Overseas Adventure Travel’s Turkey’s Magical    Hideaways Tour
Sept
ember 17, 2021 through October 4, 2021 

 

Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page.


Page 1:  Istanbul
Page 2: Cappadocia
Page 3: Antalya
Page 4:  Turkish Gulet Cruise
Page 5: Kusadasi

 

Day 5 - Fly to Cappadocia

After breakfast, the van took us to the airport for our flight to Cappadocia.  Unlike the previous days with incredible weather, Istanbul was now having cooler temps and some rain.  We were getting out of town just in time.  The flight was on Turkish Airlines, which I had enjoyed on my flight to Istanbul.  When we were served a nice breakfast on an hour and 15-minute flight, I couldn’t believe it.  It sure doesn’t happen on any short US flights.  At least in coach.  We were all impressed.

We had a van waiting for us with a very good driver and a very nice guy named Ali.  He would be with us for the rest of the trip, other than when we were on the boat portion.  Once again, we had a 12-passenger van for the 4 of us.

   

On our drive to Cappadocia, it was interesting to watch the changing terrain.  Nothing like Istanbul. 

   

We then saw some of the famous Fairy Chimneys that I had seen online and in videos.  It is difficult to believe that they were formed naturally by erosion. 

   

Our first stop was at the Goreme Open-Air Museum.  This was an area of churches that were hollowed into the rocks in the 10th through 12th centuries.  They are basically cave monasteries.  Some with gorgeous frescos.  Ahmet walked us around the park telling us about the different churches and pointing out which ones were the best for seeing frescos.  He then gave us free time to go to the ones we wanted to visit.  He told us how unusual it was to not have a large crowd there.  He said that there can be a 30-minute wait at times to get into some of the churches.

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

The balloon was set up to take photos for people that wanted to look like they were on a balloon ride.  The next day I was hoping to do the real thing.

It was amazing to see that the frescos had survived for well over 1,000 years.  They were just beautiful as were some of the cave exterior’s as well.  We were not supposed to take any photos, but many people were, and I did take some to be able to remember the beauty that I had seen and share it with others.  I was so glad that the iphone has a very wide-angle lens.  It allowed me to capture much more of the small rooms.

     

   

   

   

   

Some of the caves even had large tables carved into the stone.

When we left park, we went just a little way and stopped so that we could see the Buckle Church.  This is one of the oldest churches in the park and by far the prettiest.  It is hard to believe that these gorgeous vivid frescos were created 1,100 years ago.

   

   

After leaving the church we went to a different town and stopped at a unique restaurant.  It was built into a cave.  It was much nicer than I expected, and the food was very good too.        

   

   

Our dessert had a scoop of water buffalo ice cream with it.  Everywhere else we had been had served goat milk ice cream, which was a bit stickier than what I am used to.  The water buffalo milk ice cream was similar to it.  Still yummy!

After dinner we headed for our hotel.  We were staying in a the Yunak Evleri Hotel  (http://www.yunak.com).  This is a cave hotel with 122 rooms.  The illuminated view of the hotel was stunning.  It was a gorgeous place.

   

The cave rooms were very comfortable.  My only concern was that there was no air conditioning. With the cave walls being cool, it would maintain a milder temperature in the room; but not necessarily cool enough to sleep in.  I was glad to see that there was a good size fan in the room if needed.  With it being in the 50’s at night, having the window open made the room very comfortable, even a bit chilly at times.  I am not sure it would be as comfortable in the middle of summer.  But that is also one of the reasons that OAT doesn’t do this itinerary in the hottest part of summer.

   


   

The only real problem with the cave room was that the WiFi signal didn’t come through the walls very well, so I needed to step outside or go to the office to make FaceTime or WhatsApp calls to Cathy.  If you are not familiar with WhatsApp, it is an awesome service.  I have used it in the past for contacting tour guides and friends in other countries.  It allows me to make video calls, voice calls or chats with no cost to either party.  Throughout the trip when the signal was not strong enough for a FaceTime video call, I just switched to a WhatsApp voice call, and all was good.

I went to bed early that night since we had to wake up at 4:30 AM to take a van to the hot air balloon ride.  I had been worried if we would be able to do it since it had been cancelled the two previous days due to weather and the forecast had rain for the next day.

 

Day 6 - Cappadocia
I woke up well before my iPhone alarm went off at 4:30 AM.  I was just too excited.  I looked at the weather and the rain chances were put off until later in the morning.  I met our group near the lobby before the balloon company van was to pick us up at 5:00 AM.  It was a cool morning, 48 degrees, and I hadn’t brought a heavy coat for cold weather.  I was worried how cold it would be when on the balloon flight.  Ahmet had been watching the app on his phone that showed if the balloons had a green symbol for that day to fly or red for no fly.  It was still red.  Ahmet said that it could change at any time.  Therefore, the balloon company vans pick up the potential passengers and wait near their offices in town.  Since Ahmet stayed at the hotel, we wouldn’t know if it turned green.

When the van arrived, it was almost full with a group from Poland.  Some of them spoke English.  They laughed at Derby, when he spoke a Polish phrase, he knew.  They were a very fun group, and we were laughing a lot while waiting to see if we would be able to have this bucket list experience.  The tour company had provided each of us with a little box breakfast, which many of us consumed while waiting.  Suddenly, some of the other vans near us started their engines and started driving down the road.  So did our van.  We were green!  I was so relieved that we were going to fly that day.

We drove onto a large field where several balloons were in the process of getting ready to fly.  It is a thrill to watch your illuminated balloon filling up.

   

   

We climbed into the basket.  It had eight compartments that could hold 3 or 4 people each.  The ones on the end, that I was in were smaller and held 3 people very close together.  I got to know the two women with me very well during the flight.  Having been on a balloon flight years ago in Sedona, Arizona, I knew what to expect; but the balloon virgins didn’t.  We had already heard the woosh sound of the flame as they were filling the balloon and would hear it regularly from our balloon and the others nearby.  One minute you are on the ground and suddenly you realize you are slowly rising.  It is very smooth and just a pleasant experience as you look down at our ground crew and the other balloons.
As we ascended, we could look out on the amazing Cappadocia landscape.  I had worried about being cold during the flight, but the flame heated us up whenever it was used.  Plus, we were flying with the wind, so the air was still. 

All around us other balloons were glowing as their flame lifted them higher.  It was just an all-encompassing sensory experience. A wonderful experience!

   

   

   

   

There were so many other balloons in the air with us.  It was like a balloon festival.  With the flight lifting off at 6:00 AM and sunrise at 6:34 AM, it made most of the flight in a lower ambient light level.  This made the balloon glow even prettier and the terrain more mysterious looking.

   

   

   

As we got closer to the areas they wanted to explore more, we descended to where we were almost touching the ground.  I was amazed by the skills of the many balloon captains as they meandered close to the beautiful rock formations.  The below video shows what was happening.

 

   

In the 48 minutes we were in the air, I took 239 photos between my Canon DSLR and iPhone.  It was very difficult to pick out which ones to put in this review, since I didn’t want to overload you; but I might anyway.  These are the last photos I will post from the flight itself.

   

   

   

The landing was exceptionally smooth.  We actually came down onto the trailer that they brought it to the field on.  Quite a talented captain and crew.

   

   

After we unloaded from the basket, the crew had a little ceremony with a celebratory juice.  They also handed out a balloon flight certificate to each person.  Kind of a nice thing.  It allowed us time to wind down from the excitement of the flight. 

Since it was just a little after 7:00 in the morning we still had the whole day ahead of us.  The weather forecast said that the high for the day would be 61 and that we had a 70% chance of rain starting at noon.  At that time, I didn’t care if it did rain, I had been able to experience the awesome balloon flight I had been so wanting to do.

When the OAT itinerary book came out for this tour, it showed the price for the balloon ride at $215.  Ahmet told us the first day of the tour that the price had been reduced to $180.  We don’t know why they reduced the price, but we had to assume that OAT was able to get a better deal and they passed it along to the customer.  That says a lot for the company.  Thank you, OAT, it is appreciated.

When we got back to the hotel, I took some photos of our unique hotel’s exterior in the daylight.  It was quite a place. That is my balcony with the two chairs.

   

   

The breakfast buffet was quite a spread.  There was no way to even sample all the different items they had.

   

I went back to my room to get ready for the day’s activities.  I was fascinated with the texture of the rooms walls and ceiling, so I took some photos to share what they looked like.  Hey, when you are all alone in your room on a trip, you have do something

   

Back down near the lobby, Ali was waiting with the van to begin the days adventures.  Not far from the hotel, we stopped at a fairy chimney viewing platform.  This was a great formation to show how the harder volcanic rock remained on top of the softer base rock as the elements eroded it.

   

When we came down to the side of the formation, we could see that there was a smaller chimney also.  The formation looked like a mother, father and child.

We then drove to our first destination.  On the way there we saw the Uchisar Rock in the distance.  It is the highest elevation in Cappadocia.  We would see it from a distance regularly. 

The Assistant Mayor of the town of Çat (pronounced Chat) had invited us to a farmer’s breakfast before showing us his town.  After meeting the Assistant Mayor, he walked us through his field.  He raises mostly grapes but also had a section with pumpkins.  He pulled off bunches of the white and red grapes and handed them to us to eat during our walk.  Since they don’t use any pesticides, they were safe to eat right off the vine.  They were delicious.

   

When we arrived at the area where we were to have breakfast, we saw that he had set up a nice tented are for us.  A good idea with the rain potential.

Below is a photo of the Assistant Mayor with his wife and daughter.  They live in a very conservative traditional part of Turkey.  Their dress and covered heads show that. 

They put out a very nice spread for breakfast.  Everything they had either came from their farm, including the egg dish they prepared over the open fire.  This breakfast had no middlemen, it was direct from the farm to our table.  It was all so delicious.

   

We took group photos at the breakfast table.

   

During our visit, it was interesting to hear how life was changing in this part of Turkey.  As with many farming communities in the world, the young people want to get educated and move to better jobs in the cities.  This family was in the same situation.  Their daughter was getting ready to go off to college shortly and it was obvious that she was looking forward to a different way of life for her future.  We enjoyed talking with the family so much, even though the father was the only one that was fluent in English.  The daughter and mother were able to keep up just fine with a little help from dad.

After breakfast we walked over to get a view of the beautiful terrain just a few steps away from where we ate.

   

We had enjoyed our time with the family so much.  They were such sweet people and so welcoming.  We said our goodbyes and the father took us to see his city of Çat.  Our first stop was to see a rock mosque.  It was small and quite different from the ones seen in Istanbul.  He said that it is the only mosque in a cave; but I wasn’t sure about that.  After all he was marketing his town.


   

The reason we were with the Assistant Mayor was for the itinerary item - A Day in the Life of a Cappadocian village.  He took us to a tea house, where we sat on an outdoor terrace for our discussion.  Tea houses are considered typical Turkish “man caves” according to the OAT handbook.  While there, we finally got some light rain.  Since most of the activities for the day were inside, it worked out quite well.  Women aren’t forbidden to go to the tea houses, but it highly unusual.  We were offered Turkish Coffee or tea. I had found out that I wasn’t that fond of Turkish Coffee earlier in our visit, so I got tea, actually apple tea.  I had never had it before this trip, and it was rather nice on occasion.

Our host was telling us about village life.  We noticed that another gentleman close by was listening in.  As we were discussing different subjects, he would give his comments also.  It didn’t take long before he asked if he could pull his chair over to the table.  He was a retired postal worker and quite a character.  He told us several stories about his younger life and what life is like now.  He was an unexpected pleasure and made the experience so much better.  I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of him.  I was too enthralled with the discussion.  I might not have taken his photo, but I certainly won’t forget him.

Our next itinerary item was to one of the organizations that OAT’s parent company, Grand Circle supports through their foundation – the Women’s Education & Handicraft Cooperative.  For some reason, I didn’t take any photos of this activity either.  Probably because I was too busy looking at all the crafts they make as well as showing us how to make some of them ourselves.  They sell these crafts to help support their effort and provide a way for women in the community to make their own money.  With this being a very traditional area, these are very brave women.  Most of their husbands are very much against them being involved in this type of activity.  They feel very much empowered by having their own jobs at the coop and having some independence.  It was heartwarming to see the pride they have in the coop.  I am so glad that the foundation supports them and other women’s activities throughout the world.

After showing us around the town, we were going to do something that wasn’t on the itinerary, a potato storage facility. There are a lot of potatoes grown in Turkey.  One of the things that caves are very useful for is storing potatoes.  They are dark and cool, which allows them to be stored for a much longer time than on the surface.  Ahmet had pointed these types of facilities out to us while we were driving and now, we were going to get to go inside one of them.  This cave, like many of them was being used to store potatoes for Frito Lay.  It holds 10,000 tons of potatoes.

While we were there, the workers were on a lunch break, so no activity was going on.  It was also the beginning of the harvesting season, so there weren’t many potatoes being stored there yet.  He told us it would probably be full by the following week.

   

Our next stop was also one that wasn’t on the itinerary, a village lunch.  We had been invited to the home of a shepherd for a traditional lunch.  When we arrived, we met the shepherd’s wife and three friends.  They were so excited to see us. I guess that it had been a long time since there were American tourists in the area.  Just before we ate the shepherd arrived in time for lunch. He told us that he had Anatolian Shepherds to tend the sheep.  We had never seen one of those breeds, so Ahmet would point out dogs that kind of looked like them for the next couple of days.  When he saw one that resembled a full blood shepherd, he would say “maybe the dog’s grandmother was a full blood Anatolian Shepherd”.  It cracked us up.  Since the shepherd was working, he didn’t have a lot of time to spend with us.  He left shortly after we ate.  We were enjoying their company.  We sat down to a lunch with many delicious items.  Everything was so good. 

Everywhere we went, tea was served in this type of glass.  It did make you wait a bit for it to cool off, because without a handle, the gass was hot.  I’m not sure why they don’t use cups, but I got used to these pretty easily.

After lunch we sat around chatting and just having a wonderful time.  We each told the group the jobs we had or had before we retired.  The family’s son also joined us and sat next to me.  When he told us he wanted to be an accountant, I was thrilled and congratulated him, since I had been a CFO for a company.  We laughed so much and thoroughly enjoyed being with them. You can see from the photos that everyone is laughing or smiling.  The women had shown Cam how to fold her head scarf like the Turkish women did.  She kept it on for the rest of the day.

   

When Ahmet said we needed to go to the next destination, we were all a bit saddened.  When I get close to people and really enjoy their company, I feel very sad because I will probably never see any of them again.

Our last destination for the very full day was to a pottery shop, Chez Galip (www.chezgalip.com/en).  Ahmet was telling us the story of how Galip was a very famous potter and received an award from the Turkish government for his work, especially doing research and bringing back a previously forgotten item called the Hittite Wine Jug.  It is really kind of clever.  You put your arm through it and lean forward to pour the wine into a glass.  One of the helpers showed us how.

Ahmet kept referring to Galip as Einstein while we were on our way to the shop, so when we finally met him, it was obvious why.  He first told us about the clay in the area and how they turn it into beautiful pieces.  He then sat down at his kick wheel, the same method used by the ancient Hittites, to make a piece for us.  He was talking and joking with us all the time he was working.  A fascinating guy!

   

After the demo, one of the salespeople, showed us around the store.  It was huge!  There were so many beautiful pieces.  They then took us into another area where photos weren’t allowed.  These were pieces personally designed and/or created by the master himself.  Wow!  So beautiful and so expensive.  Since I have sworn not to buy any major souvenirs for the rest of my days, I had to resist.  It was so tempting to get maybe a smaller piece, but I controlled myself.

When I write up these reviews, I do a lot of research to find out details about the places we visit.  In looking up info about Chez Galip, I found that underneath the shop he has a hair museum.  You can read about it at this link https://travelnitch.org/avanos-hair-museum/.  I am surprised they didn’t show it to us.  Maybe just as well.

That evening we went to a very nice restaurant that wasn’t in a cave.  We loved the view from our table. 

   

The food was outstanding too.  I have never eaten so much lamb in my life.  It’s a good thing I like it.  It seemed like every meal had something with eggplant, yogurt, cucumbers, tomatoes and olive oil.  And every meal was really tasty.

It had been a long day and we were all ready for an early bedtime.  Tomorrow would be a strenuous day.
 

Day 7 - Cappadocia
We woke up to a very cool morning, 45 degrees.  The forecast was for a very sunny day with a high of 61.  With no clouds in the sky, the sun would warm us up quickly.  After the long day before, Ahmet had us start at 9:00 AM so we could sleep in.  Our first destination was to a Turkish Rug shop.  Having been to several of these type of demonstration/sales pitch shows, I wasn’t too excited about it.  The salesman did a very good job and if I had not been to one in the past, I would have enjoyed it more.  It is amazing how much work there is making a real Turkish rug, especially the high thread count silk ones.

A woman was making a rug and she showed us how she does the knots and then cuts off the remaing fabric.  I can’t imagine how they can do what they do.  They are incredibly talented.

They showed us some wall paintings that are actually rugs.  Amazing!

   

Then as expected they took us to the showroom, where they throw out many different rugs to entice you to buy one.  It is fun to watch to process and see the beautiful rugs.  I wasn’t even tempted to ask prices.

We left and drove over to Uchisar Rock.  We had seen this rock several times since we had been in the region since it is the highest point in Cappadocia.  It is just really strange to see something like this with homes and shops built into the rock.  We walked all around it to get different views.  It was just an unbelievable place.  I took too many photos again.

   

       

   

   

There was a nice overlook area at a different place we went to with an Uchisar sign.  The guy standing in fromt of it was on his phone the whole time.

   

We got a kick out of the local police station that was in one of the fairy chimneys.  Now you don’t see that every day!

We also walked by a statue of an ostrich with his head in the sand.  Kind of cute.

We got into the van to see more of the area.  The terrain is so different from anything I’ve seen and so beautiful.  We stopped at a scenic overlook to take more photos.  Uchisar Rock was in the background.

   

We arrived in the town of Göreme, where in 1974 a section of cave houses collapsed and over 20 people died.  After this event, more laws/codes were established, and the government took ownership of the cave dwellings.  They rented them back to the previous owners at a low price.  This allowed the government to prevent the owners from damaging the caves as well as controlling modifications and safety checks.

   

   

As we were riding around, I had seen quite a few of the fake police cars along the road but hadn’t been able to be quick enough to get a pic of them.  I finally got one.  They apparently help with speeding.

Our next stop was at the Ozkonak Underground City.  There were many of these underground cities in the area, some could accommodate as many as 30,000 residents.  This one only has four levels available to tour of the total of ten levels.  The cut away scale model of the top levels looked most interesting.

   

This cave city is believed to be around 1,500 years old, but it could be much older.  It is amazing that they were able to build in an adequate ventilation system for a structure that went so deep into the ground.  The upper rooms were relatively roomy. 

   

   

   

   

We had to go through some pretty low narrow openings to get to the next room or down to a lower level.  There were big rock wheels that could be rolled in front of the entrances to keep invaders out.  I was glad that Derby couldn’t move that one.

   

   

The openings seemed to be getting lower as we moved to different rooms.  We went into one opening that I got very worried about.  It was by far the longest tunnel, and it kept getting lower and narrower.  I wasn’t able to walk anymore.  I sure didn’t want to try to back out and what if someone else was coming through it.   Ahmet yelled at me to crawl.  Great idea!  That worked much better, but I was not comfortable at all with this last tunnel.  I was very pleased to finally get to the room at the end of it.  The tunnel was about 60 feet long and not designed for tall, big men like me.  The good news was that this was the last room we were going to.  I could have told Ahmet that before he told me.  I was done and exhausted!  I couldn’t wait to see the sun again.  Ahmet took my Canon camera since I was having to hold it with one hand while crawling.  He took a photo of me at the end of the tunnel coming out.  I was a happy guy to see him.  Please note that this was the larger end of the tunnel where I was originally able to walk crouched over.  The other end was much smaller.

After leaving the city, we walked over to a shopping area nearby.  Ahmet introduced us to the man who discovered the city by accident in his garden in 1972.  He was very proud of his discovery and showed us his photo in one of the books about Cappadocia.

Our next stop was to a place called Love Valley.  It is called this due to the phallic shape of some of the fairy chimneys.  To get to them and to where our van was, we would have about a two-hour hike.  The place was unbelievable.  The trail started off pretty easy until a farmer told us that we couldn’t cross his land.

   

So, we had to go a different longer way.  I was very glad that Ahmet had told me to wear my hiking boots bring my walking stick. It was quite rocky in places, and it could have been much more challenging without them.  The views of the valley and surrounding mountains was just so beautiful and peaceful from every angle.  Even though it was a bit strenuous in places, it was so enjoyable to be there.

   

We finally got to the viewpoint that we were trying to get to on top of the mountain.  We had to take our group photos to celebrate getting there.

   

We walked back down the hill on a path that led us to the town of Göreme, where we had been earlier in the day.  There was a platform that went out to a scenic overlook and very popular photo opp.

   

At last, we were done touring for the day.  It had been a very full and wonderful day; but it was also the most exhausting day of the trip, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel.  On the way back to my room, I saw a couple having a romantic candlelight dinner on their balcony.  Now that was a great idea.

We were having dinner at the hotel restaurant that night, so before dinner, I took some photos of the outside area of the hotel that I hadn’t previously seen.  The outdoor bar and restaurant area was really nice.

   

   

Dinner was great.  We would be driving to Antalya the next day, so I went back to the room to pack and get some much needed sleep.

 

 

 

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