Saturday, December 4, 2010

Turkey: Day 10–The Long Journey Home

Ah, after a great visit it was finally time to head home! We had an early flight to Istanbul, so we hopped a cab to the airport and went to check in.

Unfortunately, the Turkish Airlines agents told us that our reservation had been cancelled! They were able to get us on the flight to Istanbul but told us they could not get us on our flight to Chicago. I immediately became nervous, but Jon kept his cool and got all the information he could from the agents. When we got to Istanbul, we hurried to the sales office to see what could be done. To our relief, the salesperson said our reservation was just fine and printed out our ticket numbers, should we run into any more trouble. Soon, we were checked in and resting comfortably in the business class lounge.

Our flight to Chicago left on time, and we settled in for the long 12-hour flight across Europe, the Atlantic, and half of North America. Jon’s friend Doug met us at O’Hare to help pass the long layover at a nearby restaurant.

Soon, we were back up in the air and safely home in Seattle. Nobody enjoys the end of a great vacation, but there will be many future trips to look forward to!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Turkey: Day 9-Horseback Riding and Cave Dwelling

We woke up well rested from our night in the cave and had a great breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards we asked the hotel owner for advice, and she offered to help us arrange transportation for the day's activities. We wanted to visit one of the local underground cities, and she checked to make sure neither of us were claustrophobic. We confirmed that we weren't, and then she confessed to some claustrophobia herself! Kind of strange since she runs a hotel in a cave! Turkey_Cappadocia24_Giramisu

In the meantime, she suggested we ride some of the hotel's horses around the village. Initially, I was a bit nervous about it given the hilly terrain, but Jon was enthusiastic and we decided to go for it.

I am so glad we did! One of the staff helped us on the horses and led us through the little valley and up a steep hill. The horses were gentle, and the view of the surrounding area was gorgeous! Turkey_Cappadocia27_Giramisu Eventually we descended back to the village where we greeted most of the town residents who were hanging out in the town square. No doubt they had a good laugh at us parading by, but they all smiled and waved as we went by.

Next, our driver for the day took us to the underground city. This was a place of refuge from rival military forces for residents, and the collection of tunnels was just amazing. Turkey_Cappadocia29_UndergroundCity Only 4 levels are open to the public, but there are certainly many more judging by the ventilation shaft we passed! We scraped our heads a few times and dodged some tour groups but were ultimately glad to have had the opportunity to see such an interesting settlement.

Our driver then took us back to Urgup and despite his lack of English and our poor Turkish, got us squared away with bus tickets. He was truly quite helpful. We had a nice lunch before the hour-long bus ride back to Kayseri.


There, we grabbed a city bus towards our hotel. I knew we would eventually encounter the tram line into downtown, so we kept our eyes open and hopped off at the tram station. We hopped the tram and got off at the stop for our hotel, as provided by a nice security guard. Then, yet another nice guy on the street took us to a taxi stand. A taxi driver here set us off towards our hotel. As usual, I am deeply indebted to the kind folks we encounter who take the time to help two tourists!

Finally at our hotel, we rested before venturing out for dinner. I was surprised in a city of that size how few English speakers we found, but folks are patient and usually happy to encounter somebody from another country.

Packed and ready for the journey home, we turned in at the Hotel Ibis.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turkey: Day 8-Up, Up, and Away!

For Jon's birthday, and to continue our theme of trying out a new form of transportation on every trip, we got up early and were ready to go at 5:30am for our hot air balloon trip! The company came and picked us up and shuttled us to the launch site, about 7 miles outside of Urgup. There, we met up with what seemed like all the other tourists in the area who were just as eager as we were to get up in the air.

I was a bit anxious about the trip because of the height, but the large basket on our Turkey_Cappadocia05_HotAirBalloonballoon held about 24 folks, so I was able to stand to the inside. As we enjoyed some tea, we watched as about 25 balloons were unrolled and filled with hot air. We launch just as the sun was rising over the hills giving us a great, clear view of the landscape. Up, up, and away!

Our balloon pilot was British and explained to us how to remain safe on board, and then we were off! This was our first view of the rock formations that Cappadocia is known for, and what an introduction! They were similar to what we'd seen in Bryce Canyon and Zion in Utah but were smoother and fanned out in all directions. Turkey_Cappadocia09_HotAirBalloon Despite the occasional bursts of hot air, it was an extremely peaceful trip across a valley, over a large hill and out over some fields. The ride lasted about 90 minutes, but I think I could have stayed up there for hours.

The landing was a bit rough but safe, and it was followed by a quick glass of champagne. Jon and I had a chance to talk a bit with the pilot who had been flying for 23 years. He also recommended a hot air balloon flight in Kenya should we ever find ourselves there. Possible future trip idea?

Back at our hotel, we enjoyed a nice breakfast and then made our to the bus station where we grabbed a bus to the Goreme open-air museum. Turkey_Cappadocia22_GoremeThis was an ancient monastery and nunnery build directly into the caves of the region and was quite a sight. I was impressed by the extensive networks of buildings that had been created and the ornate decorations in the many churches and chapels there. It was a bit cool but quite pleasant, so we didn't mind waiting a bit for our bus back to Urgup where we collected our bags and took a taxi to our next destination.

Jon had featured the Giramisu Cave Hotel in a slide show a while back, but both of us were blown away by the place. Situated away from all the tourist stops in the region, it was a very peaceful place built right into the caves. Our well-appointed (and huge) room had a nice skylight and a working fireplace. Once settled, we took the opportunity to explore the grounds and the surrounding village of Ayvali.

We had dinner in the gorgeous dining room at the hotel, and the 4-course meal was absolutely excellent! A tour group was also staying at the hotel, but they cleared out early giving us the entire run of the dining room to enjoy our leisurely meal. Later on, we went back to our room and attempted to start a fire in the fireplace. After several attempts with the provided matches, we called the front desk which sent somebody down with a propane tank and torch to really get the blaze going! Why hadn't we thought of that? Exhausted, we bid farewell to a great day and got some rest.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turkey: Day 7-Planes, Walking, and Automobiles

Most of the day was spent in transit for us: it all started before the sun came up when we set out on foot to the Fethiye bus station. Realizing that no vans would be coming by, we caved and grabbed a taxi to the bus station where we met our shuttle bus to the Dalaman airport. The bus was by no means full, but I was kind of surprised how many people were headed out that early in the morning.

We got to the Dalaman airport, checked in and boarded our hour-long flight back to Istanbul. We had a little time there to cool our heels before we got on our plane to Kayseri. We left a bit late but still got to Kayseri before dark. I had imagined that Kayseri would be a pretty small place, so I was quite shocked when we landed in a city of about 900,000 people! Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, we got off the plane and grabbed a taxi to the bus station. I initially balked at the relatively high taxi fare, but the driver used a meter and had been pretty accurate in his estimate of the cost.

Catching a bus to Urgup was simple, but we had to sit with our bags on the nearly full bus, so it was a bit more cramped than I would have liked. Still, we drove off into the hills as the sun set and our arrival in Urgup was uneventful. We had to do a bit of searching for our hotel, but some helpful locals guided us in the right direction. Our room was nothing special but was comfortable and gave us a place to relax. As was becoming a theme, we turned in early since our 4:30am wake-up time was fast approaching!