Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Trip, Another Planet

Yesterday afternoon marked a turning point for our trip. After five days of fast-paced sightseeing through ancient cities, with long drives and frequent stops, yesterday began a change of pace. It’s as if our first trip has ended and the first day of our second trip started when we arrived at Cappadocia. Finally, we will spend more than one night at the same hotel (2!) and deal with no more long bus rides. Although, to this point the topography of Turkey has been spectacular as seen from a bus window. We’ve driven through rolling green mountains, olive groves, vineyards, wide meadows, rocky canyons, and snowcapped volcanoes. But nothing could have prepared us for what awaited in Cappadocia.

The landscape here looks like another planet, with huge, conical rock formations rising from the earth everywhere and canyons that look like they have been folded over a dozen times. Being here is far different from the pictures I saw in the books and I’m afraid even the pictures we put up will not quite do it justice. Each of the volcanic formations had carved out caves and holes that have been used by monks and residents of Cappadocia for centuries. Even our hotel here resembles a cave.

Yesterday we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum, filled with monastic dwellings and churches from the 10th-13th centuries. Some of the “cave churches” contained intricate and colorful frescoes and others rudimentary drawings. It would have been easy to spend hours staring at the array of art here, but unfortunately we were limited to just a few minutes in each. Today we toured an underground city carved out of the volcanic rock with winding tunnels and a labyrinth of rooms.
This morning’s hot air balloon ride was a HIGH point of the trip for many. Travelling 1000 meters above the ground, we were just one of over a hundred balloons launched from a nearby valley. The combination of the incredible land features, the parade of balloons, and the sun rising over the valley made the 3:45 wake up call worth it. We celebrated a successful landing by popping a bottle of champagne and receiving certificates of completion. It was said that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and it is easy to see why.
Now it’s off to bed with the now familiar songs of Muslim call to prayer blaring from the local mosque. Tomorrow we’re off to Istanbul, our last city in this trip.

Drew Yoos
Junior, M.Div

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