Turkey was wonderful. Our first stop was an area called Cappadocia. It's an area best-known for it's landscape. Most of the rock is volcanic tuff, which is very soft, so it gets worn away by wind and water and creates interesting features. It actually looks fairly similar to Southern Utah's Goblin Valley or Fiery Furnace.
The best way to see the tuff is from a hot air balloon. The only time to take a hot air balloon ride is sunrise. So we left our hotel at 4:10 to do just that. Every day approximately 100 hot air balloons take off from the same are. I'd never been in a hot air balloon before, but it's really excellent. Being in the air with balloons all around was surprising. The balloon itself is very smooth, like you'd think a balloon would be. It was a beautiful way to see the landscape, because you really get a sense of it from the different heights the balloon goes to (we were between 10 and 450 meters off the ground (what is that in feet?)). The sunrise was wonderful, but even better was the early morning light on the rocks. There was such an interesting relief made by the shadows, that the rocks looked even more beautiful.
So we spent most of our time in Cappadocia going to different areas where we could see the lanscape. But two other neat things we did was go to a rug making factory and to a pottery place. The rug making factory was pretty humbling. Seeing those women weave those carpets - the spend on average a year per carpet - I couldn't believe people are capable of doing that. I was blown away by their focus and dedication. Then we got to see like 60 rugs that had been made at this place. They were all, of course, beautiful (and expensive). The pottery place was also very neat. This guy is like Turkey's favorite potter. So we watched him make a pot, then I got to try! I was not very good, surprise surprise. The stuff they had there was wonderful though.
After Cappadocia was Ephesus. Our guide was an Ephesian native, and he knew his hometown! Ephesus was just incredible. So old, but still so beautiful. The library was, of course, my favorite. What English major isn't a sucker for a beautiful library? I really loved seeing all the ancient ruins on this trip, which I didn't necessarily expect to love. But I'm coming to think that archeology is a lot like literature; cliche as it sounds, both are explorations of what it is to be human.
After Ephesus was Istanbul, where we did all the biggies - Egyptian Spice Market, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Bosphorus/Golden Horn cruise, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar. They were all better than they looked online, and I really liked Istanbul. It's a HUGE city, but with the Bophorus running through it, it doesn't feel too tightly packed. There were riots and stuff while we were there, but we avoided them, so that was good.
So anyway, it was a wonderful wonderful trip and I'm very lucky. I'm home now, until Friday when I leave for Hawaii. Because I'm incredibly spoiled like that.
PS. I came home to this. WHAT?