We feel very welcome at Kelebek Hotel.
After we settled into our room in a fairy chimney we went out for a cultural evening and dinner.
Wow, almost 2 ½ hours of music and dancing. Including some audience participation - sorry, there are no photos of that.
The folk dancing was precision dancing aided by talc on the floor. Spinning, high kicks and energetic Cossack type folk dances. The precision, agility and speed of the male dancers was breathtaking.
Next morning an early 4.45am start for the balloon ride.
Absolutely worth it.
Butterfly Balloons has a well-oiled procedure for their flights. Strong team members and our pilot Mike was a gem.
When we landed as I climbed out of the basket one of the men did a Snatch Olympic lift and lowered me to the ground.
Back to the hotel for breakfast and then off to explore southern Cappadocia.
First to Derinkuyu underground city. We descend deep down through narrow tunnels as we explore 8 levels of the underground city (there are 37 of these underground cities). The cities were built by the Hittites 2000BCE. They were a safe haven from marauders. Early Christians enlarged the underground cities and established chapels and lived in them during times when they were being persecuted. Later, during the Byzantine era it provided protection from Muslim Arabs and later the Mongolian incursions in the 14th Century. After the region fell to the Ottomans the cities were used as refuges from the Turkish Muslim rulers. Christians lived in this region until the 1923 population exchange between Turkey and Greece and Armenia.
We visited the huge cave cathedral and Selime Monastery, the largest rock-cut monastery in Cappadocia. A wee bit of a climb up the tufa rock to the caverns. Well rewarded with an extraordinary cathedral with some artwork on the ceilings and a kitchen with a huge chimney for the Smoke from the tandir ovens in the floor. Splendid views over the nearby village and countryside. The monastery also included a training seminary centres ago.
Then in the heat of the afternoon it was time for a walk! 3.7km. We descended 300 steps down into the Ilhara chasm with a cool stream and green trees to shade us. There were many Christian churches carved into the rocks along this chasm. The first which we visit is the Chapel of Daniel which has frescoes painted in the 11th century. They depict biblical stories, for e ample the annunciation of Mary. Other chapels were high in the rock faces along the valley walls. A few small stops to admire the views and we were home.
Turkey is officially a secular republic. The government statistics show that the population of Turkey is 99.8% Moslem (72%Sunni, and 25% Alevis belonging to the Shia denomination). Schools include mandatory religion classes.
All of these chapels and Christian sites have been preserved with government assistance. In 1902 the non Moslem population was around 20%. After the population exchange after the Greek-Turkish war in 1923 it was 2%. The compulsory exchange was based on religion not ethnicity. In the population exchange nearly all the Anatolian orthodox Christians including native Turks were expelled and the 500,000 Muslims in Greece went to Turkey to the villages and farms vacated by the Christians who in turn went to the areas vacated by the Muslims leaving Greece. The story is told in Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernieres.
In the evening we enjoyed dinner at a private home. What a privilege to meet the families of our hotel host, Ali, and and his friend, Mehmet.
Extra interest was that his house was the location for the award winning movie 'Winter Sleep'.
This stay was turning out to be more energetic than most rest days so we decided to stay another night. That meant we could have a real rest day.
On the morning of our rest day, Haj took us on a wonderful culinary adventure to Ali's organic garden where the staple vegetables of Turkish cuisine thrive. Peppers, tomatoes - grown Roman style on the ground, aubergine, pumpkins grown for seed, watermelons, strawberries, onions.
There were also fruiting apple trees, quince trees, walnut, peach, apricot and pear trees and grapes growing Roman style on the ground.
Then to a special place for breakfast prepared by Turkan and Naray. We watched as they made flat bread and sat down to a feast.
We had three new things to taste. Walnut jam made from green walnuts; pumpkin jam and grape molasses.
I have made collages of some of the images so that I show you the story.
Another dancing girl.
A very strong man.
Into the underground city.
...and up to the Selime Monastery.
Into the Ilhara chasm. Frescoes at DAniel's chapel dating back to the 11th century.
Kelebek garden. The pumpkins in the lower left will be harvested for pumpkin seed.
Turkan and Naray prepare flatbreads.