I take a night bus from my accommodation in Antalya to Cappadocia in central Anatolia. The journey takes eight hours and before sunrise we reach the small town of Göreme, near Nevşehir. In the dark, I stumble through the silent city and out into a black void over sandstone, frozen tracks, and through bushes. The sky is slowly turning slightly blue and the contours of the sandstone towers and mountains can be seen as I struggle up a hill.
It’s below zero degrees Celsius. My breath freezes in the air and my hands go numb, but the climb warms me.
I finally reach the top, just in time before sunrise, where an unbelievable spectacle is taking place here. Hundreds of colorful hot air balloons rise into the sky simultaneously with the first rays of the sun and over the incredible landscape of sandstone towers and hollowed-out mountains. Theoretically.
In the dark I fight my way through the maze of sandstone towers to see the rising hot air balloons in time for sunrise!
Welcome back to reality. Because where the balloons were supposed to start, there is a yawning emptiness. The first rays of sun come over the mountain ridge and impressively illuminate the opposite castle of Uçhisar. Only the balloons for one of the most famous Instagram motifs in the world are missing. Not today.
Welcome back to reality
Despite the missing balloons I have a great morning. Through photos from all sorts of influencers or travel agencies, I have images of this beautiful landscape in my head.
As if through an opening curtain, this landscape is presented to me by the rising sun.
It’s incredibly beautiful.
The towering sandstone towers and the large chunks where people dug out windows and doors in past centuries transport me to a land of fairy tales and stories.
I see a few figures in the distance who, like me, were probably expecting fireworks from rising hot air balloons. A couple looks out into the distance from another hill and four young women in beautiful dresses take photos in convertible vintage cars. All are from Singapore, as I learn from talking to them.
No balloons. What bad luck!
The couple takes me back to Göreme in their rental car and then says goodbye to go skiing. I look for a café for breakfast, then the program continues. I book one of the local day tours and after the last drop of hot tea on my lips I’m off.
The tour group is boring, but I get the opportunity to get around a bit around Göreme and Uçhisar. And through a guide, I also learn something about the history of these cave structures.
The hot air balloons fly 365 days a year. Unless the Turkish air traffic control does not give the green light. Since it hardly ever rains, this usually only happens when the wind is too strong. Then it may be that no balloon is allowed to take off for a few days. But that’s rarely the case, I’m told.hot air balloons
Out of sheer thirst for adventure and a bit of frugality, I decided to spend the night in a shared room in a hostel. But the “Dorm Cave” is clean and also exciting. The house, like most of the town’s houses, is built in the traditional style, constructed partly of layered stones and partly of caves in the ground.
The shared room is in such a cave, full of beds and carpets. There are terraces outside and breakfast is a fantastic all-you-can-eat buffet of börek, salads, olives, fries, fruits and more.
The small town is magically illuminated and invites you to take a photo tour. I just have to be careful not to fall between the holes in the ground, the irregularly hewn stones and the ice.
The night has its special magic.
I have dinner in another cave of Elve Town. In the Wooden Spoon, I sit on the floor with my friends Ayran and Chai and are served stew in a ceramic mug, which I first have to break open with a hammer.
Tomorrow I’ll start a new attempt and I’ll start early in the morning to climb a hill.
Will there be hot air balloons?
It will be my last opportunity, because then I have to start my journey to Antalya again and then to Izmir.