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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September

If you are one of those people who like to keep their feet on the ground, flying is an unsettling prospect. Leaping into midair at the height of 2000 metres strapped to a hang-glider will not attract you, even with the enchanting blue expanse of the lagoon below. But rising gently into the air in a basket lifted by a brightly coloured balloon is a different matter, especially if you are in Cappadocia. The sun rises with your balloon, and the first crimson rays fall on the forest of rock spires below, chasing the shadows out of the valleys. From your balloon you are going to see the Goreme Valley, Temenni Hill, Cavusin, Zelve and Kizilcukur near the town of Urgup, the Uzundere and Avcilar valleys, Pasabag and Aktepe. Who can say where your journey will begin and where it will end, as you drift across the landscape is spread out like a carpet beneath your feet? Barriers and boundaries are left behind and lose their meaning.

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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September
Whereas you marvel at the artistry of man in an ancient city, you marvel at that of nature and man combined in Cappadocia. This is a place whose beauty is as powerful as natursul own forces. The story begins millions of years ago when the volcanoes of Erciyes and Hasan erupted, spilling lava and ash over the whole region. These solidified into layers of tuff and basalt, that were shaped over the millenia by wind, rain, and extremes of temperature, creating pinnacles of rock stretching for many kilometres, and winding valleys. Then human beings arrived, adding their own history of invasions, rebellions and migrations to Cappadocia's past. The soft stone pinnacles and cliffs were carved out into houses and churches by early Christians fleeing persecution and spreading the new faith. They painted frescoes on their church walls and ceilings illustrating scenes from the life of Christ.
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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September
There are hundreds of such rock churches in the region, at Soganli, the Ihlara Valley, and the most spectacular of all in the Goreme Valley. The inhabitants discovered that the layer of soft tuff went deep into the earth, and they delived downwards too, creating underground cities consisting of passages, rooms and ventilation shafts on many levels. Great circular stones were rolled across the entrances of these cities to hide them in times of danger. Ranging from the height of a man up to 15 metres, the strangely shaped rock pinnacles spur the imagination. Travellers from diverse countries in the balloon liken these formations to all kinds of different things, and you are reminded of the dialogue between Hamlet and Polonius: 'Do you see yonder cloud, that's almost in shape of a camel?' 'By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.' 'Methinks it is like a weasel.' 'It is backed like a weasel.
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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September
'Or, like a whale?' 'Very like a whale.' We got up at five in the morning to set out on our adventure. An early start is preferred to avoid the air currents that form as the heat of the day increases. We were wrapped in warm clothes because in central Anatolia the temperature drops sharply at night, even in summer, and it is chilly in the early hours of the morning. Kaili, Lars and their team were waiting for us at the meeting point. We quickly drank our tea and coffee and ate our sandwiches, and when we had been introduced to the balloosc crew, tiny balloons were released into the air to determine the direction of the wind. Then we piled into jeeps loaded with the huge baskets and headed for the area where the balloons were waiting to be inflated. We still had no idea how large our ballons would be, and what colours they were.
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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September
On arrival Kaili kicked at the ground to raise some dust and watch the direction it blew. Then the great rolls of fabric were laid out in the right direction. Fans and propane gas heaters were set up close to the mouth of the balloons, and as the currents of air generated entered, the lifeless balloons gradually began to quiver and heave into their true shape. In 15 minutes the balloons were filled with hot air and lifting their heads towards the sky. It was time to climb into the baskets and fly away. A balloon pilot in each basket was responsible for checking the ropes, increasing the amount of hot air inside the balloon to rise higher, and letting cold air in to descend close enough to graze the apricots trees and summits of the stone pinnacles. At last we rose into the air and saw Cappadocia from a bird's eye view for the first time.
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Ballooning over Cappadocia by the light of dawn
2003 / September

Vineyards, the snaking green course of the Kizilirmak River, the town of Avanos on its banks, the castles of Uchisar and Ortahisar, the city of Nevsehir at the foot of Mount Kahveci, pigeons flying above Guvercinlik Valley, the dervishes of Saruhan... All lay beneath our wings. Perhaps you have visited Cappadocia many times already, but go once more to drift over this surrealist landscape in a balloon. The view from the sky, with your head in the clouds, is a unique experience that you will never forget.

* Nezahat Turkan is a freelance writer

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