6. Up in the air
Turkey, you have surprised us. We did not have too much expectations upfront. Actually, Turkey was the country ‘we needed to cross’ to get to our first goal Iran. But we were wrong. Turkey is a goal on itself. Not only because of the enormous amount of historical places, stunning nature and good food, but also the Turkish people make this country definitely worth traveling to/through.
Not only the people we meet in towns and campings are very polite and helpful, also on the road we experience joyful encounters. Hello Hello! *BIG SMILE* Hello hello welcome! *THUMBS UP* Welcome welcome! This is the common response when we drive through a police check on the road in Turkey, and there are quite many (especially in the East). Often we don’t even need to stop, it’s just a moment of saying hi.
While driving trough Turkey, we decide to make a small “UNESCO– tour”. First stop (after Istanbul): Ephesus. We camp at guesthouse “Atilla’s Gettaway” that feels like a small oasis. A beautiful garden, swimming pool, chill area’s, fire place and a bar, well taken care of by 2 Turkish Australian brothers. They make us feel at home. For the first time, we decide to take it slow and stay for a few nights. We eat with their family (mama cooks every night for her boys) and have discussions with a beer at the fire place. We hear their thoughts (and share ours) on history (like 2nd World War) and current world crises. We do not always agree, but it’s super interesting to understand their perspective.
We visit Ephesus (an ancient city) and Pamukkale– again an ancient place, special because of it’s clear white landscape with mineral baths. We decide to walk up hill (shoes off; you walk bare feet on the white calcium floors with warm flowing water) and see how many “Instagrammers” in bikini dip in the pool and try to hold their best pose. It’s quite entertaining.
Next UNESCO stop: Capadoccia. Famous for its special landscape (colored point shaped rocks) where people have carved out homes, churches and the lot. It is also known for the early morning balloon flights, every day 150 balloons take off to have tourists capture the scenic views from the air. When we arrive at the Cappadocia camping, it’s freezing cold. We’re the only ones there, until 2 young Turkish couples create a hang out spot next to our camp spot. They seem to call friends and we’re a little afraid that the place will be used for a Project X. But we feel a little ashamed of judging too quickly. They are just there to bbq, we receive a platter with chicken, and the next morning we drink tea together and watch the balloons.
We knew the balloons would be cool to see, but in combination with the beautiful landscape and sunrise it’s still a super nice surprise. We decide we cannot stay on the ground and book a flight for the next morning. In the afternoon we take a 2 hour hike in the Cappadocia valley. Or at least we planned a 2 hour hike. It appears to be a network full of small paths and our map seems to make no sense at all (always blame the map). We end up hiking 4,5 hours but de landscape is definitely worth it. Many tiny houses are build inside the rocks, with cute small windows and doors that reach to our waists. It feels like waling through Barbapapa- land.
Next morning, 05:30, taxi pick up at our camping. It’s freezing, we wear all the winter clothes we have. Getting close, the basket seems nothing more than an oversized old grandma’s fruit basket, spacious enough for 20 people. The fire is on and the balloon takes off. Old grandma’s basket lifts from the floor. What a weird feeling. But soon we forget about that: we see all the colorful balloons taking off in the dark night, with the sun slowly awakening behind the mountains. Chicken pocks, many ‘ohhhhs’ and happy faces follow. A full hour of breath taking, magical views.
We finalize our trip through Turkey with a wild camp night at lake Van, with a beautiful view on the enormous lake and snow topped mountains. We drink all the wine and beers we have left and – with a little hangover- drive to the Iranian boarder the next morning. Excited and curious at the same time because we know; Iran is a country not to compare with any other.