Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Turkish delight: Cappadocia

The local muezzin woke me up, calling me to come to prayer... his song, amplified by a series of loudspeakers attached to the minaret cut through the otherwise silent night like shattering glass. Having been in Muslim countries before, we are used to it. This guy though certainly gave it his best effort and they must have paid their power bill well in advance as it was very loud! What was he thinking? It was 3.50 in the morning and still dark outside! I'm well aware that the institution of the muezzin has existed since the time of Muhammed and is a religious tradition, but for crying out loud: give him a watch that works!

Look at how close this balloon came over our tents! Mike didn't even wake up, but I certainly did!
Barely back to sleep again, some sort of electrical motor started up nearby... as loud as a jet plane! This had seemed such a lovely quiet campground only yesterday... Surely there must be noise limits in Turkey too? The time was just after 5 am... I tried to sleep but couldn't. The next thing I heard was something big blowing off something... and right above me! I went outside and saw a huge hot air balloon hanging just metres above my tent...! What the heck? The sound I had heard was the massive gas fired flame... Was this guy going to crash or what? 'Don't worry' the pilot said to the passengers in the basket 'This is the first time I'm flying a balloon but it will all be fine' Yeah right! I thought. Fine stands for Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional I guess?

Of course we knew about the Göreme hot air balloons, what we didn't know is they would start right next to the campground! We counted over 80 of them going up. It was magnificent to see these huge balloons floating through the air. Unfortunately they started too early to catch them in sunlight. The forecast had predicted bad weather later in the morning, so maybe that's why they started this early. We were sure going to stay another night and hopefully find a better spot and better weather in the morning to see them again.

Göreme is situated in Cappadocia, known for its fairy chimney rock formations. As the predicted bad weather was already showing at the horizon, we had a quick and simple breakfast and went for a ride. The landscape here is weird, seriously weird. It's almost like giant white-ants or termites had lived here and made their nests, just like they do in Australia. Their structures can be several metres high in Australia, but here they are huge! So big that several of them have been made into homes.

Of course they are a big tourist magnet, which has attracted all sorts of clever entrepreneurs looking for a way to capitalise on it. So you can do here pretty much whatever you can think of. ATV rides, balloon rides, horseback rides, or rent a bicycle or motorcycle to explore the surroundings. Several guides offer their services too and the place is crammed to the rafters with souvenir shops and hotels/restaurants. But... it is still a nice place! Nothing is obtrusive and most of it blends in well. Looking at the hot air balloons I suddenly remembered the helicopters flying around Mt Cook in New Zealand... with their irritating noise, I must say I prefer the hot air balloons!

Göreme is a nice place. It's not overly big or overly touristy. It's weird and impressive! It has a pretty relaxed atmosphere and the Göreme campground is a nice place to stay too. It is the best campground we found in Turkey, with a proper campers kitchen, showers that work and the biggest pool you can think of! And... it's the cheapest one we found in Turkey too! Göreme camping can be found at N38.64718° E34.83923° We liked it so much that we decided to stay a bit longer and go on the off-road trails in Cappadocia... what we found is amazing, see the next post!