Cappadocia: the land of fairy chimneys, hot air balloons and a Turkish man called Ali

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I’m a firm believer that things happen in threes.

So when I arrive in Cappadocia and learn there’s been another hot air balloon crash in New Zealand, after the one in January which killed 11 people, I know I can’t do it.

I’m gutted. I always wanted to see Cappadocia’s lunar-like landscape from a balloon but I know how my mind works. I’d be up there thinking – nice view, I’m going to die.

The cave hotel where I’m staying even manages to find me a free flight, but I’m so tired from my week in Istanbul I sleep through the guys frantically knocking at my door at dawn trying to rouse me.

The next morning I do manage to drag myself out of bed but I keep my feet firmly on the ground and watch the balloons from the safety of my morning run.

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And in typical small world fashion, it turns out that possibly the only other girl staying at my hotel is a 25-year-old kiwi, currently living in London.

We spend the rest of the day perusing the Goreme Open Air Museum, where all the best cave churches are found and the Red and Rose Valleys, which house these sorts of formations.

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We end the day in typical Turkish fashion drinking raki, an anise-flavoured spirit you drink with water, affectionately known by the Turks as lion’s milk.

I hate to say I was quite underwhelmed with raki but totally overwhelmed by the pottery kebab which accompanied it.

It’s the simple things in life for me…

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The next day I do an organised tour of the underground city, Ihlara Valley, Selime Monastery and Pigeon Valley.

And it seems like the more I travel the more I dislike organised tours, especially when there’s a vapid tourist on them.

It’s directly after the tour guide is telling us about the fact the underground city was discovered in 1964 and excavated by foreign archeologists that this fingers down the blackboard sounding Australian woman asks – “so what year was this discovered?”

The tour guide gives her a look of you must be f$&@ing kidding me, before very politely saying “1964.”

Then she ponders out loud – “so was it the Turks who discovered it or foreigners?”

Shoot me. Shoot me now.

Despite the frustration Cappadocia has me so at ease that I let my guard down and get stiffed by a 8-year-old local at Goreme Panoramic.

I was just standing there feeling sorry for this poor camel and before I know it the kid’s got my camera out of my hands, is taking photos, and then demands $5 lira for the privilege.

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I need a day to recover from that tour so I spend it at the hotel learning to play backgammon. I’m terrible. So terrible in fact my teacher finally remarks in a moment of sheer frustration – “you know they say blondes’ quite dumb, you walking proof.”

I secretly wish though that I was playing backgammon with Ali. He’s what the two guys who run the cave hotel call their ‘bitch.’

He’s in his early 20s and is utterly beautiful. Problem is Ali’s English is about as good as my Turkish. About the only thing he can say is ‘you’re welcome’ when I say thanks for my breakfast, which my Turkish friend has helpfully put in phonetics for me – ‘tea sugar lar’

Just for the record Ali is taken.

I eat my feelings upon learning this.

It helps that there’s a ridiculously cheap and delicious Turkish restaurant opposite my hotel to do it in.

I’m there so often that whenever I go to leave the owner says – “I see you soon.”

I reply ‘”evet” – Turkish for yes.

Then on my last night when I reply ‘”yok”- Turkish for no, he delivers me a perfect glass of Cappadocian red wine to commesorate my departure on the night bus.

It goes down as the first and last night bus I’ll be taking in Turkey. I don’t sleep, although I’m sure the slit-your-wrist type breakup music I was listening to on my iPod, the two coffees, the glass of vodka orange, and the obese Turkish woman farting next to me all night didn’t help.

Again, another time when I had to take deep breaths and repeat after myself – ‘the journey is the reward.’

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4 thoughts on “Cappadocia: the land of fairy chimneys, hot air balloons and a Turkish man called Ali

  1. Be careful of camels, especially in Egypt. They tell you it is just one dollar or so to get up on the camel for a photo or to ride it. And it is. But then you find it is $20 to get off the camel! Yes, seriously. And trying to get off a camel by yourself is not recommended!

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