One of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia is to ride a hot air balloon early in the morning; so, on our 12th day in Turkey, I woke up at 4am and proceeded to the hotel lobby where the balloon company was to pick us up. At this point, I was still uncertain whether we would be able to take the ride or not. The Turkish Aviation authorities make that call in the morning just before the flights, based on weather conditions. On this particular day, it was raining. A shuttle took us about 5 minutes from the hotel to the balloon operator’s offices where they had some light breakfast for everyone.
During breakfast an announcement came “all flights have been cancelled”! The ironic thing is that it only rained during the one hour period before the decision was made! After the announcement it stopped (and would be sunny for the rest of our time there), but it was too late, the authorities had made the call. Everyone got back onto the shuttle and we were dropped back off at the hotel. As it was becoming daylight, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the beautiful view from our room.
At this point, we had to decide whether we would spend the next day, our last in the region, trying again to ride the balloon, or whether we wanted to see the balloons from the ground. As we had already been in a hot air balloon in New Mexico, we decided it would be better to see them from the ground. As daylight broke, we headed out and got our first glimpse of why the area is such a popular tourist destination. The landscape is beautiful and so unique! The area is filled with these chimney columns and caves carved out where people used to live. Our first stop was this random parking lot with these views.
After that, we went to the Goreme Historical National Park where after a short walk, you get these incredible views (make sure you drive to the end of the road and then walk 1-2 minutes)!
From here we went to the Goreme open air museum. Outside the gate there are some guides who will offer you their services. We decided to hire one in order to skip the ticket line. The “museum” is basically a collection of caves that you can go into. Some have religious paintings on the walls.
After the tour, our guide offered to take us to other areas of interest. The fee was reasonable so we took him up on the offer using our rental car which he drove. The first stop was Love Valley.
From here, the guide took us to a carpet making workshop. This is an extremely touristy thing to do but I think it was still incredible to see the rugs being made, and learn about the materials.
From here it was time for lunch. I asked our guide to take us to an authentic Turkish restaurant without a lot of tourists. Somewhere locals eat. Upon arrival, I saw tour busses and large groups of people but the guide assured me local people still ate there. What alleviated my concern was walking in and seeing bakers making things from scratch and seeing spices being dried on the rooftop – signs that someone cares about the food! We started with some bread.
We then had some manti and small meatballs. Both were delicious.
…and baklava for dessert…
After lunch our guide took us to another touristy spot – a local ceramic maker named Chez Galip. We received a demonstration and then had a look around the showroom with really beautiful pieces.
From here, we went on an incredible hike through the Devrent Valley. It was at this point, I was so glad we had our guide.
From here a couple more viewpoints.
…and through the town of Urgup…
…where we would stop at Turasan to sample some unremarkable wines…
…after the wine tasting, one last viewpoint, which was just spectacular (Ortahisar Panorama)…
After this we parted ways with our guide and headed back to the hotel to prepare for dinner.
Dinner – Revithia: This restaurant labels itself as the “first and only tasting menu format in Cappadocia”. It is located at the Kayakapi Premium Caves hotel and has very high ratings. Does it live up to the hype? Lets find out. Upon arrival, a golf cart will take you to the restaurant after you check in with security. Outside the restaurant, meat is cooking over an open fire. The dining room is beautiful. It is set to feel like you are on the inside of a luxurious cave. So far so good. Here were the menus for the evening.
The first dish was an amuse and was some kind of play on a margherita pizza without the crust. It was not that interesting and I was disappointed that the kitchen did not take this opportunity to shine at the beginning of the meal.
This was followed by Tarhana (fermented mixture of grain and yogurt), flatbread and grape molasses caviar. It was evident that the kitchen put more effort into this dish, but it did not have a wow factor to it.
Then a salad
Followed by a “pastrami” with with some type of sauce. I did not understand this dish. The pastrami was not that flavorful and I didn’t get the sauce that came with it, or why it came with so much sauce.
a palate cleanser followed
…and then the veal cheeks
While the meat was very tender, it lack depth of flavor and seasoning. Finally, the dessert:
This was a very interesting meal for me. The food was not good. However, they are clearly trying, and not in a bad way (as in, trying too hard). I believe they have a clear vision of what they want to be, and are putting in their best effort to achieve that end goal. There is no stuffiness either so I believe they understand that they are still working on the concept. I think what is lacking is front of the house staff with experience in a fine dining tasting menu format restaurant. This was evident from the service which while not bad, lacked the cohesive choreography and consistency of a Michelin star level establishment. Some dishes came out with explanation some without. Sometimes the manager would notice the explanation lacking, and then rush over to explain. Live music was provided, but it wasn’t very good. Overall, I think the service was good, but needs work to get to that fine dining level. Same with the food.
I would be interested to revisit this again in a few years. Tomorrow, we finally get to see the balloons.