Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Flight

We just got back from our trip to Turkey and I am excited to tell you all about it. It was our first time in the country (not counting the 2-hour transit time in Istanbul last year), and we are still in awe of this beautiful part of the world, the kind people, and this positive experience as a whole.

I’m really a morning person and I prefer sunrise over sunset. Well, at least I thought I liked the sunrise, but this trip had set the bar so high – no sunrise will ever compare to what we have seen here.

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The town of Göreme gives its visitors this one of a kind experience where every morning at sunrise, the sky is painted with a playful display of colorful balloons, floating over the lunar-like landscape – a true gift of nature.

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At first, I did not think it necessary to join the hot air balloon tour myself because I thought just watching it every morning was enough. Once we got there, though, I understood why it’s important: It’s just give-and-take. On one morning you’re on the hot air balloon, and on the other mornings, you’re watching other tourists on their balloons from a hill. Your taking part in the flight is necessary for others to see this display and vice-versa. As a bonus, you will have the most spectacular view of the whole region from above.

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Many hotels in Göreme offer cave rooms to complete the Cappadocia experience. Our hotel of choice was Chelebi Cave House because I wanted to opt for something sincere and authentic. It’s run by a family native to this town and they serve an exquisite breakfast every morning on their terrace. They arranged the hot air balloon tour for us, which we chose to do on our first morning, and it all went smoothly. Our tour operator of choice was Turkiye Balloons.

We were picked up at 04:55 AM from the hotel and we were taken to the headquarters of the balloon tour operators for a small buffet breakfast. This is also the time they collect payments from those who hadn’t paid for it in advance and they divide people into groups for their respective balloons. The balloons are scattered all over town so they have to make sure everyone gets into the right van because each one drives directly to the take-off site.

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What I liked most about our tour operator was that they were about the last ones to take off. When we got to the site, it was still a little dark but about 60% of the balloons have already taken off. We weren’t up and floating until the sun was really about to come out and by that time only a handful were still on the ground. Also, the whole flight lasted more than just the one hour that was promised on their website.

The first thing I noticed once we were hundreds of meters up in the sky was how awfully quiet it was up there. Nothing but the sound of  20 speechless tourists’ oohs and aahs and the occasional blow of fire. I don’t know about people with a fear of heights but I felt incredibly safe inside the basket. It goes up to my chest so falling is not an issue and the flight was just really smooth and slowly and you barely notice any pull of gravity. At some point, our pilot told us we were 900 meters above ground and the view was just surreal. From time to time we would come really close to the rocks and chimneys and our pilot likes to show off his skills by maneuvering our balloon with perfect timing so we don’t hit them.

Pretty soon we were close to other balloons and hills from which other tourists watch us and we are just part of their backdrop for their Instagram posts.

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Sadly, our flight had to end at some point but we were all rewarded at the end with champagne, sweets, and a certificate for our participation. They also printed out the photos they took at the beginning of the flight as a remembrance, which they sold for 3,-€, and they drove us back to our hotel just in time for our second breakfast. 🙂

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I had been asked many times since we got back if the flight was worth it and I always tell them it’s something they really need to experience for themselves. I really can’t recommend this place enough. The number of hot air balloons simultaneously flying over the region every morning has risen in the last couple of years. Nowadays, there are about 3,500 tourists up on those balloons a day, that makes up about 150 balloons all at once. It’s good for the local community since each balloon requires a certified pilot and staff that helps in preparing it for flight. Not to mention, it’s quite a unique experience for everybody.

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For the rest of our stay, we found ourselves waking up early to watch the balloons from our hotel’s terrace or from some viewpoints in the valleys. We were in luck because not only did we have perfect weather conditions on the day of our flight, but we were also able to watch the balloons every day because the weather remained stable. I must say, though, that on the day of our flight the sky was really clear unlike on the other days where it was quite cloudy after it had rained all night.

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Tips for your hot air balloon flight:

  • Have your hotel arrange the booking. I believe they have better deals. I checked the price on the website of the tour operator itself and the hotel gave a better price (as in 20,-€ better for each) but you may want to check again yourself.
  • Book in advance. The hotel gave me a few choices for a tour operator and the first two I asked for were already fully booked when I made the request a month prior to the flight. Luckily, there are many tour operators to choose from but if you have a specific preference then you might want to ask even earlier — especially if you’re in a group because you don’t want to be placed in separate balloon companies.
  • Book your flight for the first day of your stay in Cappadocia. This is important! Flights can get canceled due to unideal weather conditions. Your safety is important and that’s why on some days, it’s just not possible to push through with it and often you won’t find out your flight is canceled until the time it was supposed to start. In other words, waking up early for nothing. Your tour operator will try to get you on a tour the next day and that’s why it’s important you make time for a few trials and errors.
  • Wear warm and comfortable clothing. Getting into the basket required only some basic climbing skills but you might want to be dressed properly for this. Also, don’t underestimate the temperatures in the morning – it will be cold and it doesn’t help that you are suspended in the air 900 meters above the ground. Closed shoes, warm socks, pants, jacket, scarf, maybe even a hat. We were there mid-October and the temperature rose during the day so a t-shirt was fine most of the time but the mornings are just really chilly.

Canceling a trip

We’re early-bird bookers. We like to plan our trips months ahead to make sure we book the cheapest flights and get the best deals on accommodation. It keeps us excited for the trip itself and we do our research about the place while we wait for the lucky day.

This one time, though, we impulsively booked a flight to Marrakech. I had been telling Joan for years that I want to see Morocco because I’m just lured by its postcard-ready beauty, the markets, and the cuisine.

When Ryanair offered direct flights from Berlin to Marrakech, we immediately gave in. I have been waiting for this moment for God knows how long, and we have been brainstorming about places to go to in autumn anyway because I already filed for vacation leave. November is one of those months that doesn’t seem to go well with most places. I know Germany is pretty awful this time of the year, when all the leaves have fallen and become mushy from all the rain and the days are just wet and cold, but not cold enough for snowfall, just cold enough for three layers of clothing. Morocco, on the other hand, is supposed to be really nice in November. And everything just seemed to have fallen into place…

Joan browsed some travel forums about Marrakech, adding a very important keyword: women.

We already knew about the men offering to help you find your way when you get lost in the maze of the souks and insisting for some cash in return. Or the snake-charmers that demand money if they catch you taking a photo of them. These aren’t things that could scare us, really, we know that in most cases it’s smarter to just ignore strangers that try to intimidate us.

Still, something did not seem right. My aunt and uncle had been to Morocco twice and they can only say positive things about the experience. A newly married woman wrote in a forum about how romantic the city is and that she will convince her husband to visit yearly. A solo male traveler talked about the fun he had haggling with the vendors and about how he could just walk around the souk all day and forget about the rest of the world. All of these experiences are tempting, to say the least. But what about…

Us?

What about the women that travel alone or with other women? With their sisters? Their girl friends? Their experiences had been so much different.

Catcalling. MARRIAGE PROPOSALS. groped. Harassment.

Although they all said that the overall experience in the city was really good, it still felt like walking into a trap. But we already prepared ourselves for the worst and just accepted the fact that we had to be more open and understanding and decided to just think about all the good memories we could get off this trip. And the things mentioned above? They said you’ll get used to it after a few days.

But as you must have already taken off the title of this post, we still canceled this trip. Sure, we were already dreading all the things I’ve mentioned above but these alone would not have stopped us from experiencing a new place. I am sure of it that we will be traveling to Morocco some other time, maybe with even more preparation and perhaps in a larger group, too. No, what really stopped us from taking this trip is the fact that we were given the opportunity to get a full refund on our flights, and we’re glad to not have to throw 250 € away had we really decided on not going just because we were born female.

It was when Ryanair decided to implement their new baggage policy. Everyone who made a booking before September 1st for a flight from November 1st onwards has the right to get a full refund on their booking should they not be in favor of this new policy (but only until September 14th, which is in the past by the time I publish this post). Yes, so they found yet another way to make life harder for their passengers. Starting November, everyone who wants to bring a small cabin luggage will have to pay extra for it and stand in line on the check-in counter and drop that bag off. You may only bring your handbag on board (thank God, whew), and it has to fit under the seat in front of you otherwise you will be charged 25 € at the gate. Of course, there is still priority booking but you pay more for that as well and the slots are limited.

So I guess I’ve finally come to a point in my life where I say I’m never flying Ryanair ever (again). I’m that person now. It’s too bad because they offer direct flights to really cool destinations and the convenient SXF-CGN line that brought me to Mum a couple of times but this is just not something I can tolerate. They gave us a full refund without much hassle and we also decided on another destination already and booked our flights with other airlines.

Good thing before all this rubbish started, we were able to visit some really great countries like Croatia and Romania, which we otherwise wouldn’t have reached if not for their direct flights from our city and for a really good deal, too.

Spring Favourites

It’s official! My favourite season has come to an end but I did not waste any time this year and made it probably my best one yet! Here, let me give you a recap:

I spoke up about my PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and have received some good feedback from people who are going through the same. I’m also happy to have found a way to reduce the symptoms which is by going on a Ketogenic diet and it has been working wonders! I had been on the diet for three full months when we went on holiday to the north of Spain and had to break our Ketosis to fully experience the Basque culinary goodness but I decided to jump back on, turns out I’d rather live without bread and sugary food than feeling bloated the whole time. My menstrual cycles have become relatively stable since and I even lost up to 6kg in the process. Not bad, yeah?

At the beginning of spring, I received my first birthday present, way ahead of my birthday. I’ve always wanted a record player so the wife decided to get me one, just in time for the beginning of flea market season so I can start haggling for vinyls. As of now I have found a few from different sources to add to my growing collection.

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The reason why spring is my favourite season is because it’s the time of the year I celebrate my birthday. Sometimes it also seems to me like I celebrate it the whole season. This year, though, it was probably a whole season’s worth of events that we made happen in just one week.

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Winter had been hard. I remember some extremely cold nights so it was exciting to see some colour, flowers in full bloom. I even planted some lavenders on my balcony (something I have been trying to do since we moved here two summers ago) and they did not die on me! I also bought some lights and new furniture to complete the balcony make-over.

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As you can see, we also decided to put up our Pride flag.

Did anyone say strawberries?! Part of this season is the excitement for the freshest strawberries we have missed all winter. I have wondered my whole life why I always hated strawberry-flavoured candy or ice cream or anything, really. It’s because the only way I can enjoy them is if they’re fresh! And what better way to get them than to pick them yourself straight off the field? That’s right! Though we live in the big city, we are still close enough to the best strawberry farms that allow you to pick the fruit yourself and buying them by the kilo.

As I have mentioned earlier, we went on holiday to Santander and Basque Country and it was gorgeous! It was our first time going on a camping trip. Nature is just wonderful, isn’t it?

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So peaceful, so green.

But because that holiday was too short (the flight schedules are just really inconvenient), we were back in Berlin on a Friday and we still had all weekend to find something to do. My friend Jannah so happened to be traveling around eastern Europe at the time and was on her way to Kraków for the weekend. We thought, what the hell, let’s just get in the car and go meet her there. I haven’t seen her in seven years and it was a chance for Joan to meet her as well. So Jannah was supposed to go to Warsaw after her stop in Kraków and then take the bus to Berlin from there but, with little convincing, she realised it’s probably much too exhausting to pursue that trip to Warsaw and we were going to back to Berlin anyway so she decided to skip it and we took her across the border and to the best city in the world (but that’s my humble opinion).

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And here’s a photo of the three of us taking a picture of each other.

And a trip to Kraków is never complete without a day trip to the Auschwitz concentration camps. There are no words to describe the experience of being in such a place, some people even got very emotional just being there.

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But the best part about this weekend is that we were in good company. 🙂

Speaking of trips, the next one in store for us will be this month! My cousin, who is currently living in Malaysia, married an Englishman last April and she is coming to the UK with the whole family for a small gathering. Many of us living here in Germany were not able to come to their wedding so we are all coming to this event in the UK together. Even my mum’s coming with us because her visa just got approved! This is something I am absolutely grateful for because she is about to go back to Philippines to stay there for good and I would really love for her to see a bit more of this part of the world before she leaves. I also have a few other short trips planned for her so summer will definitely be just as exciting as spring. ❤

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Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com