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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Cappadocia, Turkey | Day 2

Monday | October 13, 2014

We woke up at 5:15 am to the sound of the Muslim calls to prayer braying out from loudspeakers at the local mosque.  (I never realized how close we would be to the Taliban!)  That’s alright – we had to be up early for our sunrise hot air balloon flight over the mountains and caves and rock formations of Cappadocia.  I have never seen something so spectacular in my life. And, contrary to my previously held belief, I did not have any fear while aloft.

Initially, or guide, Rodrigo, informed us that the local aeronautic authorities had placed a hold on our balloon because too many balloons had already gone off before 6:15 AM.  (Rodrigo is a tall, handsome Portugese balloonist who is straight out of central casting.)

We were fortunate that our balloon began it’s assent at the same time as the sun.  We loaded up and were ready to take flight!


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Once in the air, we were one of 135 balloons taking in the sights.

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To say the view was majestically breathtaking, would still be an understatement. There was really nothing I’ve seen on this planet that compares to what we experienced for the next 70 minutes.  Moreover, the feelings were only ones of thrill and exhilaration, and never of fear or concern for our safety. 

We saw literally thousands of caves where tens of thousands of people resided for centuries, up until the 1960s.  Most of the caves had entrances that were 20, 30 or even 100 feet from the ground.  Cave people would drop ladders, either made of wood or lobe, from the entrances to allow relatives to come in. But when the ladders were not deployed, it was virtually impossible to get into the caves, making them impenetrable fortresses.



Our next stop was Goreme, an open air museum that consists of steep cliffs and many hidden churches dating from the second half of the 9th century and later.  Of particular interest were the Apple and Basil churches.  Each is carved in a cave and contains beautiful frescoes.  But on many of the fresoes, the faces, or at least the eyes, are obliterated. That is because the Muslims do not believe in the worshiping of other idols.  There exist approximately 3,000 churches in Cappadocia today.

A brief word about the religious constitution of Turkey.  Urlers explained that Christianity came to Turkey via St. Paul the apostle, who was Turkish himself.  Although Christianity languished in the shadows, it became prevalent in the year 326 via the Emperor Constantine.  He explained also the turkey is a relatively welcoming religious society today – it is constituted mostly of Muslims, but there isa fair population of Roman Catholics, and at least 25,000 Jews in Turkey today, mostly Sephardic.

There was a certain amount of national purification that occurred last century in Turkey. It what is become referred to as the “exchange” of 1923, 1 million Greeks were sent back to Greece from Turkey and 400,000 Turks were sent to turkey from Greece.

For the rest of the day, we toured many sites that included underground and hidden in the rocks caves.  For example, in Uchisar, which, translated, means Rock Castle, we explored a 60 meter high fortress that was not built, but carved, out of a natural hill dominating the area with breathtaking view of all the surrounding Cappadocia formations. I went in and out of dozens of caves.


After lunch, we visited several Turkish villages before arriving at Chez Galip, home of Europe’s finest potterer. Besides being an accomplished potterer, Galip Korukcu is a charming personality. He is a ceramic master, known throughout the Cappadocia region and all of Europe. He is the last in a line of five generations of male master potters.  His gallery is truly eclectic and he was voted sixth most peculiar museum in the world by ABC news.  He bears a striking a resemblance to Albert Einstein.



He described, through a translator, what he was making for us and invited us to guess what it was.

After his demonstration was over, he took us into various rooms of his workshop. In the most esteemed one, the Master Potter’s room, he displayed some of the most ornamental and beautiful works of pottery any of us had ever seen.


At one point, they turned off the lights and we were amazed by the phosphorus glow that outlined many of the pieces. I purchased a beautiful sailboat, which I named the Galip.  But I asked if it could contain more phosphorous, to achieve even more of a glowing effect. So, he offered to make a new one, it should take about three or four months for it to be made because of the intricate hand painting on the sculpture.

I also bought an ornate wine pitcher.


After a quick change at the cave (that sounds odd, doesn’t it), we headed off to diner at Ziggy’s!





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