Magic Balloon Ride Over Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia

DSC_0142DSC_0154It was up, up, and away and down and around the scores of natural towers like a magic ride through dreamland as we floated over the fairy chimneys of Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey.DSC_0246

As our hot air balloon joined over 110 other balloons floating in the air at the same time, we all enjoyed the view from above those classic nature-made fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. DSC_0233And not once did any of the 110 balloons even come near each other as we all shared the sky over Cappadocia.

All ten of us in our Anatolian Balloon were frozen in awe viewing the many unique pillar formations with light shadows on them.DSC_0230 Floating in the balloon before, during daybreak and after daylight showed us all stages of light in which the fairy chimneys existed after naturally forming from volcano- dumped layers of ash and lava over millions of years go.DSC_0323

When our balloon came within 3 feet of a fairy chimney, we could see the deep layers of soft volcanic tuff rock topped by a harder layer. As the land eroded, ravines and crevices formed, leaving the fairy chimneys of today. DSC_0855And more fairy chimneys are being formed constantly as erosion continues on the tuff lava in the Cappadocia area.

At one point in our balloon ride, our pilot maneuvered the balloon basket such that he could actually reach out and touch a tree that only grows in the area, plucking several leaves for us to sample.DSC_0268 Included in that sample was a green 1-inch long pecan-like nut which no one chose to sample. The green leaves were sampled, however, and were very bitter tasting.DSC_0584

After about 75 minutes, the first of the 110 balloons started landing. DSC_0649And, too soon, it was time for our balloon ride to end.DSC_0557 But landing was my least favorite of a balloon ride because the first 2 hot air balloon rides ended safely but we were all in crash position inside the basket as the balloon landed with a hit to the ground and then a drag for several yards over rough ground, bushes and uneven terrain until it stopped. DSC_0515My third hot air balloon ride landed perfectly on the ground, renewing my faith that balloons can have perfect smooth landings.DSC_0446

But none of the balloons I had been on matched this ride in Cappadocia because of the scenery and landing. The pilot told us “when I say get into crash position you get down inside the basket and cover your head.” But he never told us that as we began landing.DSC_0183

Instead he said, “Prepare for balloon parking.”  And lo and behold, we landed perfectly on the balloon’s trailer while standing up in the basket watching the entire precision procedure.DSC_0690 DSC_0697It was AWESOME, PERFECT, FANTASTIC, and UNBELIEVABLE. Upon noticing other balloons landing, they also had landed on their balloon’s trailer.DSC_0739

After celebrating with a glass of champagne and receiving our official certificate and photo of the “perfect 10” ride, It was a one of a kind, most exhilarating balloon ride ever and it now ranks the No.1 best hot air balloon ride in the world on my list and hope my 5th balloon ride is also a perfect ten.DSC_0384DSC_0747

Asia Europe Turkey

A REAL Turkish Bath

It was on my third visit to Istanbul that I finally decided to have a Turkish bath because my girlfriend, Christina, wanted one. So we went to Cemberlitas Hamam, opened in 1584, in old Istanbul, before our Tauck World Discovery tour.

It was a modern, clean Haman inside and cost $40 for a 1-hour bath, massage, scrub mitt, olive oil soap, a small sheet and locker for belongings. So we got ready and went to the cold room and then the hot room, where I just stood inside the door gasping for air. I saw 15 beautiful naked bodies lying on the 15-foot round and 24-inch high marble platform and soaking up the hot steam.

Finally, I notice one body that looked like mine, plump and misshaped, so I wouldn’t be the only one. And, I saw the three scrubber ladies naked except for a tiny bikini bottom. As they scrubbed the ladies, their huge bellies shook “like a bowl full of jelly”.

So still standing by the door wrapped in my sheet, I thought I will never do this and let these people see my plump body. Besides, the scrubbers were scrubbing all the others and I thought I would just slip $20 so they would scrub me next. Instead, I exited to the cold room to sit and cool off.

Shortly, the scrubber came to get me for my scrubbing. She told me to lie down and yanked that sheet off of me and I just closed my eyes as I couldn’t bear to see this embarrassment. She doused me with a bucket of warm water and scrubbed with the scratchy mitt, removing all the dead skin cells. To my amazement, it felt wonderful. Then another bucket of water and more scrubbing was done on both sides.

Feathers felt like they were falling on me and I finally opened my eyes and she was squeezing a sack full of olive oil suds on me and then more scrubbing. It was now a massage, cleansing bath and hair washing all in one. The final bucket of water was tossed at me as I stood up but now, I didn’t want to leave, because I was enjoying the most awesome bath of a lifetime by submitting to public nudity.