe's vegetable needs, especially in winter. As we continue to climb into the rugged mts. we see Nomadic people (and still called gypsies) with big goat herds. We see small mt. villages and the beautiful Lebanon cedar trees. Strangley, we also notice road side stands selling huge bunches of Turkish bananas which are small, sweet, with a wonderful aroma. The roads are excellent and modern as we cross the Mts. into the high central plains of Turkey. As the land flattens we see miles and miles of cotton fields, and sugar beet fields which are being harvested. We pass sheep herders with flocks big and small, and most of them guarded by the fierce Anatolian Sheep dog. This breed is placed as a puppy into whatever herd a farmer wants guarded and they guard with their lives. literally taking on any foe they see as threatening. They are invaluble for a sheep herded in a land that still has wolves and wild boars. Every herd we see has one of two of these big dogs standing close.
After a final swim in the Mediterranean, we packed up and left our beautiful hotel perched on the cliffs in Antalya. This has been my favorite city in Turkey, so far. We turned N. from the coast and drove through fertile agriculture and "seas of greenhouses" growing tomatoes, peppers, egg plants and most of the vegetables supplied to Northern European nations, especially in the winter. As we continued our climb into the rugged Mts. we passed small Mt. villages and many goat and sheep herds guarded by the fierce Anatolian sheep dog. Don't mess with this guy! They are placed as puppies into a heard the farmer wants protected from wolves or other predators...and these dogs will fight to the death with anything that messes with their herd! The are invaluable in these parts and we see many of them near their charges. We see the ancient Lebanon Cedar trees, and surprising..small Turkish bananas which don't have a long shelf life, but smell delicious and taste very sweet. AS the land flattens again we pass miles and miles of sugar beets and cotton fields. We take a break and stop in the 'conservative town of Koyna. Conservative, because people here observe the conservative dress of the Muslim faith, and it is a "dry" city. No wine with lunch. The lunch is delicious featuring a lamb who was been cooked in pottery in ashes since 5:00am. It literally falls off the bone. The most weird but delicious okra soup made with tiny little dried okras which I have never seen before, and a yummy desert called 'flour halva' which in indicative of this region. We tour a Mosque dedicated to Sufi poet MelvanyThis is the longest drive of our trip, and we get into our next hotel in the town of UCHISAR fairly late and ready for whatever comes next.
O!M!G! I cannot believe I just had a "REAL" Turkish bath, unlike what had been described by our guide. My friend, Carolyn, suggested we try a real Turkish bath...not a watered down one in the hotel. Steve said he'd also have one, so we found "Hamani" in the old part of town. In fact the Turkish bath was 600 yrs old in this same spot. I couldn't understand a word they said, but idicated I would like a woman to perform mine on me. They only had one woman on hand, and Carolyn went first so they said I could have one with my "husband". This did not happen! After we were led to the 'slabs' ( a lot of huge marble slabs in a big hot steamy room) we were instructed to lie down on a slab and sweat. All I had on was a smallish cotton cloth no bigger than one of my table runners. I was trying to keep all the vital body parts covered, which was harder than it seems. Plus, you are butt naked under the loin cloth. Plus, there were a few other Turkish men in the slab room. I was sitting on the edge with my back turned toward the men wondering what was next. After 15 min of sweating profusely, a gentleman walked in and motioned me to come stand by a big stone sink. He then poured hot and cold water on me..all over until I was soaked and the skimpy piece of material was clinging to whatever it could cling to. Then he took me into another room (without Steve) and motioned for me to lie on another slab of marble..ON MY BACK! Oh-oh, I thought...and I was right. He rips off the cloth! I am naked, and trying to cover all the "parts", with my hands! He relents and gives me the dripping cloth which is only slightly between my legs for a feeling of coverage. I have been more covered in the gynocologists room! I was massaged EVERYWHERE! ALOT.. First with a loofa, then with a stiff cloth, then a bunch of soap was put on me and I was turned over and over, all the while trying to clutch this stupid cloth with my legs. Forget the top half! He massaged it all! His hands were beating, smoothing, flailing, soothing...and then he started chanting in Arabic...I think. After 45 min of plumeling, and dosing water on me off and on..he pulls me up and stands me there and then washes my hair...hard...and a long head massage. Then HE wraps me in a dry cloth...not a towel., and wraps my head too, and motions me to leave. I wasn't sure what had just happened. Then, after 'resting' and getting 2 cups of Turkish tea, and some fruit and water, another guy comes out and gives you an oil massaqe. By then, I had lost all modesty and figured they do this all the time, and what the hay!. After you dress and 'rest' again, they bring lemon oil and massage your hands with it.
I am going to post a few pics. The one of me is "before" I was led away to the steam slabs...notice, I am smiling and haven't
a clue of what was about to happen. My friend had a women give her the massage in the 'woman's area, but that turned out pretty funny too. The lady massuse striped naked and put on a bikini bottom. She weighed about 300 lbs. Wow! we're really having fun. I don't even know what to think right now, but we are going to dinner at the harbor, and I am going to have a FEW DRINKS! Quite a few. ...and I haven't even told you the best part!
While we were anchored on the Gulet, some of us decided to follow a goat trail up the side of a mt. and see what we could see. We climbed steadily for a couple miles and saw a little known Greco Roman site called Lydea. The trail was lined with old olive trees and herbs, and while very warm, it smelled good. After another mile on the goat trail, we saw......a goat herder and his wife and child. They are semi nomadic in this area and invited us to their "hut" for sage tea. After making sure the water was boiled well, we decided to partake. They also has a few things made from the goats hair and olive wood for sale...They have had hiking visitors before and know how to supliment their income, which is nil. They live completely off the land with their goats, isolated, and happy with their lives away from civilization. Although they did not speak a word of English, we managed to communicate, thank them for their hospitality, and even bought some goaty things.
On the way to the Gutlets, we stopped at a local village where they are still doing fabulous Turkish carpets in the "old way". They actually train young girls from the local villages to make these carpets by hand and provide them jobs for life. The head of the carpet center was quite a gregrious guy and had us all wanting to buy one of his carpets....DUH! After showing us the ins and outs of good carpets (not from China or machines) he invited us into one of the MANY showrooms and had his gang of "used car salesmen" work us over. It really wasn't that bad, but they unrolled about 50 carpets while were were treated to tea, soft drinks even wine. I almost caved, but got out of there with just a bunch of pictures.
In ther Gulf port town of Fethiye (a very cool town), we boarded an 85ft Gulet, which is a replica of a traditional Turkish fishing boat. It is a beautiful teak boat that has 8 cabins and a crew of 3. Everyday we enjoyed fresh fish and fresh vegetables prepared by the crew. The rooms were adequet, abd the heads were rather larger. We cruised for 4 days, a choring in coves and taking hiking excursions on some days. Steve and I both jumped into the water and swam whenever we had a chance. On the second day, we got some hurking rain storms, with thunder and lots of lightening. Yesterday we sat and watched a hyuge lightening show for over 2 hours! The rain was in buckets. Everyone was getting cabin fever and was glad to get off the boats this am.
Today we spent most of the day in Ephesus, perhaps the world's best preserved ancient city. Our guide is an expert on Greek and Roman history, and even Biblical history, although he is a Muslim! He is dang smart, but very funny, so it isn't torture to hear him speak of all things ancient. Most people know about Ephesus, and if you don't, just google it, because others have studied it for years and can sum it up a lot better than me.
Then we took a ride way up a windy mountain road to a very small village called Sirince for a "small village style lunch". We were wined and dined with a very simple but freas and wonderful lunch and the family's homemade wine! Lots of fresh veggies, fresh hot bread, and of course olives. The wine was really nice too, but the bottle had no label.
We returned to our interesting hotel right on the water in Kusadasi. It was built in the 50's in that style and used to host many famous people who came here for the fresh sea air. The town had really grown but this hotel has stayed true to it's style of the 50's (with some modern updates). It's funky and fun. Our room is so big, it has a full sofa, 2 huge arm chairs and 2 decks! Whoooeeee. Good thing, cause I heard the cabins on the "gulets" tomorrow are about the size of the bathroom here!
We saw so many antiquities today, that my mind is in a blur. The weather was raining off and on, but really warm...so we were in a steam bath all day. We took
a tram ride like the one in Palm Springs up to a Mt. top and saw the town of Pergamum. All the Greek and Roman gods are running together in my mind right now, so guess I will talk about olives. Typical Turkish breakfast...vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers) fresh farmers cheeses, bread and OLIVES! Lots of them. We had the typical breakfast this am. The hills are just covered with olive trees in this apart of Turkey, and because Italy doesn't grow enough olives anymore, the Turks export alot of their olives to Italy. It may be technically Italian olive oil, but the olives are grown in Turkey.