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Published: October 26th 2014
Entry to the room
At Nostalji Cave Suit Hotel, Goreme
After spending one week in Greece, I left for Istanbul from Athens on Sunday, August 24th evening. Arriving in Istanbul, I instantly felt at home and took a cab which had slight difficulty in finding the newly opened hotel, St Sophia Boutique Hotel, located at Sultanahmet Square. Unfortunately, my hotel reservation with booking.com was wrongly dated, so by the time I checked in, I'd forgone one night of hotel room; nevertheless, the front desk staff was very helpful and welcomed me to the cozy hotel (it's part of the Preferred Boutique Hotel chain).
With no itinerary on hand, I decided to visit a travel agent, Walkabout Tour, across the street the next morning and explained my wishes of visiting Cappadocia and Pamukale in such a short time frame. My agent, Ozge, was friendly, helpful and efficient as she was able to line up everything in half an hour, allowing me to fly to Cappadocia in the afternoon. Once arrived at Nevsehir Airport, I was picked up and taken to Nostalji Cave Suit Hotel at Goreme (the hotel has a few rooms and they all were inside a cave). Thankfully, the hotel room was clean, the staff was friendly and helpful
at Nostalji Cave Suit Hotel
and the food at the restaurant was great too!
The next morning on Tuesday, I was picked up at 4 am and driven to Atmosfere Balloon office, where more than 100 people gathered and were group to be dispatched on different cars heading towards the departure sites for the hot air balloon ride. This was my first time experiencing a hot air balloon ride and it's one of my bucket lists. My expectation ran high as the crew started to inflate the balloon and was getting ready for the flight. We could see other balloons nearby started to ascend one by one, and finally, it was our turn to get into the basket (each has approximately 14-16 people per ride, equally divided at the other end of the basket, while the pilot navigates the balloon from the middle part of the basket). Slowly, our basket started to lift from the ground, and we could start seeing the entire beautiful landscape of Cappadocia! It was a truly amazing experience being able to see the entire landscape from the top while seeing hundreds of balloon ascending to the sky at the same time (when I rode this balloon, I was not
aware of the accident in the year before that caused two deaths). Twice a day, these ritual occurs, carrying thousands of visitors at Cappadocia. I could not help hold my breath as the sun started to appear from the horizon, and enjoyed the magnificent view of Cappadocia. The ride took about an hour, and upon landing, the pilot celebrated it by opening a bottle of champagne (and also non-alcohol grape juices) for all the riders while handing out our certificates. The rest of he crew was busy tidying up the balloon and fold it back to be transported to the office (each balloon weighs 500 kg and cost +/-USD100k, to be replenished after 1000 hours of flight). By 8 am, I was back at my hotel and had to get ready for the first land tour.
Around 9:30 am, I was picked up from the hotel and joined the "North Tour of Cappadocia" or it is also called "the Red Tour". Our tour guide, Argoon, took us to see a UNESCO World Heritage, the Outdoor Museum of Goreme, which consisted of many historical churches. Fortunately, our guide, Erjun was knowledgeable and articulate in explaining every single details of the
At Nostalji Cave Suit Hotel
murals inside the cave and history of it (these murals were not allowed to be photographed) that enabled us to be taken back to the time as early as100 AD. He explained how the people back then relied much on pigeons to get their fertilisers for growing the crops: potatoes, grapes and pumpkins. I could not help imagining those people who used to live in the caves up in the rock (how did they even move down and up?).
From here we were taken to the Rose Valley before heading to the restaurant for our lunch, and after lunch, we were taken to Devrent Valley before heading towards Marble Painting. The marble painting was interesting as it's not actually a painting on a marble; it's a technique using acrylic paints painted on water. Once done, the painter put a piece of paper or silk cloth on the 'painted water', and when lifted, the piece of paper or silk cloth had absorbed the design of painting from the water! It's the last evening at Cappadocia. I was determined to have my Hammam while I was in Turkey, so I decided to explore the neighbouring cave hotels and have my Turkish
bath or "Hammam" at the stylish Anatolian House at 10 pm in the evening. To my surprise, the masseus was Indonesian! (the irony was I came all the way to Cappadocia to experience a real Turkish bath - to be bathed by my country fellow!). Anyhow, I had enjoyed the one and half hour Turkish bath, scrub and massage and came back to the hotel feeling rejuvenated before midnight.
The next day on Wednesday, I was picked up at 9:30 am by the tour agent, and this time, our tour guide, Salman took us to the South Tour or "Green Tour" where the first stop was the underground city of Derinkuyu (I just found out that there are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia!). It was said that it's large enough to shelter 20,000 people. Interestingly, inside the cave, the temperature was cool - it felt like it was air-conditioned even though outside the temperature was 35c! Salman also explained that during winter the cave was not as cold as outside. It is common in Turkey that people use underground cave as storage for fruits such as oranges to keep their moistures.
From the underground city, we were taken
to Selime Monastery which was another amazing site, an important place in the history of Christianity, before heading for our lunch at a small and cozyTurkish restaurant by the stream. After lunch, we had a chance to visit Ihlara Valley, the largest, deepest and longest canyon in Cappadocia. The walk itself took about two hours and in the middle of the walk, we had a chance to rest near a stream covered by trees.
The highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the gem stores where they sold various jewellery, ranging from the most to the least expensive ones. I was pleased to find three pieces of rings of which designs were so unique and classic that were not found easily in stores in Istanbul.
I returned back to the hotel around 7 pm, tired but had to get ready to reach the bus station to catch the overnight bus to Pamukale or Cotton Palace, the oldest thermal cities in the world (unfortunately the flight between Capadoccia and Pamukale does not fly daily). The only way of reaching Pamukale within the limited time was to travel by overnight bus. I left Cappadocia at 8:45 pm
(the bus ride was pleasant as it had a few breaks along the way) and reached a small town near Pamukale at 7 am.
Arriving tired at the bus stop, I was told that the four star Tripolis Hotel's check in time was 2 pm. As I had a few hours to kill, I had no choice but to book a morning tour with Hermoz travel agent (the same owner also owns Artemis Yoruk Hotel across the street) to visit the historic area of Hierapolis and the thermal, the cascaded water of Pamukale. Just like in Athens a week before, the weather was warm and sun was unbearably hot. I skipped dipping into the water and decided to have an early lunch and headed to the hotel as soon as I was allowed to check in.
Tripolis hotel was probably the nicest one in town even though it was not strategically located. Bored, I decided to try paragliding in the afternoon and took a chance of not being able to make it if weather condition didn't permit. Before 4 pm, I received a call from the tour agent informing me that I would be picked up soon for
my paragliding trip. Half awake, I was driven to Camlik hill, and in no time, I was getting ready and was lifted up in a tandem when the pilot pulled the parachute up (somehow, I felt I was rushed - not much briefing was given other than followed the instruction). I could not believe I was flying up in the air, perhaps around 700 meter above the water cascade!
It was such a beautiful sight, and at the beginning I had enjoyed the ride, until the pilot started to swing the parachute down and created a roller coaster like feeling - a feeling that I detest. The pilot explained he had to do so in order to lower our altitude. He said the ride could last an hour given the strong strong wind, but as soon as he realised I got sick from the sudden drop in mid air, he decided to shorten the flight to half an hour. By the end of the ride, he asked me "Why did you fly?". It was out of my curiosity and boredom, actually. I had no idea I would have to swing down to descent! Anyhow, I was glad that I
had a once-in-a-life-time experience and was sure that my kids back home would find the go-pro video entertaining!
The next morning, I left for Istanbul and stayed one more night at St Sophia Boutique Hotel before flying back to Singapore. In the afternoon, I had a spare time to check out Grand Bazaar, which I felt has changed compared to the first time when I visited it a decade ago. Had it changed to be come a place that is too commercial? or perhaps, the rental had forced the low priced items to move out and replaced them with the value added gold jewelry? I didn't spend much time at the Grand Bazaar and decided to spend the afternoon roaming around the city on foot before heading to "Hodja Pasha", a 500 year old Hammam converted into a dance theatre. It held daily shows - among other the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony, known as the whirling dance (with the exception of Monday and Friday). I could not take any photos as it was considered a religious ceremony, and no photos were allowed. While I found it amazing to see the dancers swirling around for about an hour without getting disoriented
(or even fainted), I somehow got a sleepy feeling during the dance. Was I bored or was it because of the chanting of prayers by the singers and background music? This is the end of my evening and visit to Istanbul as I headed back to Singapore the next day. If you asked me if I would like to go back again in the near future, my answer would be "yes"! I simply love this country, the culture and the food.
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