Taking long distance bus was a breeze in Turkey. We were able to book the bus to Goreme on our first day in Selcuk. During the bus ride, the attendants served drinks, wet towels and lemon flavoured cologne every few hours. I was a light sleeper but slept well during the bus ride. This was a testimony to the quality of the bus services in Turkey!
A glorious sunrise along the horizon greeted us as our bus cruised towards Cappadocia. The landscape has steadily given way from city streets and buildings to vast open farmland. We still did not see any fairy chimneys on the way. The bus finally dropped us at the Nevsehir bus terminal. However, there was one more obstacle to Goreme.
Upon alightning from the bus, we were greeted by a group of Turks whom we thought would be leading us to the Goreme shuttle bus. Instead, we were brought to a tour company office. We have already reserved our accommodation and ride with Aydinli Cave House and Butterfly Balloons respectively. The saleperson conceded that Aydinli was a good hotel. However, when he heard about Butterfly Balloons, he immediately launched into a well practised speech on how he could get us on a hot air balloon trip at 100 Euro per person. It was much cheaper than Butterfly Balloons which was at 170 Euro per person. We shrugged and ignored him. After one hour, we boarded the shuttle bus to Goreme.
The shuttle bus ride was uneventful. What a relief to reach Aydinli after almost 12 hours bus trip! Upon hearing our plight at Nevsehir, the hotel manager (sorry we have forgotten his name) informed that they would usually pick up guests from the bus station. Nevertheless, we were very happy to arrive at Goreme. After a late breakfast, we were ready to explore Cappadocia. Given that public transportation was limited in Cappadocia, we decided to get the hotel manager to drive us to the major attractions in Cappadocia.
The friendly hotel manager could speak fluent English as he was a English major in college. He was using this opportunity to practise his English with hotel guests. During our conversations, he learnt that we have already booked our ride directly with Butterfly Balloons. Explaining that Aydinli has an ongoing arrangement with Butterfly which reduced the trip fare to 150 Euro per person, the manager called up Butterfly to explain our situation. He assured us that we would get the discounted rate from Butterfly. He remarked that Mustafa was a skillful pilot and steered the balloon so low during a ride that he plucked an apricot from a tree.
We dropped by Kaymakli underground city for one hour. The underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms were carved by early Christians to escape persecution from Muslims. Unfortunately, the walk got boring quickly as there were not many historical artifacts on display. Uchisar Castle was more interesting as we got a bird eye view of Cappadocia. The castle was built into a mountain by early Christians to fend off attacks from and provide a lookout for enemies. Nowadays, the only invaders storming the castle were tourists.
Though we had a commanding view of Cappadocia, we still had difficulties in describing the landscape of Cappadocia. There were plenty of sand but it was no desert. There were plenty of gullies but it had no river. A masterpiece statue had only one sculptor. Cappadocia had two. Nature first chiseled the soft manga plateau into its lunar rock formation through rain and rivers. Local inhabitants later craved out dwellings, churches and monasteries from the soft volcanic rocks and pillars. The locals bestowed a romantic name called “Fairy Chimneys” on these pillars.
The final itinerary for our first day in Goreme was watching the sun set over Rose Valley from a vantage point only known to the locals. Other than the traffic noise from the road, the vantage point was blissfully quiet. No one bothered us with souvenir buying. No one fought with us for a good viewing spot. As the sun set over the horizon, the distant Rose Valley begun to turn pinkish orange. We silently watched the sunset paint its magic on the cliffs of Rose Valley till the air became too cold for us. We cooked a simple dinner in our hotel room and retired early for the night. We would be flying above the Fairy Chimneys tomorrow.