Friday, October 9, 2015

Welcome to Cappadocia

We took an overnight bus from Denizli last night which dropped us off in the center of Göreme at 6am. That's before sunrise. Which in Göreme, is actually a good thing. Göreme is the most popular town in the Turkish region of Cappadocia, and Cappadocia is popular because of its crazy terrain, and the best way and best time to see that crazy terrain is in a hot air balloon at sunrise.

We wandered up from the bus to our hotel, but apparently 6am is a little early to check in. They told us we could possibly check in at 10am though, and that's MUCH earlier than we thought, so we were happy about that. They let us drop our bags off and hang out on the restaurant balcony, which they said is the best place to view the balloons. It's not, but we didn't know any better. Yet.

Really only Butterfly balloons start up the valley where the Göreme Kaya Hotel is at. The rest start somewhere else. So after about 30 minutes we wandered back down into the center of town and then off to the right side looking for elevated points to get a good view. Eventually we found a road (we'd learn later, it's the road to the Göreme Open Air Museum) and off that road we found a path that you can get up to see great views (here's the lat/long if you're curious: 38.643872, 34.835599).

This is where I took this cool video...

By the time the balloons had landed, it was still another 2 hours until we could check in. So we went back into town and found a coffee shop and ordered some hot chocolate.

It was nice to sit in the sun and warm up a bit. And that was some of the best hot chocolate I've ever had. It was hazelnut. Yeah, Nutella flavored hot chocolate.

Sipping hot cocoa killed off about another hour, so we slowly moseyed back to the hotel and got back around 9:30am and asked on the off chance if our room was ready.

"Yes. And we gave you a free upgrade."

What?! Yes please!

The only thing we wanted was to stay in a cave room - literally a room that was carved out of a rock. And boy did they deliver! And then some!

We walk in and this is what we see:

Yeah. We're not even in the bedroom yet! So we enter the living room/sitting area and Isa and I are trying to hide our excitement - we don't book hotels with more than one room. This is amazing. Down the stairs to our right is the bedroom. IN A CAVE!

So the sitting area is a stone room, but the bedroom is actually inside the cave.

How cool is that?! Obviously, WAY more room than we need, as this is bigger than our apartment in New York. But we are loving the luxury and space! Thank you Göreme Kaya Hotel!

As you may be able to gather from the above picture, I was tired. I didn't sleep well on the overnight bus, and frankly haven't been sleeping well this entire trip. And now I'm sick. So I needed to take a nap for a little bit.

[a little later]

When I woke up, Isa was watching Harry Potter. In a cave. I just can't get over that. We're staying in a comfy cave. :)

We decided to go to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which is a collection of cave churches. On our way over there, we ran into some Aussie friends we had met in Selçuk, so we teamed up and went together. Ollie (8 years old) and I (let's face it, I act like I'm 8) got distracted on the way.

The dogs here are fun. They follow you around and later, even act as tour guides. :)

You know how in Provo there are churches every few blocks? Well that's what this part of town was for the early Christians. There were tons of churches built into lots of the fairy chimneys. So you get in and walk along this large path and just check out each one of them.

The insides of the churches are painted beautifully and carved out with domes and naves and apses and arches. Most of them don't allow photography or video. But the less-cool ones do. Like this:

Or the ones that are outside because half of it fell down.

Among the churches are a few homes as well. Those aren't painted and decorated as much (at all), but they were still interesting. Here's us at a dining room table made of stone.

Isa, Hayley, Brian, and Ollie (Wayne is taking the picture)
Here's a banquet table.

And one with some art. Can you tell I was fascinated by these stone tables?

There's Wayne and Hayley chatting with Isa
After we toured through here, we cut up off the road and went exploring the abandoned fairy chimney homes.

There are SO MANY of these homes. This place must have been a pretty big city! We explored for over two hours in just one section and we didn't even come close to checking them all out.

Doesn't this house look like the Flintstones' house?

At one point, a dog found us and led me up to a sweet viewpoint.

I love hiking. I love exploring. This was FUN!

We watched the sunset over the Uchisar Castle (that's another fairy chimney - a giant one - full of carved out houses connected by stairs, tunnels, and passages).

And then we found some good food and went home. Bed. Yay! Another great day. :) (Even though I'm getting sick from lack of sleep.) :(

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Let's practice saying this together because we still can't get it right.


However you say it, it's beautiful.

I know you're just here for the pictures, but for those of you that are actually going to go here, here's some tips. Then the pic explosion.

1. Take the minibus from Denizli Otogar. The train station is right near there too. We chose a hotel next to the bus station so we could walk from the train and bus station. It was perfect. The minibuses leave from the bottom level, Peron 76 (Gate 76). The buses are comfy, seat about 15, and take about 20 minutes to get to Pamukkale.

2. You'll see the white hill as you're getting close, but it will disappear as the minibus cuts into the town to the bus station. Keep your bearings straight so you know which way to head when you get out.

3. The bus will drop you off in the middle of nowhere. Take note of buildings or street signs, because that's where it will pick you back up. Walk towards where you think the white hills are.

4. Eventually you'll see them. Walk toward them.

5. You'll run into the Natural Pools of Pamukkale. That's not where you're going, but you want to walk through them to the right. -->

6. You buy your ticket at the base of the hill and start walking up the gravel path.

7. About 2 minutes up the path, you reach the white part of the mountain. You have to take your shoes off. The pools are only a few inches to about a foot deep. So you can wade anywhere you want. (Well, anywhere that's not off limits. They keep you on a pretty straight line.)

8. The tour buses let out at the top, so the top pools are much busier (and not as pretty) as the pools in the middle.

9. There are no facilities along the hill. Once you get to the top (Hierapolis), walk along the main road past the museum to the big building in front of you. That's Cleopatra's Pool, and changing rooms, bathrooms, lockers, restaurants, and anything else you need is there.

10. Your ticket includes the travertines (the infinity pools) and access to all of Hierapolis. Swimming in Cleopatra's Pool is not included (30 TL per person), and honestly, doesn't look worth it. We passed. The museum is only 5 TL and that was ok. These are from the museum, which used to be a Roman Bath.

11. Stay for sunset. It's AH. MAZE. ING.

12. We caught a minibus after dark. Not sure when the last one is. You'll be fine.

Ok, now for the pictures. With some commentary. :)

In Turkish, Pamukkale literally means "Cotton Castle." Fun, huh?

We were fascinated that such a place even exists. So here's what's going on. This superheated water comes up from somewhere in the earth's crust and it picks up calcium carbonate along the way. When it hits the surface, the water cools and deposits the calcium carbonate as it flows down the mountain.

Some of it is hard as rock (I think it technically is rock, actually). Some of it is like clay and mushy.

It naturally forms walls, pools, and rivers as it flows down the mountain. Although since it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, they've been manually rerouting the rivers to give various parts of the mountain a break from foot traffic. So some older pools are dry now. And they've created new ones. I suppose it will be different every time you go, which is kind of appealing.

The view from the top over the valley and pools below is nice...

But the view from the infinity pools is ridiculous.

We just couldn't get over the color and contrast between the white walls and the blue water. We took a LOT of pictures.

Ok, let's break from the pools for a minute and head up to Hierapolis (we'll come back to the pools for sunset). :)

Our first stop was the "Church with Pillars." I was happy as a clam climbing all over everything - for it being a world heritage site, that's not usual.

Isa was tired...

Our next stop was the theatre, which was even cooler than the massive theatre in Ephesus yesterday.

This one was smaller, but the stage facade was definitely cooler.

Then we stopped at Cleopatra's pool, decided against the 30 TL entry fee, and hit up the museum, and then went back to the pools to relax. That lasted about 20 minutes and then we went back to Cleopatra's to change into our bathing suits.

Then I took a nap.

By the way, those walls are massive.

All over the place, these Russian and Ukrainian women take glamour shots. It's funny to watch them.

This is Isa's best shot at impersonating them.

As the sun sets, it lights up the walls and the whole mountain gets prettier and prettier.

Today was a great day. One of our best days.


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