The Turkish airline is efficient and well run, and its about an hour flight from Istanbul to the Cappadocia, a region of interest for its geology, archeology, and culture. Everything there seems to come from the volcanic deposits, thick layers of soft tufa, eroded by wind and water, also easily cut by humans. Since prehistoric times people have carved out shelters in the rock, protecting themselves from beasts and weather. Notable among these are the extensive carved cities of the early Christians, who dug deep into the stone to hide and defend themselves from the Romans, and later from the Arab conquerors who expanded Islam at the point of a sword.
Today family homes and businesses are still allowed use these dug out structures, although the Turkish government has declared them to be national heritage sites. The first stop of our OAT Cappadocia tour was the Open Air Museum, a Christian city dug into rock walls near Goreme (the region has a high rate of mesothelioma that is said NOT to come from the volcanic soils—I wonder).
Cappadocia is also a center for the whirling dervishes, a sect of the mystical order of Sufis (in 1925 Ataturk declared all Sufi organizations illegal). Our second evening we were entertained by a dervish demonstration put on in a kervansaray, a fortress on an ancient trade route that provided shelter from bandits.
A major tourist attraction in the region is hot air balloon rides. Although Cappadocia is usually dry, it rained almost every day we were there. We arrived before dawn for our balloon ride, following two days of rainout. Coming to an outdoor adventure on the heels of bad weather, no income for the providers, isn’t the best situation. After a two hour wait, the pilots declared we were good. I was skeptical. Two hours later, we went up in the fog. We had absolutely no problems and it turned out to be a beautiful day.
As usual, the OAT fills their tours with cultural and sightseeing events: visits to the market, tea in coffee houses, pottery and rug studios (commercial but informative), and a visit to the second story shop of a Saz maker, a visit to the Konya Mevlana Monastery, and many more activities to the point of exhaustion.
I said before you get a good deal with OAT tours. We saw about 3 times what we would see if I had planned the trip, and no they are not giving me a break or discount.