Appreciating Cappadocia, and its history, is best from a hot air balloon

By December 17, 2016Middle East, Turkey
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Ruins carved into this huge rock pillar.

Cappadocia is a region in the middle of Turkey where a plateau of soft rock lies. Canyons have been carved into this plateau over the eons and there are many, many pillars of rocks that have mushroom tops on them. These are locally called “fairy chimneys”, because since ancient times people have carved homes into the soft rock and at night the pillars would glow with camp fires and people transiting the area thought they were haunted by fairies.

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There you find old houses carved into the hillside and cliff.

The Hittites were the first to settle in the area, but it was during the Byzantine Empire that a lot of what you can see was carved. During the 4th-12th centuries people escaping the empire settled here to find religious freedom so they could practice Christianity in their own way. With that said there are lots of monasteries and churches and over the next week I will tell you about many of the best spots.

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How lucky are we to have perfect weather for a cozy balloon ride?

But for today we will follow Melek’s advise when she wrote on Thursday that the best way to see Cappadocia is by hot air balloon. I have to admit she is 100% correct. We were picked up around 5:30am and driven to a small valley in one of the small local canyons. As soon as we arrived we could see the hustle and bustle as the workers went about getting two balloons spread out and filled up. If you have never seen this then you are in for a treat as they use high power fans to fill the balloon with air and then fire from the burner. Every time the burner is fired it makes a magnificent sight in the dawn light, as you can see in the “photo of the day” yesterday.

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Fire up that burner and get us off the ground so we can see Cappadocia from the air!

Once we climbed into the 20-person basket the balloon lifted up in the pre sunrise light. As you look around you can see the valley floor and canyon walls. You might be thinking you are the only group out here until you rise just enough to see around and you notice two dozen other balloons rising from different spots in the valley. You would think this would take away from your solitude, but actually it is a wonderful sight and provides multiple photo opportunities.

The balloon pilots do not take you way up high. Instead they have the balloon follow the contours of the canyon walls, sometimes within 10-20 feet of the wall or pillars. You get a spectacular view as the balloon maneuvers up and down from one canyon to the next. It is quite an adventure.

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Kind of a random photo but I want to show you how my dinner came one night. It is in a ceramic egg shaped pod in the middle of the fire.

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