Cappadocia: Balloons, Baskets & Baloney
It’s impossible to Google best travel destination or most beautiful travel destination and NOT see a picture of the balloons soaring over the extreme marvelous landscapes of Goreme (Cappadocia). You immediately look to see where it is. Turkey, that’s where. It seems like everyone, and anyone who calls themselves a “traveller” has a picture on Instagram. I’m not sure if it’s a bucket list thing, but recently, I’ve been seeing more and more photos. And I have a bit of a problem with that. I see the baloney.
You see, when we went in October, we assumed, oh it is low season. It didn’t clue in that while cities like Istanbul were hurting, the very shielded and touristy Cappadocia would also be affected. The streets of the very cool and cave-y Goreme were virtually empty. You could just envision tumbleweeds passing you by, lazily carried by wind. You would look into restaurants and see one table occupied, maybe even two. But mostly, there wasn’t anyone anywhere. Not in souvenir shops, not in restaurants, not in the streets. I could walk around town all day and encounter about 20 tourists in total. Just a handful of people. Now think about how many hot air balloons that will fill.
The sad part is, our hostel owner said that THIS was better. This ghost town? Well there were NO tourists in the summer. The coup in July just about obliterated Turkey’s tourist season. Their busiest season, their bread and butter, plunged down to nothing. Restaurants, hotels, and shops went out of business. So things were finally beginning to pick up. The minuscule amount of people there, were actually a sign of hope.
Let’s go back to the balloons for a moment, because that’s usually what people want to hear about. One word, magical. The experience was super cool. Not adrenaline pumping, unless you have an intense fear of heights, but you just feel like you’re floating. Seeing all the other balloons go up, the sun peeking up over the chimneys of Goreme, once in a lifetime. We almost didn’t do it because of cost. But thanks to a chance encounter, and the generosity of a new friend, we got a deal we couldn’t resist. We flew with Anatolia Balloons, and I’m giving them a shout out because out pilot was amazing!! Not JUST floating straight up and down, but in-between rocks and making it more like a ride. The silence in our basket as we ascended said it all. It was going to be some ride.
Now, I’m going to drop the baloney. So, I’m new to Instagram and the world of “travel blogging” but I cannot stand what I’ve been seeing lately. In the last few months, all I’ve been seeing is beautiful Cappadocia pictures from just about everyone. Cool. But in picture after picture, I am seeing TONS of balloons in the sky. In a regular summer, almost 2000 people go up in a DAY, which means a lot of balloons. But remember how many tourists I saw milling around nowadays? Get my drift? There were NO tourists in the summer, therefore, only a few balloons at most. Am I being too harsh? Jumping to conclusions? Fine. Maybe the pictures are from long before or just reposted. But if you take a closer look, often you can see the same couple of balloons copy and pasted all over the sky, filling all parts of the background so perfectly. This isn’t once, twice, it’s in every photo I’ve seen for the past couple of months and I’m calling them out on it. REALLY??!!! For the purpose of pretending you are in the most perfect and magical place, and making people envy your travels, you would do THIS?!? The city and country are HURTING. You need to show people what is really going on there. It’s not business as usual. The country is being crushed from all sides: political uncertainty, refugees, war, terrorism, unrest. Cappadocia itself is very safe but it ISN’T doing okay. Instead of a real photo with a caption explaining the reality of it all, you see doctored picture perfect photos with some “enlightening” quote, like the quote is going to help the people of Cappadocia not lose their livelihood. Many people at our hostel were disappointed in the balloon ride because they expected to see more balloons in the sky. Well may be if people showed what it was really like, then it wouldn’t happen!
I was actually impressed with the amount we saw, expecting there to be so little. Even then it was maybe 25 at most, all at varying levels, spread across a vast area. You can see from our photos, it is what it is. And it was still magical. So don’t believe the baloney. Go and see it for yourself.