Cappadocia is certainly the most famous region of Turkey. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, it attracts millions of tourists every year. Its exceptional nature and its magical landscapes, including the famous fairy chimneys, are without doubt its best assets. And to get the most out of it, a hot air balloon ride is the most magical solution.
In Central Anatolia, in the cold night, the first spirits awaken. It is necessary to dress warmly. Even if Cappadocia is close to 25 degrees in October, jumpers, hats, down jackets and gloves are not too much to take into the air. The minibus is already waiting for the participants. A few kilometres from Gorëme, it stops. In the darkness, questions are silently raised. The door opens and more people get on board. But the wait is not the only reason. To fly in a hot-air balloon, favourable weather conditions are imperative. Not a breath of wind should disturb this journey through the air. The wind on the ground must not exceed 15km/h. And above all, no rain and good visibility. The staff is waiting for weather information. They need to know the wind speed in real time, its direction, and use this data to make a forecast for the next few hours. Next to the vehicle, a huge pick-up is carrying its heavy load. A basket that can hold twenty people weighs about 400 kg, although the materials used to make it, especially wicker, give it a surprisingly light feel.
HUNDREDS OF BALLOONS LIKE GIANT FIREFLIES
The vehicle starts up again. Let’s go to this mysterious place. After a few minutes, the vehicle reaches a somewhat bumpy terrain. This is the huge plateau from which all the balloons will take off. The participants discover that not just a few balloons will be taking part in this flight, but dozens, even hundreds. The first light of dawn begins to appear behind the rocky peaks, giving them a shadowy appearance. Outside, in the distance, like small articulated puppets, the mechanics are busy inflating the balloons. The balloons are transformed from a simple fabric with gigantic dimensions (a ripstop nylon that can hold up to 3400m3) into a more than original means of escape. Gradually, with the help of a burner making a hellish noise, the shape takes shape. 20 minutes later, the giant firefly is ready to take flight. Without a moment’s hesitation, the gondola leaves the cow floor. In a few minutes, it reaches a dizzying height.
FAIRY CHIMNEYS FORMED 10 MILLION YEARS AGO
On the ground, humans look like tiny ants. Houses look like Lego bricks. Trees look like coloured stains. With dexterity, the pilot spins his balloon. So that each participant can enjoy a 360 degree spectacle. He starts to descend towards the ground. Will he land? Is the experiment already over? No, he just wants to get as close as possible to the fairy chimneys, the capped damsels, these sort of columns forged by nature. Giant mushrooms reaching up to the sky. THE particularity of the region. The one that makes it a region of breathtaking beauty. These are the result of the inevitable erosion of the superimposed layers of ignimbrites and balsamic lava. Far from being the only attraction of the place, the landscape is also of absolute beauty. Cappadocia has a very characteristic geomorphology alternating large plains, plateaus formed by the ash and mud of volcanoes (Erciyes, Hassan, Göllü Dağ…), gorges and canyons, rocky peaks. The fairy chimneys are concentrated all around Gorëme, this small troglodyte village whose houses were dug into the rock in the 4th century. After walking around the rocks, sometimes barely a metre away from them, the balloon takes off again at an altitude of 900 metres. After an hour, the basket finally lands, with incredible delicacy. Once all the participants have descended, the technicians give it one last push to land the basket directly on the vehicle’s trailer! A final manoeuvre carried out with mastery under the admiring gaze of all.
PRACTICAL NOTEBOOK IN CAPPADOCIA
SLEEPING IN CAPPADOCE Kelebek Hotel, Aydınlı Mah, Yavuz Sk. No:1, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 271 25 31. Yunak Evleri, Musaefendi, Balcı Sk. 50400 Ürgüp/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 341 69 20.
EAT IN CAPPADOCE Tafana Restaurant, Orta, Atatürk Cd. No:31/a, 50530 Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 511 48 62. Diker Çay Bahçesi, vadi içi, Ihlara karsiyaka, 68500 Güzelyurt/Aksaray, Turkey. Tel: +90 545 913 63 68. Bala Per Restaurant, Çavuşin Köyü Yolu, 50500 Çavuşin/Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 532 359 74 50. Keyif Restaurant, Aydınlı Orta Mahalle, Belediye Cd. No: 9 D:5, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 271 2353. Seten Restaurant Cappadocia, Aydınlı Mah, Aydınlı Sk. No:42, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 271 30 25.
BUY LOCAL CRAFT IN CAPPADOCE Atay Panorama, Bayram and Mustafa Atay, Orta Mah. Adnan Menderes Cad. Göreme-Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 537 632 55 03 and +90 536 844 94 24. Bezirhane Kültür, Sanat ve Seramik Merkezi, Alaaddin, Dere Sk. 50500 Aktepe/Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 511 29 25. Ürgüp Natural Kuruyemış, temenni Mah, Cumhuriyet meydanı, 50400 Ürgüp/Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 384 341 55 75.
FOR A MOUNTAIN FLY Skyway Balloons, Adnan Menderes Caddesi No: 7 Göreme, Nevşehir Cappadocia, 50180 Nevşehir, Turkey. Tel: +90 533 608 05 25.
Photo copyright: Maeva Destombes. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.