Officially pronounced "Kap-a-doke-e-ya," the region of Cappadocia in Central Turkey is a location where caves, hot air balloons, and phallic-shaped rocks intertwine into what is now one of the most popular destinations in all of Turkey. Originally used by Christians fleeing Roman persecution (they definitely get the Jewish sympathy vote on this one), the entire region is literally "built into the rock," with a multitude of dwellings (homes, churches, overly-priced hotels), locating themselves in the musky-filled interiors of air-free, damp-heavy caves. And since life inside a cave loses its luster after approximately 10 minutes (about the time it takes to run out of photo opportunities), the area provides more than enough "outside" activities to enjoy one's time.
Onto the highlights:
Cave Hotel - Only in the world of tourism can a place so dark, so musky and so unlivable, that humans left its shelter thousands of years ago, cost up to $200/night. Then again, in this new age of "boutique hotels," any unique accommodation, regardless of comfort-level or sleep-deprivation-inducement, will be stayed in so that friends and family can share in that "oh wow, that's pretty crazy" experience. And although our room only cost a mere $60/night, it did include quite the modern touch (the non-functioning satellite TV and A/C units both were great additions), despite an overall lack of air and breathability.
Hot Air Balloon Ride - Combining Julie's fear of heights, and my fear of large wicker baskets containing French tourists, a hot air balloon ride seemed the perfect way to calm our collective spirits (and capture several hundred photos as well). Departing from our hotel at 4:45AM (sorry Julie, I promise at some point this trip we will sleep/relax), we enjoyed a 90 minute ride over Cappadocia, basking in the views of endless valleys, mountains and about 200 other balloons sharing a quite similar experience. And while our seasoned pilot (supplied with 1 parachute "only for me") missed our landing spot about 3-4 times, he finally did land us safely in the middle of a farm, much to the delight of the owner who's crops we had just destroyed. Not to worry though, another balloon helped ruin more crops just a few minutes later. And who says local people hate tourism?!
Moped Rental - Armed with a sense of adventure, and of course our trusty tourist map, drawn by who I can only imagine was a Turkish 3rd grader, it is no wonder our originally-envisioned trip along the Cappadocian countryside turned into a stressful ride along the shoulder of the Turkish highway system. After 45 minutes of honks, shouts, and 8 gas stations which provided less-than-desirable directions (apparently Turks really like to say "left" while pointing right), we finally found our way, and enjoyed the rest of the day (despite sunburns and sore asses), seeing various sights around the region.
Valley Hikes - With Julie sporting a 3rd degree sunburn (who would have known that direct sunlight, 90 degree heat & a lack of suntan lotion could result in sunburn?!), and myself a desire to see everything and anything in as short an amount of time as possible, our originally-planned-full-day-hike of the Cappadocian valleys turned into more of a 1/2 day venture, an extremely scenic one nonetheless. Hiking through Pigeon Valley (I saw no pigeons), Love Valley (I definitely saw love), and Rose Valley (more weeds than roses), I feel that my camera took more photos than our feet took steps. Well, not really. We took a lot of steps.
Overall, Cappadocia is a place that words alone simply cannot describe. My best attempt would be to compare it to an ancient Ypsilanti, with thousands of water towers (For all you non-Michiganders) dotting the landscape, and of course, Turkish food. So really, my words are a horrible depiction, and thus, I leave you with some carefully-chosen images instead.
Onto the pics: