Cappadocia – A winter wonderland for me.

We follow Ian Bower as he takes a winter trip to Cappadocia.

I flew out on Boxing Day with BA into Izmir and treated myself to a night at the Crowne Plaza, a five star tower hotel with a magnificent health spa and thermal pool.

I rose early the next morning, intending to take the 7am Sunexpress internal flight to Kayseri, a mystical Turkish city which is close to the Cappadocia region, in the hope that I would avoid the otherwise long bus journey. Sunexpress is a German-Turkish airline that offers internal flights without going via Istanbul.

My 20 minute expensive taxi ride to the airport became an unnecessary cost as when I got to the check-in desk, after security clearance, they said the flight had been cancelled! All I could do, at that hour of the day, was return to the hotel in another expensive taxi and fork out for another night of luxury.

During the day, I used my time exploring Izmir’s old bazaar/han in Kemeralti and the Konak pier, (now a shopping mall) and originally designed by the famous Parisian engineer Eiffel. Before I returned to my hotel I picked up a bargain corduroy jacket from one of the many department stores.

The next morning, I was in more luck and I arrived at Kayseri by flying in over snow covered plateaus. The BBC weather site had shown night time temperatures of minus 15 so I had packed woolly bobble hat, gloves and hot water bottle. After all, I was going to stay in a cave hotel!

The hotel I had selected was used by Michael Palin last January for his TV series ‘New Europe’.

As arranged I was picked up at the airport and taken direct to the Fairy Chimney Inn hotel in Goreme.

This cave-cone guesthouse is located in the upper part of this troglodyte town and was once part of an old Byzantine monastery It is normally run by German anthropologist, Dr Andus Emge  with his Turkish wife but they were away in Germany for Christmas.

My vaulted cave room with en-suite cave shower had thick walls, under floor heating and was very snug, with its small windows and wooden latched door.

I immediately set off on a tour of the region. First I was taken to the underground city of Kaymakli. This is an amazing labyrinth, running some eight floors into the ground, and I was guided around by a dwarf like Turk (but not with pointed ears) from here I explored the Ihlara valley a deep U shaped canyon with myriad twists and many rock carved frescoed churches. From here, I was taken to the flooded cauldron of the extinct Hasandag volcano.

That evening, I ate ‘lamb in a clay pot’ alone and exhausted in a local Turkish restaurant full would you believe of Korean tourists. I retired to my cave early as the next morning I had arranged to take a balloon trip with Cappadocia Balloons.

A knock at the door, after the muezzins first call, and I was whisked away to the launch site.

Sixteen passengers to each basket with one experienced pilot. The flight was absolutely brilliant.

We went up and down, drifting over spiky fairy chimneys covered in snow, observing the pigeon holes cut in the Tufa rock face.

I returned to the hotel hungry for a breakfast of fried eggs, and from here I visited the famous Goreme open air museum with ancient chapels cut into the stone cliffs.

I had a great time in the area and would recommend a visit to this ancient region with its cave dwellings and fantastic rock formations.

Ian Bower