It was late when I arrived in Cappadocia. The taxi from the airport made its way into the Center of Goreme and I could sense he was struggling to find my hotel. And I couldn’t blame him. The uneven stone streets were narrow and crooked and didn’t seem to make any sense at all.
I was already becoming captivated.
As we ascended to the top of the road, the moonlight on the stone peaks illuminated the town below. In Goreme many of the hotels are built into the rock. I was staying at the Maccan Cave Hotel. We arrived and a young man swiftly grabbed my suitcase and guided me up the spiral stone stairs to my room. I opened the large medieval looking door with its wooden frame and brass hinges and let out a small gasp. I had never seen anything like it before.
Long heavy velvet curtains framed the large windows. Red velvet chairs were placed romantically around a small fireplace. The room resembled something out of a fairytale or better yet the Friendly Giants Castle (I have just dated myself). Despite feeling so tired I couldn’t resist heading to the top terrace to have a birds eye view of this magnificent fairytale town. I was eager to sleep mostly in anticipation of the adventure waiting for me the next morning. I slept like a princess in my princess room with the heavy weight of the blankets keeping me still in my slumber. A rarity for this restless sleeper.
First on my list was a cooking class. This was unlike many classes I have attended because I was the only student and it was with a family in their home. Nuray and her 28 year old daughter Rahime greeted me with big smiles at the door of their home that was built into the rock. The home had been in their family for over a 100 years. They spoke little English but it didn’t matter. I felt strangely at home with them. And like any feeling of home there is a flow of familiarity. I obediently and comfortably followed Nuray as she instructed me to make a traditional dish called Manti (a type of dumpling filled, in this case, with beef) and bean salad.
Her daughter also waited diligently for her instructions to assist us with stuffing the small squares of pastry with beef. I watched this mother and her daughter interact with one another as moms and daughters do-sensing her daughter’s periodic sass and her mother’s response denoting love with just a touch of “don’t push it sweetheart”. I missed my girls. There is a certain freedom that comes with this stage of life but the cord of motherhood though longer, more flexible and faint still keeps me close. It was a lovely day creating in the kitchen with this Turkish mama and her daughter. We shared the delicious Manti dressed in homemade yogurt and tomato sauce and the lightly cooked bean salad with pomegranate dressing. This was followed by some Turkish tea and a, melt in your mouth, dessert that consisted of light cake and custard.
At the end of our time, she embraced me and in broken English said “I like this very much, very very much”. “Me too Nuray, thank-you for inviting me into your home.”
The rest of the day I meandered around the old city center of Goreme. Admittingly, my main reason for visiting Cappadocia was to take a hot air balloon ride through the fairy chimneys. Fairy chimneys refer to the spire of rock formations that exist throughout the unusual landscape.
I had pre-booked the balloon ride well in advance, however the night before arriving I received notice it was canceled due to winds. This is the thing about hot air balloon rides. It’s a 50/50 chance they will actually happen. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I had only one more day left in the area and every company was booked for the remaining day. But here’s the thing about me and traveling. I really believe that I am meant to see and experience what I am meant to see and experience. That doesn’t mean I resign to certain unfavourable outcomes. As Anais Nin once wrote “good things come to those who hustle.” So on the black market I went to receive the golden ticket. I woke up at 4am to be ready for my 5am pick up. I sat waiting on the dusty road, my feet tapping in anticipation. 5:15-nothing. 5:30-nothing. 5:45-nothing. I am generally an optimist but at that moment I began to lose hope. Yet minutes to 6am in the dark of the morning the van lights danced against the corner building preluding its arrival. It arrived. Once at the site, the van of us were ushered into the basket. The dramatic blow of the torch above us gave way to the dramatic ride to follow.
As we lifted off the ground I felt my tummy roll. This increased as we rose even higher. And there in the high skies above the Turkish fairy chimneys we glided. It was spectacular. To be so high and vulnerable at the mercy of the wind was indescribable. Moments like this looking down one realizes just how small the world below really is – a metaphor for all we seem so caught up in, most of which really is so insignificant. And yet it also highlighted just how vast and beautiful it is. The dichotomy of it all took my breath away. Life in all its glory is also oh so impermanent. The sun rose on cue with this moment. And we all swayed in awe.
We landed smoothly and celebrated with a champagne toast. To those with a bucket list, don’t wait. Get on it now. Now is all you really know you have.
It was hard to come down from that high, both literally and figuratively. But on the day went. I explored the ancient Kaymakli (or Ozkonak) Underground City and the Devrent Valley to see the fairy chimneys up close.
It was a full day. Really it could have ended at 7am after my feet touched the ground and I would have been satisfied. I was then off to the airport to fly to Istanbul. No more fairytales… time to swing with the Sultans.