Destination Turkey: Cappadocia Part II

Hot air balloons soar over a valley  of the dramatic rock formations that form the famous moonscape of the region of Cappadocia, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sergeant Lauren Padden)

Hot air balloons soar over a valley of the dramatic rock formations that form the famous moonscape of the region of Cappadocia, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sergeant Lauren Padden)

The sun sets behind a stone house which sits in front of the Ortahisar Castle in the region of Cappadocia, Turkey. Ortahisar translates to middle castle, which received its name from its central location to multiple towns within the region. Many settlements, from small cave houses to elaborate underground cities, have been excavated throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

The sun sets behind a stone house which sits in front of the Ortahisar Castle in the region of Cappadocia, Turkey. Ortahisar translates to middle castle, which received its name from its central location to multiple towns within the region. Many settlements, from small cave houses to elaborate underground cities, have been excavated throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A frescoe fills the wall of a church at the Open Air Museum in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with many frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A frescoe fills the wall of a church at the Open Air Museum in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with many frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A frescoe fills the wall of a church at the Open Air Museum in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with many frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A frescoe fills the wall of a church at the Open Air Museum in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with many frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

Rooms carved into the rock at the Open Air Museum are examples of the different communities in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

Rooms carved into the rock at the Open Air Museum are examples of the different communities in Goreme, Turkey. The museum has 11 rock-cut churches with frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A Turkish artisan demonstrates how to sculpt a flower pot on a kick-style pottery wheel in an Avanos, Turkey, pottery shop. The town of Avanos is known for its terra-cotta products. Inside, the shop shelves were filled with clay jars, hand painted plates, wine carafes and goblets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

A Turkish artisan demonstrates how to sculpt a flower pot on a kick-style pottery wheel in an Avanos, Turkey, pottery shop. The town of Avanos is known for its terra-cotta products. Inside, the shop shelves were filled with clay jars, hand painted plates, wine carafes and goblets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The region of Cappadocia, as I learned, is a place you can't fully enjoy in a day, a three-day weekend or a week. Therefore, a part two to the first story on Cappadocia is in order.

Given a three-day weekend I didn't want it to go to waste, and with careful pre-planning with friends a month prior, we decided to visit Cappadocia and stay in a Cave Hotel.

The five of us loaded up the car and left base at 6:30 a.m. Music, snacks and a few "are we there yet" comments made up the three-and-a-half hour drive. Once we arrived in the city of Goreme, we checked into our hotel, talked with the hotel owner about the main sites of Cappadocia and went to explore the town to do a little shopping.

The first store we came across was a carpet shop that boasted to have more than 200,000 carpets. It was easy to get lost in all the various carpets but the shop owner showed us each type while we were served apple tea. After leaving with a lighter wallet and beautiful carpets, we were pointed in the direction of a wonderful restaurant for lunch.

A specialty in the area is a stew of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot. The pot is then tapped with a hammer in front of you to carefully break off the clay lid. Then they pour the stew into your bowl.

Following lunch, the adventure of the weekend began. We had pre-coordinated an ATV tour for our group of five plus four other friends. From valley to valley, we cruised over the rocky landscape reaching the best views. I whole-heartedly believe this is the best way to explore the valleys of Cappadocia as there would be no way to cover the ground we did on ATVs by foot in the same amount of time.

Bring your own helmet or wear one provided by the company. From beginner to intermediate, anyone can quickly learn the controls. However, a word of caution: you have to be willing to drive up and down the hills of the trails. We were all motorcyclists of varying skill levels, however no one person felt left behind during the two-and-a-half hour tour.

Once we made it back to the city, a nap was definitely in order before dinner at a Turkish Nights show in the city of Avanos.

The two-and-a-half hour show featured music showcasing the sounds and instruments of Turkey as well as traditional folk dances and belly dancing. Appetizers, a main course and drinks were included in the price of the show. If you haven't seen such a demonstration, it is well worth it.

On day two, we drove back to Avanos, known for its terra-cotta products. We found a store with a kick pottery wheel right in the front door. The owner was gracious enough to provide a demonstration as well as let a few of us make our own clay pot. Afterwards we meandered through the three-room store which was filled with shelves of pottery jars, wine carafes, goblets and plates. While waiting for my friends to make their purchases, I watched an artisan paint a plate while another drew the design.

In the afternoon, we visited the Open Air Museum. For 15 lira, this site is inexpensive and allows the visitor to see 11 rock-cut churches with beautiful frescoes dating to the 10th-12th centuries. When leaving the site, hold onto your ticket as that also gets you into the Tokali Church which is just down the road from the Museum entrance. The Tokali Church frescoes depict a very detailed story of Christ.

A great place to finish up your day is just a drive up the road past the Open Air Museum. There are plenty of places to park the car and watch the sunset over the valley as the sun falls behind the Ortahisar Castle.

For dinner we found a roof top café that overlooked Goreme. It was the perfect place to enjoy the moon as it rose over the mountain top and shined down on the chimneys of the town.

Day three began with an early start; unfortunately this was also our last day. The day prior we woke up to the sound of the hot air balloons over our hotel. That gave us the idea to set our alarm the next day for 5:45 a.m. to wake up and get up the hill to watch all the hot air balloons.

We counted 40 different balloons float over our hotel and the valley. It was as if we were in New Mexico for the annual International Balloon Fiesta.

As we came down the hill and ate our breakfast at our hotel, we planned out the remainder of our time in the city. We finished our shopping and asked advice on which underground city to visit. Our hotel manager recommended the Kaymakli Underground City, which is also on the way back to Adana.

We arrived at the underground city during the typical lunch hour which worked to our advantage since a cave packed with buses of people could crowd very quickly. At the ticket office we also hired a tour guide to lead us through the different levels and describe what we were seeing. This was very beneficial and we enjoyed the tour more since every room was described in detail as to how it would be used.

The underground city is a marvel of architecture that shouldn't be missed. Amazingly, air circulates from hidden air shafts and keeps the caves a comfortable temperature. Our tour guide described life in the caves, including where the animals were kept, where people slept, bathed, cooked and even where they made wine.

Back in the sunlight I was amazed to think that such a city exists below a hill hidden by houses.

Leaving Cappadocia was sad since we had just begun to explore the region but we were excited to plan our next trip in a few months.