(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
Over the last few weeks, it’s felt like I’ve been perpetually surrounded by an endless flurry of comings and goings, heres and theres, and yesterdays and tomorrows, as I’ve finished travelling for the summer and have begun adjusting to Parisian daily life. And – I’m sure you’ve experienced this before too – before I knew it, I woke up yesterday and found myself looking up to see September rolling around the corner and autumn creeping its way into my periphery!
Just over two weeks ago from today, Isa and I wrapped up the final leg of our adventure together in the roughly chiseled rocky mountains of Cappadocia, Turkey. From there, we packed our bags, flew back to Istanbul and then reluctantly parted ways as I made my way back to Paris, and Isa, to Marseille. In the flurry of arriving back in Paris, moving into my apartment, coming to terms with the fact that this beautiful (but also relatively unfamiliar) city would be my home for the next ten months, running errands, dealing with French administrative bureaucracy (yes, it’s as bad as they say), settling in at a church, starting university orientation at Sciences Po and still keeping in touch with close friends and family on a regular and meaningful basis, it’s been easy to let the task of trawling through over three hundred Cappadocian photos, editing them and then writing about them fall to the bottom of my to-do list each day. So, I’m so sorry for the ridiculously late post about this beautiful Turkish city, but hope you find the delayed gratification of this post (complemented by photos taken from the dizzying heights of a hot air balloon mid-flight, the deep crevices and abysses of underground cities and the soaring peaks of mountain tops) to have been worth the wait!
Our two days in Cappadocia were probably filled with the most spontaneous activities and decisions to date (which arguably isn’t actually saying much, given how we’re both fairly serious sticklers for itinerary-planning and preparation). Feeling that acute sense of weariness that comes from weeks of living out of a suitcase and moving from city to city though, we found ourselves arriving in this city that almost looked like something out of The Flintstones without a particularly clear idea of how we planned to spend the days laid out before us.
One thing was (seemingly) for sure though – we didn’t intend to spend a significant portion of our budget on the hot air balloon rides for which Cappadocia is world-renowned. After chatting with our host about our plans for our time in Cappadocia and even acknowledging to each other that it was unlikely that we’d ever venture out to this remote part of Turkey again though, things started to change. With time running out for us to potentially make a booking for the following morning, that evening saw us both in a strange state of mental frenzy and emotional turmoil, as we frantically weighed up the pros and cons, asked friends and family in Sydney for “objective” advice, felt heavy-hearted about the loved ones that we wished we could also share this experience with and effectively umm-ed and ahh-ed for far too long about the whole thing. At the end of it all though, we found ourselves (only a little uncertainly) speaking to our host again and negotiating an arrangement for us to take the first hot air balloon flight at sunrise the following morning. I don’t think either of us have ever felt so non-committal in our lives.
So there we were, being woken up by one of the five or six alarms that we had set at 4am the next morning. After fumbling around in our room while trying to get ready in the dark (out of a stubborn unwillingness to turn the light on) with sleepiness clouding our eyes and minds, we hopped on our 4:45am shuttle bus alongside our fellow hot-air-balloon-ers and could already feel the eagerness and hear the excited murmurs coming from other members of the group. As we got out of the bus and stood in a field that was lit only by the fading twinkles of the stars and a few lamps, we were greeted by a makeshift breakfast of pastries and Turkish coffee laid out on the back of a ute. With warm cups of coffee and pastries in hand, we were startled when we heard the sudden roar of a gas tank, blowing huge flames of fire upwards into the vast and colourful piece of fabric that was, in fact, our hot air balloon! What followed in the next two hours spent in that suspended wicker basket can’t adequately be described in words and to be honest, I felt like my brain was struggling to properly process the immensity of what it was experiencing. As I look back in my mind’s eye, there really was something magical about being lifted upwards towards the clouds, watching the sky around you being filled with a rainbow of other balloons, big and small, floating serenely through the air, over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys and at the cusp of the sun’s morning glory. They say that a picture’s worth a thousand words, so I hope my excessive gallery below is enough of an essay to capture some of the beauty we saw from up above.
Afterwards, sustained by the giddy buzz that comes from waking up at 4am, floating over mountainous terrain in a hot air balloon and then celebrating with cherry champagne upon landing, we stopped off at our hotel for a few hours of breakfast, Skype calls and napping, before heading back out to visit the underground city of Kaymakli. Something that we chuckled about was the disconcerting experience of hopping onto a standard Turkish bus (that usually took the form of a minivan), which followed a defined route but certainly wasn’t constrained to only picking passengers up from designated bus stops/stations. Instead, we often found ourselves sitting in our seats in a state of bemusement as we watched the driver pull over at random points along the highway to pick up a mate or a no-nonsense Turkish citizen who was determinedly hailing the vehicle from the edge of produce and grass fields that were, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.
The underground city itself was really awe-inspiring; a maze of tunnels, domed rooms, stairs and storage compartments that had been dug and chiseled out of volcanic rock in ancient times, that could hold at least a few thousand inhabitants. Having housed refugees in times of war and even members of the persecuted church, it was so surreal to walk hunched-over through those narrow passageways and winding tunnels while imagining a life lived underground.
From there, Isa and I stopped at the little town of Uchisar, where we climbed up to the top of the hill to the castle complex and were greeted with a stunning panoramic view over Cappadocia and the surrounding rocky terrain of Neveshir. After taking our fair share of photos, we took shelter from the blazing sun under a little rocky alcove and spent some time sharing our reflections and thoughts about our two weeks of travel together, and shared in moments of laughter and nostalgia as we reminisced on random elements of our childhoods and lives in Sydney.
In the evening, we shared in our final meal of deliciously authentic Turkish food and indulged in some pide, baklava and Turkish tea (the last of which was brought out with a smile and cries of “this is a present for you!” by the waitress), in something of a last hurrah. It was with a certain bittersweetness that we headed back to our hotel and prepared to depart the following morning, while finding comfort in reflecting together on God’s immutability and the transcendent peace that is found in Him.
As I write this now, a little over two weeks since we actually got to share these experiences, I’m again filled with such joy and thankfulness for the privilege we had of exploring such beautiful parts of God’s world, and to have been able to do so together.
Thank you for your messages of love, care and your own stories, lovely friends! I’ll be back here soon (now that I’m finally up to date with my blog posts and photos, haha), with a collection of thoughts, stories, reflections and prayer points relating to how the last two weeks have been, as I’ve slowly been settling down in Paris and as I’ve been learning what it means to call this beautiful city home.
Take care x