MohennysDoTurkiye - Cappadocia

November 17, 2016

After a week and a half in Istanbul, and after the serious business of completing a marathon was over, #MohennysDoTurkiye headed to the magical land of Cappadocia. It is easy to see why this place really feels like magic. With its natural fairy chimney rock formations, cave hotels, underground cities, hot air balloons dotting the skyline at every daybreak, and the most generous and hospitable people we have come across on the trip, the tourist can escape and slip into a wonder filled existence that seems too unreal to be anything but a fantasy.

Picture of the valley taken just before sunset from the Göreme sunset viewing spot 

To top it all, we also got snow while we were there, adding another level of surreal to the valleys and mountaintops dotted with the powdery white stuff. But more about that later!

We stayed for 2 nights, and the first half of the first day (before we even got there) was filled with drama. Quaseem had gotten sick during the night, and he outright refused to leave Istanbul (initially). After the ordeal of eventually getting him to agree to come, and getting to the airport in the very early hours of the morning, the Turkish Airways checkin staff refused to let him onto the flight until he sees a doctor, because he looked like he was going to collapse right there and then at the checkin desk. To cut a long story short, after way too much walking for a sick person, between terminals, we eventually did make it to the boarding gate with literally 1 minute to spare before they closed. When we arrived in Cappadocia he spent the rest of the day out cold in bed, and Fadeelah and I explored the town of Göreme a bit. In case you are judging right now, Fadeelah did do her best to see that he is ok and has everything he needs before she went galavanting with me. 
The cone-formations on the landscape were formed by sedimentary rock of the lakes and streams, and deposits from ancient volcanic eruptions 3-9 million years ago. The rocks eroded over the millenia and today forms hundreds of spectacular pillars, shafts and cones. The rock is naturally soft and malleable, but hardens when in contact with air. So people carved homes and monastries into the rocks, and many still live in cave houses. When you visit, you should absolutely stay in a cave is an experience you will not get anywhere else. And don't be fooled by the name, this is not primitive-type living. The cave hotels have all the comforts, with amazing lighting, very efficient heating in winter (including underfloor heating on marble floors, mmmm) and airconditioning for the hot summers, phenomenal local buffet breakfasts of fresh, local produce, and stunning Cappadocian hospitality. 

We stayed at Aydinli Cave Hotel, a family-run establishment. They let us check in soon after we arrived the morning, even though officially checkin is only from 2pm onwards. Fadeelah and I slowly (marathon legs still, remember) climbed the terraced stairs to check out the top terrace, where breakfast is served. We figured with a vantage point that high, it should have decent views of the valley and Göreme town. While we were sitting on the outdoor balcony, someone came to us with complimentary drinks, and asked if we wanted anything more. 

Aydinli's outdoor terrace overlooking Göreme town

After that we went walking around down the sokak and into the cute little town. It wasn't so kak. In fact it wasn't kak at all!(Sorry for my language. Coming from SA we found that very amusing, but a sokak is a street) Göreme is a tourist town. I suspect (almost) everyone is either a balloon pilot, works at or owns a cave hotel, a restaurant, a store, a tourism company or gift shop. Viewpoint Café came highly recommended by Irfan from Aydinli for their food AND views, so we went there for lunch. The recommendation was on point. The chicken dish I had was the most delicious food I had in Turkey! And Fadeelah had a testi kebab, cooked in a clay jar that you have to break open with a hammer to access the food when it comes to the table. No, the procedure is not as violent as it sounds. LOL

Chilling at ViewPoint Café outside in the sun on the uppermost level

You've gotta work for your food when eating a testi kebab!

Best creamy chicken and mushroom dish ever! 

I wanted to order a Schweppes mandarin, but they didn't have stock of it. However, when my meal came, there comes a Schweppes mandarin with it. The waiter went to go and hunt one down for me at the stores while the food was being prepared. Wow, I hope he didn't have to search far. We are certainly not to such great service back home in SA as is shown by the people in this town. 

After lunch we were going to walk to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which is 1km out of town. On the way there we got slightly distracted looking at the gift shops, and realised if we wanted to be back in time to be dropped off at the sunset viewing point, we would not have ample time to appreciate the museum, so we headed back. Irfan gave us a lift to the sunset view point and said we could walk back once we are done. That was a really nice place to also have a look at the town from another vantage point, and the next valley over the hill. It started getting a bit chilly on the way back so we were happy to be back in the toasty rooms afterwards.

Watching the sun set over Göreme

I would've been fine to just eat nibbles for dinner, but Fadeelah really wanted to check out Top Deck Cave Restaurant. The wife of the owner is a South African, and the restaurant also got rave reviews on TripAdvisor. Also, it is in the next sokak from us so it literally took 3 minutes to walk there. Quaseem was still out cold, not even knowing how it looks outside (LOL), so it would just be the 2 of us again and she got him a take-away. Top Deck is a splendid, immaculately cosy cave restaurant with a fireplace and seating either at tables or Ottoman-style floor seating. We chose the floor seating.

Inside Top Deck cave restaurant

Our main meal order at Top Deck. They also gave us free mushroom soup samples

That night was to be an early night because we had a balloon flight and pickup was at 6am. We were concerned because there was a rainstorm predicted for the morning at that time, and they don't fly in the rain. But when we woke up the weather was chilly, but not raining. At Royal Balloon, they gave us a fabulous full buffet breakfast and we ate while waiting for clearance to fly from the meteorological association. We eventually did get clearance and were good to go, and were driven to the launch site where they were preparing the balloons. 

Waiting for our balloon to be fully fired up, behind us

Breakfast buffet at Royal Balloon offices. They are the only company with such a setup

The balloon ride was amazing! It is probably one of the priciest things you will do on your trip because it's not cheap, but it is totally worth it because of the sheer magnitude of the experience. Our balloon pilot was Tolga, and he was awesome. He was cracking jokes the entire time, and gave us information about the towns and valleys that we flew over. On a clearer day, the sunrises from the balloon rides are spectacular! 

Flying over Avanos

Thanks Google Photos for the stylising on this pic

The calmness of a dawn flight

Baby I see that fire in your eyes...! 

After landing and heading back to Göreme, we went for 2nd breakfast at Aydinli (yes, the Kenny sisters do have a "healthy" appetite for food), and then went out for the day with the driver that Aydinli organised for us. By now Quaseem had recovered, and so joined us. Ibrahim, also part of the family, was our driver and guide for the day, and he took us to everything that we wanted to see and more. Places we went to were the Kaymakli Underground City, the Göreme Open Air Museum, Avanos (Smurf Town) and a local co-operative nearby for lunch, Pigeon Valley, Love Valley. We would have done a short hike in the valley, but it started snowing by the time we emerged from the underground city, so our trip was rerouted a bit. We went to an onyx factory instead, to see how they carve and polish the onyx creations, and to marvel at spectacular sultanite jewellery that we can't afford. 

Kaymakli underground city, a UNESCO world heritage site

Underground cities were built as a defence against enemies. When news of an enemy advancing came (via smoke signals from other cities), the entire city would retreat underground, with all their food, supplies, animals and people. The enemy would then arrive and find the town "abandoned". The underground city had everything required, as it was often used for long periods of time. Even burials of people who died had to be seen to. The cities had an ingeniously complex system of air supply, water supply, tunnels, rooms and food storage. In fact, a lot of their food was stored underground all the time because the temperature in the underground caves were constant throughout the year at between 15-17 degrees, whether it was -20 or +50 degrees outside. 

The 3 of us underground at Kaymakli

Overlooking Pigeon Valley. We saw pigeons, but no valley (LOL) due to the snow

NO, I will not put an explanation of why it's called Smurf Town ;)

Dancing amongst the snowflakes

By late afternoon we were navigating at least 5cm of snow

Another UNESCO world heritage site, over 20 monastries carved into the rock with cool frescos painted in them

It was our first time ever in snow, and we got LOTS of it! 

Ibrahim was an awesome, knowledgable guide and driver to us

Can't have snow and not build a snowman mos :)

That evening we went to dinner at Top Deck again, and the owner came to speak to us. He told us about the time he lived in Athlone in Cape Town, and working at Anatoli's Restaurant in Sea Point. He made a special effort to come and see us because he couldn't make it the evening before. 

The next day, sadly, was the day we left Cappadocia, and ultimately leave Turkey as well. With it now being freezing cold outside because of the day and night of snow, I really, really didn't want to leave the room and checkout. The bed was so comfy and walking barefoot on the warm floor was an awesome sensation. But I guess most good things come to an end hey? We didn't really have time to get breakfast at Aydinli because our airport shuttle was so early, but they did say we could come up a bit earlier. So we did. Even if it was just for a bit of Turkish tea and seeing the valley now covered in snow, it would be worth braving the cold. We also got to see the balloons fly over, this time from the ground.

Göreme town the morning after the snow


So long Cappadocia, it's been real. 
From there we flew to Istanbul, then travelled back to the apartment we stayed in for our other luggage, and had a..uhm...adventurous trip back to the airport with all our luggage, navigating a public transport route we hadn't used before. Thank goodness for friendly Turkish bus drivers who saved us from getting completely lost. We eventually did make it to the airport in time, before it was another 2 flights to get home. A very, very long and tiring day and a half of travelling. But it's always good to be home, especially since it is in beautiful Cape Town. 

PS... I still plan to write the outstanding one or two posts about the Istanbul section of the trip.

PSS... None of the establishments mentioned have paid to be reviewed or offered any sort of reward for writing about them. It is entirely my independent opinion. 


MohennysDoTurkiye - It's almost race day

November 11, 2016

The idea of this trip started one day (or should I say night) in February this year when Fadeelah and Quaseem called me up at 2am and said: "Qatar Airways is having a flight sale. Do you want to go with us and do the Istanbul Marathon in November?" I thought someone had died when the phone rang that time of the night, but anyway... of course I said YES I AM IN! And it didn't make sense to just go for the marathon in a city and country that has so much to see, so a 2-week holiday was built aro...

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MohennysDoTurkiye - Istanbul: An imperial capital of ages

November 8, 2016

Unless you know your geography, or are really good at capital cities, you might not know that Istanbul is in fact NOT the capital city of Turkey. The capital is Ankara, yet Istanbul is by far the most well-known city of the country, and possibly even the region. 

Istanbul, previously also known by other names such as Constantinople (after Emperor Constantine) has been the capital of 3 great empires, namely the Roman empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman empire. It has great significance...

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MohennysDoTurkiye - A mixed welcome

November 5, 2016

Quaseem, Fadeelah, and I left Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday, 2 November 2016 for our long-awaited trip to Turkey to run the Istanbul Marathon, and make a fabulous holiday out of it while we're at it. It was a long 9h30 flight to Doha, 8 hours in transit and then another 4 hour flight to Istanbul, making a full 24 hours of travel. We were lucky in that both flights were a little bit empty, and I used some handy travel tips I've picked up to make sure we were positioned to have the highe...
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eBook giveaway - Acres of Diamonds

January 27, 2016

I hope you've all had an awesome start to the year.
Here's wishing you a great 2016. May it be your most amazing year yet! 

I'm feeling generous, so I'm giving away a free eBook. It's a very short read. I hope you'll enjoy it, and that it inspires you. It's Dr Russell Conwell's classic, Acres of Diamonds

You can download the .pdf file from the image below, or CLICK HERE.

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What would you do if you weren't afraid?

October 23, 2015

I'd like to leave you with this thought today...


Now think of what it is that makes you afraid.
What is the worst that can happen if that fear comes true?
How bad is that reality really?
Is it worth the emotional energy that you invest into that fear?

And then I ask you again:

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An EMPOWERED competition & giveaway

August 7, 2015

On 9 August annually, South Africa commemorates the strength, determination and courage of the 20,000+ brave women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest the country's pass laws. These women took the initiative and responsibility to change the status quo, to say NO to an oppressive existence and to utter the famous words of
Wathint 'Abafazi Wathint 'Imbokodo. Directly, this is translated as Now that you have touched the women, you have struck a rock, or the more recent adaptati...

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Fadeelah's First Comrades

June 10, 2015

During the latter part of last year, my sister Fadeelah made the commitment to do what is known as the Ultimate Human Race, the Comrades 88km ultramarathon. The run takes place between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and it changes direction every year. This year was to be an UP run, starting in Durban and ending in Pietermaritzburg. 

When she told me of her plans, it was an absolute no-brainer that I would also go to Durban, not to run it but to support and second* her on the race....

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April 3, 2015

I had a list of super scary goals at the start of the year. 
Believe it or not, running a 56.6km race was not one of them. Yet here I am, on the eve of my first ultramarathon, feeling nervous, excited, and most of all extremely blessed and grateful at the prospect of lining up at that start line tomorrow. I will save the part of when and why I decided to do it for the post-race report ;)

It was back in late-2009 that Fadeelah and I started training for our first 5km (yes, we trained for it, qui...

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My eyes burned...

February 2, 2015

I'm starting this post off with a disclaimer that what follows is not an original post of mine, but rather something that I received in an email newsletter a few days ago. It is from someone who is always a source of great inspiration to me, Robin Sharma. These words are too beautiful not to share, not only because of what it means to me, but also because so much of it really is what I want to say to you from me too. So I hope you like it. 


My eyes burn as I watch you overcome your trial...

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About Me

Rogeema Kenny My blog aims to inspire. Be the best YOU that you can possibly be.


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