Eleven hours on a bus is not an easy feat so when we finally arrived at Göreme we were tired as hell. After asking for our pension at the tourism information desk, a van came from the pension to take us there and fortunately they serve breakfast even if you arrive at 7 AM like we did. The place was Anatolia Cave Pension and was the best place we stayed during the whole trip. When we arrived we were told that we had booked a regular room but some guests had cancelled their cave room so we could stay there for the same price.
It could not get any better! The owners of the Anatolia Cave Pension are a Norwegian lady and her Turkish husband and they have been able to create a pleasant place with a family atmosphere where everybody is always smiling and eager to help. Seriously, even the breakfasts were some of the best we had in the whole country.
Of course we didn’t know this before and when the owner told me that he wanted to talk to us about the tours in Cappadocia (interestingly it means “land of beautiful horses”), etc. after we had breakfast I remembered the previous night’s saleslady from hell and got suspicious but I was wrong. He started by telling us “I am going to present this to you once and if you are not interested I will not bother you anymore”. The tour and balloon ride prices were good and he even gave us a discount that later would, when talking to some other people who rode with us, we realized we payed less than anybody else. If you’re interested, the balloon ride was 110 € per person and the tour must have been 35 € or so. After we settled about the tours we took the rest of the day for resting and walking the town.
The balloon ride
The next morning, the alarm painfully woke us at 5 AM because balloon rides are during the dusk when the air is colder which makes it easier to maneuver. Over 50 balloons from different companies illustrate the skies of Cappadocia every morning.
We were flying with the Ürgup company and the pension’s owner took us to the rendez-vous where tea and cookies were awaiting the sleepy tourists. Soon after the company’s vans took us to where the balloons were being set up.
The ride was magnificent. It felt so smooth and quiet apart from when the pilot opened the engine’s gas and the flames screamed into the balloon, taking us further. The landing time is often schedule with a bit of a margin because the pilots only control the height of the balloon, the direction is decided by the wind. We ended up riding 20 minutes more than the planned hour which made it only better.
The landing process is tricky, when the balloon is close to the floor, a team of several people try to control it with ropes and direct the balloon’s basket to land on top of a pickup truck that will transport it back to its place.
Once we get off the basket we get to drink champagne on the spot, and take photos with the pilots and the flight certificates they sign and give us. It felt even better when our pilot, Derya, told us she was the first balloon pilot woman in Turkey! We will never forget it.
Lost in the valley
After the balloon ride, we went back to the hotel to have breakfast and get our strength up again because a couple of hours later we would have the tour. The trips are identified with four colors and we picked the green tour which had a visit to the Göreme panorama, the Derinkuyu Underground City, the Ihlara Valley, etc.
While in the balloon we had met a Brazilian couple that helped us take some pictures and although they were in a different hotel, of all the vans in the tour we got together in the same one making it a funny coincidence and they were also the reason the tour ended up being funny and not a complete failure. Back in Spain I would find out that besides being such nice people, Sérgio Leo and his lovely wife Marta Salomon are two famous journalists in Brazil.
So why could the tour have been a complete failure? Because of the guide. Picture the worst guide in the world; there you go. Inside the Derinkuyu Underground City, after passing through some tunnel passages while ducking, he would “explain” what a room used to be in a *very* summarized way. His English skills didn’t help but it wasn’t just that. For example, when Sérgio asked him how old was a church we saw outside the Underground City, he proudly told us: “Many, many years!”. Very helpful indeed.
In the Ihlara Valley there were churches carved into the rocks and he kept telling us that “the colors come from history [!?]” and that the churches were untouched since the very own Christians partially destroyed them: “the damage you see was not made by Turkish people, it was by the Christians themselves”; I guess those Christians back then were funny folks because there were pieces of text carved in the walls clearly saying something like “Mahmet + Ayşıl = ♥”…
The highlight of our tour guide’s incompetence came when (due to the habit of starting the explanations before everybody caught up with the group) he lost us in the valley. It was really strange, a couple from Texas (Chris and Marisa), the Brazilians and us were trying to see a frog that was croaking nearby when a couple of minutes later we didn’t know where the group was…
After wondering around for 2 hours trying to find them (including speaking to some Turkish people) we decided we should had back which implied going up a large number of steps again.
Back uphill we waited a bit, then asked the guys in a restaurant about the guide and he knew where he (and us) was supposed to be having lunch. Only after about an hour and two calls a van finally came to pick us up.
When we arrived at the place where everybody was finishing their meals, the guide came by and said he was looking for us. For the fun of it I asked and yes, he first had his lunch calmly before going back to search for us; I guess he needed some energy. At least he apologized.
In the end of the day, back at the hotel I told the owner about our tour adventures and he promptly called someone and started complaining in Turkish. After the call was finished, he told us that the guide wasn’t supposed to be that guy but the regular one was on his honeymoon and they asked him to fill in. This means you don’t have to be afraid to do a tour and perhaps you are not gonna meet great people like we did.
The Turkish Night Show
We still had another thing to do that same day. We had booked the Turkish Night Show, a dinner with traditional Turkish music and dancers. Our pension’s owner kindly took us there and the show was nice apart from the cold we felt at the place (so don’t go with only a t-shirt like we did).
The next day we said good bye to the awesome people at the Anatolia Cave Pension and took the bus we booked a day before to Ankara. The plans for Ankara didn’t go well but I’ll leave that for the next post.