Guess What Day It Is!

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Our tour guide told us that Cappadocia means “land of beautiful horses.” Well, I didn’t see any horses during our time in Cappadocia, but I sure did see some camels! These camels were basically just brought in for the tourists as a way to make some money on photo opportunities. So don’t go to Turkey expecting to see lots of camels just roaming around.

Regardless, Happy Hump Day! (you’re welcome Craig!)

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And just in case you live in a bubble (as apparently I sometimes do!), this commercial was the inspiration for today’s post.

Soaring Over the White Valley (videos)

Here are a couple videos from our hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. I apologize for the shoddy quality and my not-so-steady hand. If you get dizzy watching, feel free to check out the still images by clicking here. I am definitely not cut out to be videographer. I guess I should just stick with photos, but I still felt the need to share the clips.

Soaring Over the White Valley

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One of the most amazing highlights of our vacation in Turkey was the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Rob and I weren’t hot air balloon virgins as we have flown once before (technically twice, but that’s a whole other story you can read about here). But this experience was nothing like our experience floating above Virginia. Floating above Cappadocia meant amazing views of fairy chimneys as well as one of the volcanoes responsible for the unique landscape.

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But this experience came at a price, and I am not referring to the actual cost of the excursion. I’m talking about the 4:45 AM wake-up and the 5:30 AM pick-up from our hotel! As many of you know, I am NOT a morning person and as I am sure my husband can attest, I am not pleasant to be around at that hour! But this was the experience in Turkey that I was most looking forward to and there was no way I was going to miss it. Our guides from Kapadokya Balloons picked us up from our hotel before sunrise and we headed to the launch site. Once we arrived, the crew already had things set up and we were just about ready to take off. These balloons and baskets were much larger than the ones we flew in before. Our tiny basket in Virginia just held the two of us, plus our pilot. But the baskets they used in Cappadocia were huge and held 20 people, plus the pilot!

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We were up in the air in no time and we soared over the White Valley as the sun rose. The views were just spectacular! Our pilot told us there were about 60 balloons flying that day. With twenty-something balloon companies in the area, all charging about $200+ per person, 20 people per basket, flying 365 days per year (weather permitting), it is quite a lucrative business! It was by far the most expensive of the additional tours we booked, but it was well worth it.

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Our landing was not quite as smooth as our prior ballooning experience. We touched down a tad hard and then the balloon continued to drag us and we all thought the basket was going to roll! But the pilot was amazing and he quickly adjusted to keep the basket upright. The thing to remember about flying in a hot air balloon is the pilot can only control the altitude of the balloon, they have ZERO control of what direction the balloon will fly. That is determined by the wind direction alone. So based on what direction the balloon is flying, the pilot must anticipate what will be the safest landing zone. In our case, we landed in a valley and the balloon caught a gust of wind that started to drag the basket. However, the other balloon in our group landed in an open field where there wasn’t much wind and the pilot was actually able to land the basket precisely on the trailer. Pretty amazing!

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After our landing, the crew quickly packed up the balloon and we celebrated with a champagne toast. Our cocktails were actually champagne mixed with sour cherry juice (quite popular in Turkey). Personally, I would have preferred a mimosa, but the sour cherry juice wasn’t half bad. I’m not sure if this drink has an official name already or not. Any suggestions?

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The Land of Fairy Chimneys

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Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey known for its unique landscape. In all of my travels, I have never seen anything else quite like it! The landscape is the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago and erosion. Tuff (sometimes called tufa) is a rock made from consolidated volcanic ash and it can be found throughout the Cappadocia region. Tuff is a soft rock making it very susceptible to erosion. Over the course of millions of years the tuff has eroded into spectacular pillars that are commonly referred to as fairy chimneys.

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This soft rock is also very easy to carve. The people of this region put the rock to good use and they carved out houses, churches and monasteries. The winters in this region could be very harsh, but the people learned that when their homes were carved into the rock they were well insulated against the elements and automatically maintained the perfect room temperature.

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The Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the most popular tourist sites in Cappadocia. The complex contains more than 30 churches carved into the rock dating back to the 9th century. Many of the churches had beautiful frescoes painted inside, but there were photography restrictions so I wasn’t able to take pictures of most of them.

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Interesting Fact: The cubby holes in the photo below are not places to store your shoes before entering your rock house. They are actually places for pigeons to roost. Apparently pigeon poop is the best fertilizer (or so I am told) so they intentionally carved out these spaces for the birds so they could collect “their offerings.”

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We are going to Turkey!

Rob and I will be traveling to Turkey at the end of August! I found an incredible deal on Travelzoo for a 13 Day Turkish Treasures vacation package by Gate 1 Travel. Our package includes 11 nights at 4 star hotels in Istanbul, Canakkale, Izmir, Antalya, Cappadocia, & Ankara, as well as a ton of included tours and meals. This package can be booked to include airfare, but we purchased the land only package and plan to use reward points to purchase our airfare, making this vacation incredibly affordable! (Less than $1000 per person!)

This vacation will complete # 5 for my goals for 2013. Turkey is also on my Top Ten Wish List, so I will get to scratch that off the list as well! If you have ever traveled to Turkey, please feel free to leave any tips and suggestions for us!

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Photo courtesy of Gate 1 Travel