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.

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

España Verde – Santander & Basque Country

This year’s trip to Spain brought us to the green northern coast. Santander, in the beautiful region of Cantabria was our starting point, then making our way to the east, exploring the Spanish part of Basque Country.

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A quiet little city on the Atlantic coast, home to some beautiful beaches and charming little plazas. We arrived rather late due to some delays and only had one night to stay. We used the time walking around town and going to the beach. It was a Sunday so it was pretty quiet and the shops were closed but we found the local people spending their free time by the beach. The weather wasn’t exactly suitable for swimming except for a few very brave ones, but it was nonetheless a good day to be there.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before we got to see more because we had quite a drive ahead of us going to our campsite (which is close to San Sebastián) and a tent to assemble and we did not want to get there so late.

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We booked our plot at the lovely Camping Itxaspe site. The staff was very helpful and we got everything we needed. From there, we had a great view of the ocean and nature – everything was so green! It was so satisfying to be able to breathe such fresh air and I think it’s something I will pursue in the coming years – traveling to places with the purest of air to breathe! It was still a bit cold in the region since summer hasn’t really kicked in yet and it was probably even too early for some to come over with their tents (all the others came with their caravans) but we came prepared and though the nights were a bit cold, it was still possible to get some good night’s sleep.

The campsite is in a Geopark area and very close to some Flysch cliffs and the beach.

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European Green Capital back in 2012, and rightfully so because it’s clearly their favourite colour (and also mine). The air was just as fresh in this city as that on the countryside and I am still amazed by how this is even possible and wonder why not all cities do the same.

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Bosque Pintado de Oma

After our visit to Vitoria-Gasteiz, we still had some time (and energy) for a 6km trek through the painted forest of Oma. This was a recommendation by a classmate from my Spanish class and it did not disappoint. It was quite a walk going up and down hills but it was all worth it once the worst was over an we finally came to the climax which was the painted forest itself. It looked so trippy and it was so strange to find such art in the middle of the woods.

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I heard from people about how gorgeous this city is – and it’s absolutely true! Though we had the worst weather conditions here during our whole visit to the Basque Country, it still did not stop us from exploring a little bit. We did have heavy rain, though, that just did not seem to want to stop and, when it did, it was extremely windy. We dared to go to the beach, which was right in the city, during this time but it was really uncomfortable walking around when you feel like you will be blown away at anytime.

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But the overall experience in this city was great because we had dinner reservations at one of the cider houses outside of town but close by. We went to Alorrenea Cider House and drank a good amount of this local specialty which we poured ourselves, straight from the barrel. People who know me know that I am a huge fan of apple cider and I try all the ciders that the world has to offer, so this really has been a unique experience. Alongside we had a four-course meal including a steak fresh off the grill. The whole experience only costs 31,-€ each, and I say only because they really served a lot of food and an unlimited amount of cider. Though we did have a car, we made sure to come by taxi and the personnel at the restaurant were also so kind to call a taxi to take us back to the city (only 15 minutes away) because if you do everything right in this house, then there’s no way you should drive after drinking.

We left San Sebastián with a broken heart the next morning and would have loved to stay but we wanted to find out if our tent was still standing after that storm. Though the campsite is close to the city, we were happy to find our little home still intact. Apparently, the place was not affected by the storm at all.

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I guess this was the place we were excited about the most. It’s famous for being a filming venue for Game of Thrones where, with the help of some editing, the home of Khaleesi stood, best known as Dragonstone. The castle shown in the HBO series did not really exist but the infamous steps going up the “castle” were very much real and so was the huge rock resting on the Atlantic – waves crashing and all. This, again, was quite the trek, even more difficult than the one at the painted forest of Oma (due to construction works we had to take a longer, more challenging route), but people did not seem to care. And, mind you, a LOT of tourists come by to see this.

Bilbao

Our last stop was the largest city in Basque Country – Bilbao. Also famous for its pintxos, we knew we had to find the best place if we were to break our diet anyway. In this region, there was not much of a choice for low-carb alternatives because the cuisine itself meant small-portions-of-food-on-top-of-a-small-piece-of-bread. We found Café Iruña and it did not disappoint, but you have to experience it for yourself to know what I mean. We went to the Guggenheim Museum, which in itself was already a masterpiece of architecture.

We also only had one night to stay here before we left Spain altogether. This, I can say, was really too short of a holiday because the whole region is just so beautiful and we would really love to come back for all the places we’ve missed and maybe even see some places again. The green part of Spain is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I’m just in love with it. ❤