We were up at 5.00 am to ensure we were ready to be collected at 5.30 by the balloon flight company. We put on as many clothes as possible to guard against the intense cold we were told to expect on the flight. Back to the Michelin look! We had been warned that there was a chance we would not be able to go because of it being too windy and so it proved. Having stood on the terrace of the Pension for half an hour, watching the sky lighten and losing heat, we received news that it was too windy and that the balloons would not be going up.
Not sure whether we were disappointed or relieved, we adjourned for a catch up on our sleep before going up to the rooftop restaurant for breakfast. There we received the news that there was a chance we might get a balloon at sunset, but the usual thing of trying again tomorrow morning was out because all the flights were booked.
In order to make the most of what was a cold but beautifully sunny day, Peter, Helen Keith and I, the group’s usual walking suspects, set off to explore the surrounding area on foot. Although quite cold, it was perfect for walking. First stop was the sunset viewpoint at the top of the town. From here we could look down on the surrounding landscape. On the far hill is another town – looking in the distance exactly as you think ancient hill towns should look. A cluster of buildings around a central fort or castle. It is difficult to decide what it is from this distance. Immediately below us is Goreme, the purpose built hotels, houses, shops and restaurants and in between the tall volcanic peaks, some of them converted to accommodation with windows and doors. They look like set pieces from The Hobbit!
If we looked the other way, the volcanic ‘tufa’ took on all shapes. The phallic pillars, cones, chimneys, peaks and just rippling rocks interspersed with trees and bushes – all appeared beneath us in the valley below. The main road out of Goreme snakes black between the sandy colouring of the tufa on ether side of the road.
After a a drink at the sunset cafe, we set off along the path to try to find what is advertised as the open air museum. We walked along a deep track and then turned down into the valley. At this point the rocks and pillars reared up above us. Eventually hitting the main road we walked along to the museum, somewhat surprised at the huge number of coaches ‘corralled’ in the car park and the large number of tourists of all nations walking up to and away from the museum entrance.
Luckily Keith had bought the audio visual set before he realised it was another monastic site! But what a site it was. The site originally housed aesthetics or hermits in the first century and the place and those who lived there were mentioned in St Paul’s letters. The museum covered the large area that became the Byzantine monastic settlement. It became a pilgrim site in the 17th century. Once again the weird cones and pilkars had been burrowed out to form chapels and accommodation caves. Many retained their original etchings and frescoes. Carved out tables and benches, apses, burial places, cooking pits and niches appeared in the caves. Steps led up and down as we explored the place. It was quite a work out! Another incredible experience.
We left the museum and wondered back into Goreme for lunch. Although sunny we got quite chilled sitting outside on a terrace for lunch so adjourned to a very sunny spot in the coffee shop garden for drinks. When we got back the hotel it was to hear that the winds still would not allow us a balloon flight and the flights were fully booked for the two remaining mornings that we would be in Cappadoccia, but that they would see if it would be possible before we left.
I don’t think either of us were too disappointed with this news. We had a bit of a siesta and wrote some emails, chatted over a bottle of wine outside and then set off to try out the clay pot baked stews that are very popular in the area. We found a restaurant, had the pantomime of breaking open the pot, added a small piece of baklava and returned home happy.
Once again we felt we were on holiday!