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Photo Journal: Breaking Dawn over Cappadocia’s Caves

Q: What do you get when you combine a werewolf, Hannibal Lecter and a White Walker?

A: Me, before 10:30am.

 

So you can imagine my delight when we had to wake up at 4:32am to trek over to the hot air balloon take-off site in Cappadocia, Turkey (#firstworldproblems). After a minute or two of grumbling, we scrubbed up and made our way to the waiting area of the launch site. With hot coffee, tea, juices and baked goods awaiting, we were amongst hundreds of sleepy balloon riders grabbing a light bite in the open wooden lodge.

 

After half an hour of satiating my under-caffeinated, overly-sleep-deprived self, we were escorted past dozens of colorful nylon balloons in various stages of take-off. Because it was still dark out, we were only able to make out the shapes and shadows of activity through intermittent bursts of flame from the balloons’ burners. Across the landscape cloaked in dusk, the quiet sight of hustling hands pulling, tying, flattening, inflating balloons that slowly blotted out the empty horizon was like watching the Ringling Brother’s prepare for a grand circus performance.

 

By around 6:00am, our balloon was inflated, we were helped in and the show was about to begin. With 12 people in our balloon equally divided into four sections of the basket, the pilot gave us directions for a smooth take off, flight and landing and off we went.

 

Although the total time in the air was only about an hour, the sights, colors, shapes, depths of the Cappadocia landscape will stay with me for a lifetime. With sky-high pillars and deeply-etched valley formations, Cappadocia’s main attraction is also its biggest secret: its geological make up.

 

The natural cave wonders of its rock formations, created from ancient volcanic eruptions spanning as far as 9 million years ago, contains more than meets the eye. On the surface, the region looks to be a deserted patch of rocks and volcanoes, however these large sedimentary caves served as a hide out for those fleeing religious persecution for thousands of years. Since 500 BC, the area was inhabited by Romans, Armenians, Persians, Christians, Turks.

 

The region also contains several underground cities, which were used by early Christians fleeing persecution from the Romans. Our aerial view did not give away the secrets of the volcanic structures or of the lives that once settled there but we were able to tour the cave homes and churches that once supported tens of thousands of people once we got back on land.

 

For the hour, our pilot glided us through the peaks and grooves across the sleepy volcanoes and their formations frozen in time. And as the sun rose, I couldn’t begin to imagine how desperate and hungry its settlers were for freedom, for safety, for a place to live in peace. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to watch the sun rise and set every day from a hidden cave. And it made me feel lucky. Lucky to be where political and religious persecution do not consume my daily circumstances. Lucky to have the freedom to express any opinion (as silly, idiotic or fleeting as they may be) at any time. Lucky to have the luxury of waking up in a warm, dry bed in a warm, dry apartment.

 

It has certainly made me think twice about waking up grouchy.

 

Hotels:

Cappadocia Cave Suites
Gafferli Mah. Ünlü Sokak No:19
Göreme, Nevşehir, Turkey
+90 384 271 28 00

 

Argos Hotel in Cappadocia
50240 Uçhisar, Turkey
+90 384 219 3130

 

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