Kappadokya – Balloons AND caves, but not IN caves

There are so many amazing places to see in Turkey; Kappadokya really stands out. Instead of the usual ancient ruins, giant marble columns, and jaw-dropping temples, the place is riddled with caves!

There are underground cities, open air museums, tunnels and canyons. It seems like every cliff face has a door or a window in it, and every freestanding pillar of rock has been hollowed out into a three story house.

Open Air Museum

One of the more well known sites in Kappadokya is the open air museum, just outside of Goreme town to the east. It is basically an area with a particularly high concentration of churches dug into the rock formations. Taking pictures in the churches is not allowed, so we have no pictures of the churches.

It was very impressive, but we also found the highest concentration of bus tourists there. For us the highlight of the museum was not in it but above it. We came out of one of the crazy caves to see dozens of hot-air balloons rising up from all over town.

Kappadokya balloons

Normally the balloons go up early in the morning to catch sunrise. Apparently the last few days had been too windy so the balloon companies were flying an extra afternoon flight.

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Monkeying Around

Our favorite thing to do in a place like Kappadokya is to just wander off and monkey around all afternoon. There are so many cave houses everywhere, and we even found an old church to take pictures of. It was a bit tricky to get into, but worth the scramble.

There were some cave-houses that we went into where the first room had a hole in the ceiling. When we climbed up through the hole, we found another level, again with a hole in the ceiling. Amazing!

We finally emerged out a window about 35 meters off the ground, and there was still another level above us. This one could be reached by a super-sketchy series of hand and foot-holds gouged into the outside of the rock. Nope, not going up there.

We must have spent two or three full days just wandering around the countryside poking our heads into holes in the rocks. Good times.

More to come on Kappakokya and the people we met there!

 

Kabak Beach – Hidden Gem

Kabak is in the guidebook, but it’s by no means easy to get to.

We drove there from Fethiye in a small rental car. Most of the drive is easy, and spectacular. The last two kilometers is a whole different story. The paved road passes along the mountainside way far above the beach, and there’s a steep, rocky, dirt road that drops steeply down to the beach.

We started down in our crappy little car, and soon encountered two guys in a pickup. They took one look at our ride and just shook their heads. We just backed’er up and parked that sucker. The walk down was lovely anyway.

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The Beach

The beach was deserted (low season) except for some friendly backpackers that were hiking some section of the Lycian Way. They had arrived at Kabak beach two days before, scrapped their plans and stayed there. There was also a cat.

We played on the beach, watched a praying mantis, went for a swim… 6 stars out of 5.

 

Pamukkale looks like ice, and it’s cold on the feet…

But it’s not ice!

Pamukkale ice

Pamukkale has some crazy geology. The “Cotton Castle” was laid down by millennia of calcium carbonate sediment flowing downhill from 17 natural hot springs. This formed the crazy, alien-looking travertine terraces on which you can go wander around barefoot today.

Barefoot Pages

I suspect it is warmer on the feet during the Turkish summer, when the temperature sits in the mid-thirties for months. We went there in the winter, so temps were around 20 degrees but much lower (6-9 degrees) at night. The dang floor was freezing!

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Fortunately, not far up from the lower entrance there’s a trench full of cascading warm water which runs alongside the terraces. The kids just walked up in the trench. They soaked their clothes almost immediately. No problem, we had alllll day for their clothes to dry.

The warm trench

Access to the terraces is restricted to the man made pools on the former access road. The other terraces are more natural looking, but depending on the time of year most are empty. Apparently there is some water management as well. They say when the pools are empty for a time, the sun bleaches out the algae and stuff that accumulates in the pool.

The view as you walk up just gets weirder and weirder. The wedding cake-looking travertines, the masses of other tourists, and the occasional paragliders sailing overhead is just surreal.

There’s a swimming pool at the top (quite a ways from the terraces, actually) where you can pay some more and swim in the warm water. There are some fallen columns and ancient stones in the pool and it looks pretty neat. The tea costs a dang fortune, though.

Hierapolis

The other main attraction in Pamukkale is the ruins of Hierapolis. Naturally, back in the day a city grew up around the hot springs and crazy calcite formations. Equally naturally, earthquakes knocked it all down and the people scrapped the idea. There were two theaters, all kinds of temples, and lots of big, impressive walls.

Another really cool feature we noticed was the aqueducts running all over the place to pipe hot water into the buildings. Over time the same kind of mineral build-up happened and now it all looks like it’s made of lava. Super-cool.

We spent our time in the ruins of Hierapolis climbing on things, wandering around in the weeds, generally just relaxing in the freedom of a historical site with no ropes, fences, or other restrictions. Freedom!