Nick Papantonis

Multimedia Journalist

We only do legit hikes

Cappadocia is a truly magical place, and what makes it so is the natural beauty that surrounds you no matter where you look. There are always mountains in the distance, fairy chimneys up ahead, and a vast valley just over the nearby ridge. Compared to New York or Boston, it’s as if you are on an entirely different planet.

A very popular tourist attraction in this region is a hot air balloon ride, and that’s exactly what we woke up early for yesterday morning. If you ever have the chance to ride in one, take it. We arrived to the takeoff site with the balloons already inflated, and towering over the rest of the landscape. It’s not until you get in the basket and look up that you realize that you’re entirely in the mercy of physics. Aside from the balloon structure, there’s nothing overhead. You are being kept alive by a plastic sheet and four propane burners.

Hot air balloons (HAB) are much more enjoyable than an airplane flight. You’re still crowded in the basket, but it rises and falls gently and smoothly, despite rising and falling hundreds of yards at a time. And aside from the basket wall, there’s nothing in between you and the vast landscape below. Unfortunately, you will realize your fear of heights should you have one, but even that cannot overcome the wonder that fills you as you drift along.

There were many other balloons in the fleet, and it was entertaining to see what occurred to them. A HAB has limited steering capabilities- the operator cannot control the direction of travel, only the height. Thus, as winds shifted and heights were changed, what once was a densely-packed armada of balloons soon scattered over miles of distance. For instance, we managed to land just outside of the town our hotel is in- while others landed on the other side of a miles-wide plateau.

It was the same plateau that our group decided to hike to and over later that day. Our guide, after hearing we liked to explore, took our group on a more difficult route than semesters past- and it was worth it. After climbing down into the Rose Valley, we walked through massive rock formations, in tunnels dug under hills and cliffs and in between small mountains, winding our way through eight miles of Turkish desert. We climbed the plateau, quickly moving from the bottom of the valley to one of the highest points in the region. The views were breathtaking.

I always thought I had it pretty good when I look out every day over Cape Cod Bay. I can no longer say that. Cappadocia is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

NICK@WPDE.COM | @NICKPAPANTONIS

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