It was a struggle to get out of bed the next morning when the alarm went off early, as we had all agreed the night before to get up and watch the sunrise and balloon flight from the terrace. My sleepy self raged against getting out of bed, but I forced my feet to the floor and slipped out the door while Jared and Naz kept sleeping. I figured I would see if it was worth getting up for and I had barely taken 10 steps into the courtyard when I had my first balloon overhead. Being a no brainer, I went back and woke the other two up and we all struggled to the upper balcony in our pajamas, unlike many of the other people on the neighboring terrace who were doing a full on Instagram photo shoot!
The calm, warm morning was simply gorgeous. As we watched the sky began to fill with more and more balloons floating over the valley. A soft roaring sound could be heard as the pilots switched on the fire to move the balloons up or down in the sky. The rising sun cast a soft light onto the balloons making them even more beautiful somehow. The valley was so full of them we had a pair directly over the top of the terrace so close the balloons actually bumped into each other. The hour of flight time was over in the blink of an eye and soon the sun was fully risen while the balloons had set for the day. With another morning debate on returning to sleep or drinking coffee to get ourselves going we opted to go back to bed as we were all still so tired from the day before.
Waking up the second time that morning we all went to breakfast, drank plenty of coffee, and packed up. In retrospect I wish we would have spent at least three full days in Cappadocia as there is so much to see and experience there. None of us wanted to leave and were all dreading the drive back to Ankara that afternoon. Before we headed back we wanted to visit at least one of the 36 underground cities in the region. After we packed up and paid we were on our way to the Derinkuyu underground city, the deepest of the underground cities.
Dating back to the time of the Hittites these cities were used as a place to hide from armies searching for plunder and captives, or from persecution from Roman soldiers. Derinkuyu included family and communal rooms, air shafts for circulation, 15,000 ventilation shafts, stables, cellars, refectories, wineries, churches, wells, and anything else they would have needed. Access was never an issue as there are 600 hidden entrances in the city above. The complex series of tiny tunnels, passages, and corridors make getting lost easy, and an additional defense against attackers is the Indiana Jones style stone doors that can be slid out to shut off a tunnel.
Since we were visiting during a national holiday there were plenty of people there. Surprise, surprise. After an issue with one of our passes we entered the city after at least 4 large tour groups. The interior is claustrophobically tight, and the volume of people initially was overwhelming. Roughly four minutes in I was ready to leave. People these days seem to struggle with waiting of any sort, but add cramped places with people physically sardined into them and folks lose their GD minds. After being almost shoved down a few times, (fortunately the human wall in front of me prevented my falling, well any movement really) I was not enjoying the city much. It made it really difficult to appreciate the work the people had done in creating this fantastic structure. Going down 85m you descend flights of single file stairs that will have rooms open up on either side large enough to fit hundreds of people seemingly out of nowhere. Every small or insignificant space could easily open up into a massive room if you followed the entrance long enough. When finally most of the tour groups had gone and we were on our way out we had enough space to breath and start exploring without fear of trampling or being trapped by someone else.
On the second floor of the city on the way out a large room branches off into a series of hallways and other rooms. Eager to leave we hadn’t planned to look around the room much until a group of young Turkish boys Jared had somewhat befriended during his solo exploring indicated he should check out the area. They were spot on as this was a most interesting place to go exploring! The room led to the animal stalls that had food and water troughs carved right into the walls. We noticed a hole in the ground in the next room that had a kind of drain leading to another circular hole in the ground. Turns out this was where they would crush grapes and collect the juice to make wine. A corridor off these rooms lead to an even larger room, the missionary school, with a massive carved out table and benches in the center. It was incredible to see and be reminded what all would be needed in terms of infrastructure to house thousands of people underground. Air shafts and ventilation ducts throughout ensured fresh air and a massive well provided fresh drinking water. While it wouldn’t be comfortable long-term it definitely would keep you safe.
When we returned to the surface we were ready for a snack and to get back to Ankara. Driving back we thought we might try to squeeze in a hike at the Ihlara Valley, but sadly we just didn’t have enough time or energy if I’m being honest. Thankfully this time the drive was much shorter than on our way to Cappadocia only taking 3.5hrs. With a stop at McDonald’s for a sundae, or two, we were back in Ankara before we knew it and very happy to be off the road and out of the car. Naz made us her famous lentil soup for dinner and we had a relaxing, quiet evening sipping wine on her porch and calling it an early night.