Did I not tell you about undulating landscapes and fairy chimneys? Add some, actually a lot of, hot air balloons in the foreground. Well, as it happens, with the craze of Instagram, travel bloggers and better-than-ever-before cameras, most hotels in Goreme set up “Instagram worthy shot spots” on their terraces with rugs, mattresses, cushions, food and billowing curtains around diwaans – so was with our hotel. What I had not anticipated was the attire of the guests at sunrise! I woke my family up at 6 AM to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloons and the Sun from the terrace – we walked in on women wearing strappy dresses, flowing gowns, tiaras and a barrage of cargo-pants-clad-photographer boyfriends clicking them. We looked at each other, in attires we’d slept in overnight, hair barely done, no trace of makeup and eyes that looked more sleepy than awake. Well done, us!
We’d signed up for a full day tour in and around Goreme but unlike Istanbul, the group here was a 20 member troop, out of which 16 were Chinese! But they don’t kid when they say that the Chinese click pictures of nearly every-damned-thing! In fact, it’s considered easy to take on Chinese tourists, among guides, because they barely listen, only click pictures. And that’s guide speak, not me speaking. We ventured to the Pigeon Valley where man-made birdhouses have been made for the pigeons – because man and our needs – pigeon droppings help fertilise the soil of the valley. We also saw the Uchisar rock formation, considered the highest in this part of the town, the Kaymakli underground city, yes, you read it right, underground city, the mind-boggling mystery that has been unearthed but not entirely understood yet. Kaymakli isn’t a city that got buried over time, but one which was chiselled under the ground, around 2500 years ago, to escape invaders, both religious and state. Replete with a church, wineries, storage spaces and cattle sheds, it is 8 floors under the ground, enough to house at least 20,000 people and cattle!
At one of the shops I came across, they were playing songs from Bollywood films and I was so surprised to find myself humming the words before I realised where I was at – and no the owner of the shop wasn’t Indian, he was a Turk. Another shop owner I’d come across ran a cafe, shop and his home (of 70 years where he’d been born and brought up) out of a fairy chimney, up the slopes. A flag hung out of the window of one of his rooms, visible from the road, probably a sign of his occupancy or just his patriotism? I didn’t ask. By the time, the end of the tour approached, my sister was undergoing a crisis, tired of looking at everything volcanic and listening to everything Chinese and our guide was undergoing his own bit of crisis, trying to grasp that I wasn’t 18 and I had actually put in an effort to learn the numbers of the Turkish language. Not many put in the effort, he said, a history teacher who’d learnt too many languages to not become a tour guide. Night came and so did a light drizzle, scaring us that the hot air balloon tour next morning might be washed out. We decided to brave the weather while we could, pulling out our hoodies and umbrellas to walk into the town, under amber street lights, on cobbled streets, the warmth of the indoors luring people off the roads and the four of us sauntering silently, letting the magic seep in. Also, we were very hungry, hence angry and irritable.