After the balloon ride was over we returned to the cave hotel. We had had our big adventure. We had flown over Cappadocia and watched the sun rise. (It was like this: we were down in one of the valleys and the balloon pilot asked if we were ready to see the sun rise. We said yes and he pushed the lever to shoot fire from the propane tank. We rose high into the air and the sun popped out from behind a hillside. Sunrise on demand.) We took a short nap and woke up for breakfast. We were tempted to sleep for hours, but the kids were ready to go, so we went out to see the open air museum. This is a collection of small Christian churches carved into the rocky hillsides. It's all really impressive. I couldn't understand why they wanted so many churches right by each other, though. Most had been decorated with beautiful murals. Over time, a lot of the paint chipped away or faded in the light. One, called the Dark Church, has held up better than the others. It's murals are still almost completely intact. You have to pay extra to go in and you can't take pictures, but I thought it was worth it. I took in Bill and Becca and we happened to enter right after an American man who did his graduate studies in byzantine history. He was explaining all the murals to his wife and we got to listen in. It was fascinating. The murals depicted events in Jesus' life, his birth, fleeing to Egypt, the transfiguration. Once he pointed them out, the images were obvious. I was glad he was there.
After lunch we decided to escape the heat by visiting one of the underground cities. We paid our admission fee then started down into the tunnel. We were followed by an enterprising young tour guide, offering his services to help us learn from the trip. I thought it would be nice, given that I felt I hadn't really gotten much from the open air museum until the American man explained the Dark Church to me. We hired him. He gave us a ton of detail we wouldn't otherwise have known. I was glad we had hired him.
The next day, Thursday July 30th, was check out day. We had our hotel breakfast and then decided we wanted to see the Ihlara valley. Only, not everyone wanted to hike in the heat. Anna really didn't want to. So we decided to have Kip, Bill and Becca hike it and I would drive with Anna to the end to pick them up. It was my first driving in Turkey and I was a little nervous, but the area was only little villages and very few people. I made it to where the trail ends, but I wasn't sure where the hikers would come out, so I drove around. The trail follows a river and at the end of the trail, people have built river cafes where you can sit over the water or even with your feet in the water and eat. After the last café is a little one-car bridge that leads into the nearest town, Belisirme. I headed across the bridge, not sure where else to go. There was a little man with two walking canes crossing the bridge. He got my attention and asked in turkish if we were going to Belisirme. I said yes and he signed that he wanted a ride. I've heard stories of how kind and trusting the Turkish people are. I figured I could take a chance on this hitchhiking old man. He climbed in and we drove toward the village. If I hadn't had the GPS telling me I was going the right way, I would have thought we were driving through a ruin. And there are ruins along the way. The part of the village between the river and the main town is old and not in great repair. We climbed the crumbling streets until we finally reached a paved road and soon after that, the more modern part of the town. My passenger let me know where to drop him. I was glad to have helped. It would have been a long hot walk with his canes.
Anna and I started back to the river. Only, I realized that I hadn't paid much attention on the way. I got turned around and asked some cute little girls on a doorstep for help. They weren't incredibly helpful, not speaking much English, but we exchanged names and shook hands and I gave them gum, the only candy I had with me. I eventually got my GPS working and figured out which little road to take, dodged the speeding tourist vans (full of people who paid for a day-long guided tour), and found my way back to the river and water cafés. Anna and I used the tiny bit of cash I had left on me to buy ice cream bars and sat at the last café to wait. Kip and the B's (Becca and Bill) arrived a little while later and we drove like the wind back to Ankara and Aunt Wendy.