Greetings from the American Girl
After getting back to real life with one train strike, two hours of French class, three days of work, a four hour long raclette party, five hours of Christmas crafting, and over a dozen homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, I'm ready to chat about Turkey. Turkey with a capital T that is. It's almost time for the gobble gobble kind, but not quite yet. Give me a week then I'll bust out some turkey hand print and feather goodies.

It's actually quite appropriate that Turkey's name is synonymous with a major meat product because all we did in Turkey was eat. We dipped into the piggy pudding every chance we had. The food was so amazing I think I said, "This could be my last meal and I'd die happy." So that's where we'll start--with breakfast on day one.
Warm rolls, fresh honeycomb, cheese, jams, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, pastrami, eggs, and helva formed the base of our first Turkish meal. Maybe I was lightheaded from the early AM hot air balloon ride we'd just taken, but I'm pretty certain I counted fifteen different plates of food making up our breakfast spread--fifteen different plates of food all grown or produced within a mile radius. Every-single-thing. At first we thought another couple was joining us for breakfast, but no. All the food was for us so we made like good little hotel guests and ate our faces off. Waste not and don't eat lunch was our motto for our stay in Cappadocia, the first stop on our Turkey adventure.
Like every meal we'd enjoy in Cappadocia, this grand feast was prepared by the mother and sister of our hotel manager at Aravan Evi. We'd arrived at Aravan Evi, a small three room boutique hotel located in a tiny village in Central Anatolia late the night before. (By tiny I mean there were more cats than people roaming the semi-paved street.) The young manager named Okan greeted us warmly and told us to hit the hay because we had a 5:00am start the next day. Wake up call on vacation? C'est vrai! Okan organized a hot air balloon ride for us--the first of many amazing things he would help us do and see during our visit.
A little less than bright eyed and bushy tailed, we woke up before the roosters (literally) and were hustled out to meet the shuttle that would take us to our balloon lift-off. We careened around curvy roads in the dark picking up passengers at other hotels, but got to the lift-off site with enough time to see the balloons getting ready for departure. While I don't like saying it, watching the huge balloons expand and glow in the early morning darkness was more exciting than the actual ride in the balloon. Lame, right? Mon mari and I were totally underwhelmed by our balloon experience. Maybe our expectations had been too high, but weren't blown away, figuratively or literally. We barely got any air compared to the other balloons and the sun wasn't shining quite as much as we wanted which made for mediocre photo opportunities. Plus someone brought a baby in our quadrant of the basket--a 6 month old baby! We worried the entire ride that one of us would accidentally bump into the mom and send that baby flying over the side. Not exactly what you want to be thinking about when trying to enjoy Cappadocia's fairy chimneys and cave formations. While I wouldn't go hot air ballooning again, I still think it's something worth experiencing, but know that coordinating the perfect weather with the perfect pilot and the perfect basket buddies is like hitting a magical travel trifecta. Now you know why I started off with breakfast versus our fly in the sky--I was more impressed with the homemade goat's cheese than my view from 300 feet above.
I could write a War & Peace long novel about Turkey so this puppy's going to be broken into a few parts. There's food talk and endless Turkish adventures to come, including channeling Jesus and making friends with wild dogs--clearly not to be missed! In the meantime, if you're hankering for a visit to the land of lokum, here are the resources we used to prepare for our trip. I'd also be super excited to answer any questions you have about planning a trip to Turkey. There's so much I'd love to share and recommend!

Guides & More
Lonely Planet Turkey
Rick Steves Istanbul
NY Times 36 hours in Istanbul
NY Times In Transit Blog
Grantourismo! Istanbul Take Homes: A Guide to Shopping in the Grand Bazaar
Grantourismo! Local Knowledge: Ayse from Istanbul
Grantourismo! Spices, Pickles, Sweets, & other Delights Istanbul's Markets

Pre-trip Reading List
Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernieres
The Flea Palace by Elif Shafak
Portrait of a Turkish Family by Irfan Orga

11/11/2011 15:52

I can't believe how many other balloons are in that picture! Was there a balloon rally or festival going on?

My grandfather had a hot air balloon and I completely agree the set up is more magical than the actual ride (except when the wind picks up - then it's an interesting landing). He would recite the balloonist's creed and pour champagne for the 1st timers making them feel extra special - a great pilot and crew members and riders make a world of difference.

11/11/2011 18:09

Chickster--There were a ton of balloons in the air with us! I think that's pretty typical in Cappadocia because there are a billion companies competing with each other. How cool your grandfather had a hot air balloon, and it's even more fun he served champagne. We got a little juice and snack at the end, but apparently Turkey is now requiring the balloon companies to have a special license to serve alcohol :( Juice isn't as much fun!

11/13/2011 15:22

Ahh I'm so jealous! I have always wanted to go there, looks amazing, can't wait to read more!

11/14/2011 01:39

Christine--You have to get to Turkey! It is an amazing country and I know you'd enjoy an adventure there!

11/19/2011 11:49

Your trip is giving me some major travel envy and motivation to save up for a visit! Great posts and pictures!

11/19/2011 12:44

Lauren--Thanks for stopping by my blog! Turkey is definitely worth saving up for. There are so many diverse, interesting things to do!

11/10/2012 10:50

Wow! We visited Turkey for the first time this year, but it was only a short cruise excursion with a port call at Kusadasi and a bus trip to Ephesus. It was very worthwhile, but nothing like your exciting adventure. The people were very friendly, Sadly, the government is becoming much more bellicose.


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