Often when people visit Turkey, their only destination is Istanbul, however Turkey is not complete without visiting Cappadocia. Just like others, I never heard of Cappadocia until I lived in Turkey. This past October, my co-worker and I ventured on a last minute trip to Cappadocia for the Festival of Sacrifice, an important holiday in the Islamic calendar. As soon as I stepped off the bus, fascinated by the scenery, I remember saying to myself, “This is going to be exciting!” Little did I know, Cappadocia would become the place where I would learn to move past the fears that were dragging me down and gain a new sense of freedom in discovering my own rules for my life.
We woke the next morning to an amazing traditional Turkish breakfast awaiting us. The most popular dish in Cappadocia is pottery kebab; the stew-like ingredients are put into a pot in the oven and baked for 2-3 hours. It’s brought to the table, cracked open right in front of you, and the end results are mouthwatering. After breakfast we had plans to go on a hot air balloon ride. Upon arriving at our departure site for the hot air balloon, I was completely amazed seeing balloons blown and fired up right in front of me! At 6:00 AM, my eyes were opened to the ravishing sites of Cappadocia’s hot air balloons and the magical, fairy-like chimneys poking out into the skyline. My curiosity was sparked instantaneously. Like a child entering Walt Disney World for the first time, I eagerly ran to get a close up of how the pilots were lighting the air balloons. I felt as if I transformed into Ariel from the Little Mermaid because the flames were licking my face as I took a few snapshots of them setting the stage for my grand escapade. Seeing 35+ balloons drift off simultaneously into the sky seemed as if I had stepped into a fantasyland and a fairytale was awaiting me. Just like Ariel, I enjoy adventures and am determined to overcome any obstacles I may face.
As I jumped into the basket, the pilot instructed all 18 people to pull on the levers while he used the gas to heat the balloons. We were off! Exhilaration filled my chest, the same way the hot air had filled the balloons, as I floated in the sky thousands of feet into the air. During the ride, strong emotions in the pit of my stomach started to overtake me. It wasn’t nervousness, but courage. Wishing that my friends and family were with me to share this magical moment of flying over the Rose Valley, I noticed a big green balloon alone in the distance. That is how I feel when I travel sometimes - alone - not bothered by anyone or anything in the world. Standing in complete peace, I immediately realized that even though being cramped in with strangers was not ideal, I needed to hold on to this memory forever and fully take in all the beauty that Cappadocia has to offer. Life can easily pull us down with all of our problems, but we must let them go to fully live in the present and understand that sometimes it requires us to be alone. It was here, packed in with 18 strangers elevated in a hot air balloon, where I had the courage and inner strength to face my fears of thrills, uncertainties about my future, failures, and friendships.
As the flight came to an end, the pilot eased the balloon down so slowly that I barely noticed our descent from 3,000 feet in the clouds. Back on the ground, we gathered by our pilot and celebrated our unforgettable flight with several bottles of champagne, strawberries, and pastries. That day, I received a medal, which now hangs in my room; reminding me to press on and keep flying by celebrating life.
As if that was not enough of an experience to make my time in Cappadocia totally worthwhile, in true adventurer style we went on a hike. As we separated to embark on our individual journeys, I would soon realize this would be no ordinary climb. Although climbing, which quickly became slipping and tumbling down rocks, for five hours made me want to give up, my unconscious reassured me that I didn't come this far to turn around. Crying and exhausted, I looked down below at the danger and fear I had overcome and kept climbing. As I approached the top, I was reunited with my co-worker as he helped me climb the final rock. I made it! It was definitely worth the climb and my tears to witness the breathtaking view.
Times like these make me realize how strong I have become. I am convinced that I can climb anything after being taken on a deserted path and coming out on top. I did not allow my fears of inexperienced thrill hikes or the risks involved deter me from the peaceful feeling of flying high. I now have a sense of elevation that contributes to my positive attitude, which will take me to my next phase in life. Cappadocia will forever symbolize a place of invincibility. I have found my spirit of courage and every experience has helped me to overcome another fear.
I am not suggesting that you will have the same experience as I had in Cappadocia, but whatever your experience will make the visit to this magical place well worth the trip. Love Valley is the most captivating, I have hiked it the last two times I visited Cappadocia. Once you make the trek you will find the mystery and understand the beauty and majesty of it. Love Valley is less of a trail and more of an opportunity to wander around fairy chimneys and along cliffs. You can easily spend several hours climbing and exploring. In short, Cappadocia is a region in Turkey you definitely don’t want to miss.