Flying High in Cappadocia, Turkey

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff blogs from the skies above Cappadocia

By: By Janeen Christoff

Flying High in Cappadocia // (c) 2010

The skies above Cappadocia

After discovering the underground cities of Cappadocia, it was time to take to the sky and fly high above the region to truly feel the scope of the area, so, of course, a hot-air balloon ride was in store. The night before, our group of journalists turned in early. It was still raining when we headed to bed, so we were told that if we didn’t get a wake-up call by 6 a.m., our balloon ride was not going to happen. Since nothing but rain was in the forecast, we all went to bed doubting we’d get the call — still, I don’t think anyone slept very much not knowing what was in store, and our guide seemed fairly confident that we’d pull this off.

Sure enough, at 6 a.m., the phone rang, and I sprang out of bed and grabbed my camera. I was confused to find it sprinkling when I stepped out of my room. From everything I had heard about hot-air ballooning, going up in the rain was just not likely. In fact, some people said that, in the U.S., if even the slightest gust of wind blew in the wrong direction, the balloon was grounded. I could only presume that with the threat of thunder and lightening, ballooning in the pouring rain was not an option.

Still, we headed down to the launch area, and stood around sipping hot tea and coffee waiting for the weather to clear. When the rain really began to come down, we took cover in the van. I thought we were crazy and certainly only desperate journalists would be the only ones that would be hovering about waiting for a balloon ride, but we weren’t. There were at least six other balloons waiting to launch. And, I soon found out that our guys were the conservative ones.

Ballon Flight Captain Over Cappadoccia // (c) 2010

Our fearless captain

In between downpours, another balloon company filled their balloons with air and released the ropes, sending the first group of the day flying high in the darkened, cloudy sky. I couldn’t pick between emotions at this point — anger and impatience or just plain relieved. But shortly thereafter, we were thrilled to see a tiny bit of sun poke through the clouds and the crew was immediately wrangling our balloon into position. We piled in and took to the sky. It was beautiful and peaceful and quiet, and the views of the never-ending fairy chimneys were unbelievable.

Our driver was a master of the skies. She dropped our balloon into the steep valleys and then brought us up within inches of it’s peaks, scaring some passengers half to death, but I was pretty sure that the balloon wasn’t really sailing fast enough to do much damage — even if we did crash land. (Well, maybe someone could have broken a finger. Regardless, no one did.) And she landed us safe and sound in a vacant field where we sipped champagne and celebrated our flight before off-roading back to our hotel, muddy and wet, but happy.