Our 1st little anniversary jaunt to Cappadocia!

So before I start I’m excited to say that I’m going to become a vlogger SOON – it’s about time I join the Youtube crowd as who doesn’t love to watch videos on something whether it’s football updates, family tips, travel experiences, beauty hauls and the list continues but I’ll spare you! So watch this space, I’m still learning but hope to be a fully pledged vlogger soon!

I thought it would be a great to do a top 10 of things to do in Cappadocia based on what we’ve done and what we wish we could have done. I know everyone feels funny about Turkey right now and with good reason but anywhere you go and anything you do has risk associated with it and Cappadocia really should feature on every persons European section of their bucket lists. So I hope this can whet your appetite a bit!

1. Stay in a Cave Hotel

Staying in a cave hotel is a must and will provide you with a unique. mind-wondering experience. Whilst visiting some of the restaurants here, many of the workers were telling us that they lived in caves and plan to bring their families up in the same way. It takes you away from the modern idea of what you think you need to make a happy home.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that staying in a cave hotel would be basic and your mind might fill with the idea of lack of heating, modern amenities and cold showers however, a cave hotel can rival any luxurious hotel with it’s open fires, power showers, spa baths, in room saunas and delicious, traditional breakfasts.

We stayed at the Imperial Cave Hotel which was a small boutique hotel where smiles and friendly conversations came naturally to staff. Upon our arrival they organised a log fire for our room which we got to enjoy with a fruit hamper and some Cappadocian wine! The hotel is in central Goreme so perfect for getting around. Every morning the hotel provided a yummy village breakfast which is enough to make your mouth water at just the idea of it.. eggs anyway you want them, fresh breads, borek, jams, olives, local cheeses and meats, salad-y bits plus juices, coffees, and cereals. The perfect way to get you ready for exploring!



2. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

This was a must for us. Martin is scared of heights but wanted to do it as we’d had many recommendations and we felt that it would kick off our anniversary trip perfectly particularly because it ends with a glass of bubbly! It might not be for everyone though particularly in light of the recent crash. If this is the case for you, don’t feel disheartened as locals and visitors also get up early and trek to viewing points to see the balloons in the sky at sunrise which is very special too!

The morning kicks off with an early start but it’s so that you catch the sun rising so it’s worth it! We also got to have some breakfast before heading to the balloons which helped with any nerves. The staff briefed us on what to do in the event of a bad landing which we practiced and were happy with so we all got ready and the ride began. It was smooth and we felt fine (I felt sick with my pregnancy but this luckily subsided – Martin didn’t appreciate it when some tourists starting jumping up and down though!) The ride lasted about one hour and was utterly breathtaking and an experience we’ll never forget.

We couldn’t fault the company we went with but there are lots of companies to book with so find one that you’re happy with as there really is so much choice and prices to suit all.


3. Hire a car and explore!

This could lead to anything with there being so much to do, whether you fancy checking out the viewing points, finding pottery, exploring the unique landscape and bits that aren’t covered in the tour guide or anything else! Everything feels pretty well sign posted too so you should be okay finding your way around but if not – ‘borrowing’ someones wifi is pretty easy when parked outside their house (which is what we had to do!).

Car rental is easy and you can pretty much turn up and hire a car. In Goreme most of the rental places are next to the bus terminal in the centre of town and offer good rates. They also give you a map and will mark out your route if you tell them where you’d like to go. In peak season consider booking in advance and if you’re hiring on a Sunday as this is the Turkish day of rest and there maybe fewer cars to rent unless pre-booked. This was the case for us and it felt like we ended up with the owners car of the car rental shop but it was fine!


4. Visit a Pottery Studio

Cappadocia is known for many amazing natural wonders including it’s love, talent and history of making pottery. The old city of Avanos in Cappadocia overlooks what I’ve read to be the longest river in Turkey called the Kizilirmak (Red River) (don’t quote me on this!) and it separates Avanos from the rest of Cappadocia. It’s the place to visit here for local pottery as it’s full of beautiful, family ran ceramic studios. You’d be forgiven for spending hours getting lost, learning about the individual creations and browsing the lovely pieces to find something to take home – this is what we did!

Pottery has been made for centuries here with some techniques going back to the Hittites times in 2000 BC and we were lucky enough to stumble across Chez Galip, one of the oldest pottery studios here (though my phone decided to navigate us too a police station and not his studio to start with) The Chez Galip Studio is family ran, where they traditionally use a kick wheel for their creations and gather their materials from local sources including the old river bed (red clay for Hittites designs) and the mountains (for Iznik designs).

The studio is a short drive from Avanos and tucked away on acres of beautiful land (but sign posted!). When we arrived we were greeted by kittens running around having a great time and a lady who we believed to be the daughter of Chez Galip. We were offered cay (turkish tea) and got to watch the making of a traditional Hitties piece by the kick wheel method. This was followed by watching an artist hard at work designing an Iznik piece. We were then given free reign of the show room where we brought some lovely pieces and at great rates due to being out of season! This was one of our favourite afternoons and Chez Galip is very much worth taking some time out to go and see!


5. Book A Tour

In Cappadocia most sites are spread out so on our tour we spent a lot of time on a bus where everyone slept! Also, to begin with we managed to get on the non english speaking tour bus which we laughed at but it really wasn’t obvious so do watch out for this if theres more than one! When on the correct bus we were off and had a super guide who spoke great english. He actually had to go back and forth between Turkish for half of the bus but managed to keep us all equally entertained and clued up on what we were seeing.

The tour company was called Gorgeous Tour Travel Agency and I believe they offer lots of different tours but what our understanding the most popular tours are the Red and the Green tours. We opted for the Green Tour which took us to the following places:

x Goreme Panorama
x Derinkuyu Underground City
x Selime Kathedral
x Inlara Canyon
x Pigeon Valley
x Onyx Art Factory

We also made a pit stop very near to the Onyx, it was local Turkey specialist supermarket selling local products including apricots covered in chocolate (these were to die for, we brought a few packs!), pumpkin seeds, Turkish teas, Turkish delight and lots more- much of which was local to Cappadocia so definitely worth a look and will help you to learn a bit more about the region and it’s culinary delights!


6 Go for a Turkish Bath

You’re going to be doing a lot of walking and a Turkish bath is the perfect way to recover! We are blessed to live here and have access to Turkish baths, plus we are expecting our first baby (many a blog post coming up about this!) but it wouldn’t have been right for us on this trip but it shouldn’t stop you!

For anyone who doesn’t know what a turkish bath is, it’s a cleansing and relaxing treatment that begins with relaxing in a room filled with hot steam (you can wear your swimwear, well most of the time!) Then you’re often separated with men staying where they are to be washed and women going to more of a private room where you are often asked to remove your top and your washed down – please don’t feel embarrassed or shy as you’re often getting washed down by a older, weathered turkish women who shall we say is ‘blessed’ in the chest department! anyway! Then you can opt to have a relaxing massage in another room. A great treat for the end of your trip!

7. Try Cappadocian Wine

Something we didn’t get to get stuck into but hear that it’s amazing is Cappadoccian wine! We understand that the Hittites were involved with developing Turkey’s vineyards more than 7,000 year ago and throughout the Byzantines era and the Ottoman Empire Cappadocia wine has been popular, not always amongst Muslims but pretty steadily with christians and jews. Proven by many underground cities and rock villages considering wineries as a very important part of life.

My OB/GYN at our hospital in Istanbul recommended us to try some – so I had a sip and it did go down pretty well but the way to really do it would be to check out the winery vineyards – we have friends over there doing exactly this right now. But for some inspiration Time Out looked pretty great:


8. Visit an underground city

We visited Derinkuyu, the deepest Underground City and were a little apprehensive about going underground to any city even though this was one of the main reasons for coming to Cappadocia! This was due to the worry of air pressure changes and tight spaces (Martin is tall and I almost fainted on the hot air ballon due to air pressure changes!) but we were both fine! Yes, air pressure changes momentarily and we found it important to take a few deep breaths to acclimatise but they have made sufficient ventilation shafts to allow fresh air to circulate on all floors and whenever your in a tunnel you’re never to far from a more open space so it really did feel fine.

It was amazing to let your imagination take you away and picture families living here, attending church, being able to house their animals, to cook, socialise and even be buried here. It was also fascinating to see rocks carved into circular boulders to stop intruders in their tracks and to see other tunnels open up as a result of blocking in the intruders. Not that this happened in the Flintstones but this is what it reminded us of!

9. Visit Zelve Open Air Museum

So on our first day after the Hot Air Balloon we regrouped, had more food, more cay and headed out! We decided to make our own way to Zelve, I’d heard that tours don’t go there because there’s just to much to cover and they wouldn’t be able to fit as much into the day – this made us want to go even more so off we went!

We had an interesting job getting there, our hotel pointed us in the direction of the buses but we’d just missed one so we decided to hop in a cab but of course our driver wanted to take us everywhere else on route. Luckily with our bit of Turkish we managed to say no enough times to make him stay to plan! As we relaxed and though we got off lucky he insisted on waiting to take us back we said no again and luckily he wasn’t there when we emerged later though we were sure he would be, trying to take us somewhere else!

Zelve Open Air Museum was once home to one of the largest communities in the area, it was a cave village where Christians and Muslims lived together in harmony – until about 1924 when the Greeks left due to the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey. The Muslims continued to live there but by the 50s erosion became a real concern and they were moved. Old Zelve is now a ghost town and erosion continues but you’re able to walk around many of the areas, and you’ll need to allow a good couple of hours to explore the three valleys. You’ll get to see some of the oldest Cappadocian architecture and art, dwellings, wineries, mosques and churches and you really can begin to imagine a bustling village life!

10. Visit Goreme Open Air Museum

On our last day we managed to squeeze coming here and we were so glad we did! It literally took our breath away. We walked there and back which was lovely, taking in the fresh air and being joined by local dogs running next to us! On the way there we stopped for a drink and something to eat, there was a sort of walk way just off the main road with a few cafes and touristy shops. We got to enjoy some fresh juices and lahmacum which if you haven’t tried it before you must! It’s basically Turkish flatbread that you can have many toppings on but traditionally lamb or vegetables (I believe!) so basically the Turkish answer to pizza!

We then ventured into the museum and were greeted with a complex filled with monasteries, side by side and all meaning different things. We saw halls where benches and tables had been carved out of rock for people to go to for eating and talking after church. We got to look at all of the spectacular paintings inside the churches that have managed to last for such a long time – some paintings looked like they were done by children, some looked like a lot more care and attention had been taken. We’ve honestly never been anywhere like this and were overwhelmed with the amount to see, the amount to do and the idea of what roles each of the churches would have played! You really don’t want to miss this and it was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey!

So as you get the idea, there is so much to see and do and for everyone. It can be the perfect solo hiking trip, romantic getaway, family exploring time or history buff heaven! There are some very lovely restaurants too so I’ll do a little blog on these right after this one as it would be even longer if I carried on and way to much for you!

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe & share if you have enjoyed it and want to keep up to date with what we get up too!

Caro X

Christmas with the Hoggs, Istanbul, 2016!

Christmas Day was always going to be strange – we very sadly lost my beautiful mother in January 2016, so with our first Christmas without her Martin and I were keen to look after Dad and do different things to create new, special memories. Martin took Dad to see a Besiktas football game on Christmas Eve (this was where the bomb had gone off recently) so we were apprehensive but security was ramped up with no vehicles allowed near the stadium and increased search points which made us happier! They enjoyed the game whilst I stayed at home and planned Christmas cooking times and filled Christmas crackers with personalised silliness. When did I become such a housewife?!

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Christmas Day itself was chilled out with Dad relaxing with a Christmas film, a G&T and a festive Santa jumper on whilst Martin and I cooked this huge, 7.5kg bird and felt excited to be hosting our first Christmas and it being our first Christmas as Mr & Mrs. We were also feeling very sad to be missing my amazing Mum :(. We did a big toast to her whilst sipping her favourite, champagne. This happened a few times throughout the day, both silently to ourselves and out loud.We also lit a candle ironically called ‘Mum’ throughout the Christmas period and placed this opposite my Dad at the table.

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My Mum loved Christmas, she loved heading into London to buy Christmas decorations and to look at the lights. So we were sure to treat ourselves to some new decorations this year and for this I headed straight to Liberty for the pink bauble that I know Mum would have approved of. We also marked it being the first year of us being married with a personalised decoration you’ll also see below – this was from Not On The High Street and fairly cheap and cheerful which was great!


So going back to the Christmas dinner, with the turkey being so God dam big we desperately needed a second kitchen and luckily our neighbour Guy was away so the bird took up the whole of his oven which makes him a complete angel in disguise as without him we wouldn’t have had any of the trimmings and believe me, there were a lot of trimmings!

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All day I’d been saying let’s keep the blinds closed and not go outside, that way it would still be Christmas but post our huge Christmas dinner that only just managed to fit onto our BIG wedding plates, Dad and I (post naps) had to get outside for a little walk. As soon we stepped outside it was busy, dodging people on their way home, doing their New Year shopping but you know what, it still felt like Christmas as I was with my Dad! So it just goes to show you that as long as you have family with you, you can celebrate Christmas just about anywhere!

I’d be really interested to hear anyone else’s experiences of Christmases abroad so please comment below and get in touch and I really hope that you all had super ones :).