A weekend last year with my aunt and uncle was the inspiration of this trip. They had enjoyed Joanna Lumley's Silk Road journey which happened to go through the somewhat odd-looking Cappadocian countryside and featured its inhabitants who live in somewhat curious accommodation rising from the ground. I knew that I must go and, having researched the accommodation available to tourists, insisted upon staying in a cave room.
Realistically, anyone travelling to Cappadocia must travel through Istanbul so I booked flights with Turkish Airlines and made a point of staying a couple of nights in Istanbul. I must say that I found Turkish in general very good and they offer travellers meals, drinks and baggage without asking for extra payment. A rarity these days.
Having checked in the day before, I stayed at the Premier Inn A23 rather than the Travelodge (which I have always found very good) for a change, and was surprised to find that there is a pathway to the North Terminal if one prefers not to pay for the bus. Usually, this might have interested me but, anyway, I decided not to be so mean and took the bus. And wished that I hadn't. In ten minutes early, the driver then took a fifteen-minute break, came back muttering "no worries" after which a lot of people joined at another hotel and suddenly I was watching the clock when really there should have been no need.
Even one-and-a-half hours before the flight, Turkish asked for all passengers on the earlier of their two flights to come forward to deposit their bags. I'm not quite sure why because we all went through easily and thereafter sat in the departure lounge for a full hour waiting for an announcement on why we weren't moving. When we did, we were bussed to some remote part of the airport and were lucky to leave only half-an-hour late. No-one seemed to know why, mind you.
We didn't make up time and landed at Istanbul's new airport. It's certainly impressive but is a long way out and the bus into the old city can take up to one-hour-and-forty-minutes to reach and potential travellers need to pre-purchase an Istanbulkart as cash is not accepted on board (although I believe that credit cards are). It was a trifle fraught for me, but I managed to surprise myself when the card was deposited without naturally my not knowing how. I surprised myself further managing to top up the card using the Turkish instructions.
As it happened, the bus took an hour to Sultanahmet Square which is between and very close to Istanbul's iconic buildings, the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. A magnificent place to arrive, especially at night with everything lit up.
I stayed at the Hotel Abella and, with much help from the very hospitable and friendly local community, I made it - for me - comparatively easily. The room was fine, the staff again very friendly and I was delighted to have a view of the Blue Mosque from my room.
I ate locally at a restaurant where the owner had earlier helped me and I had promised to return. There was an abundance of restaurants and shops and this place, just a minute's walk from the Abella, was decent even if the big glass of wine's price would have had me spluttering on it had I known how much it cost in advance.
On my one full day, I started off at the Basilica Cisterns whose history far pre-dates its more recent fame in Dan Brown's Origin. I must say that I have enjoyed many of Brown's books and guess that a lot of places which have been immortalised in them and thereafter films, must be grateful to him. Apparently, the cisterns are now extremely popular but I guess that October is not in the main tourist season and I therefore gained entrance without waiting.
It is a fairly eerie place and music plays. Good old Health and Safety reminds visitors that the paths can be slippery, and the dimly-lit columns made it a very well-spent 20 Lire (approximately £3).
I continued on to the Blue Mosque and went inside. It is mighty impressive and decorative, but it did strike me that for such a vast building, the inside was slightly smaller than I expected.
I admit that I am not a great fan of museums and rather than visit the Hagia Sophia, I had read the evening before of the terrific views from the Galata Tower, a half-hour or so walk from the Sultanahmet Square. The area itself is fascinating with many impressive mosques and terrific views. It was fun walking over the Galata Bridge - I cannot say that I walked from West to East over the Bosphorus Bridge: in any event, pedestrians are not allowed - but the views from the tower were wonderful.
The last time I visited Istanbul (way back in the early 1990s), I had been accosted by a youth who told me that I needed my shoes cleaned. I refused, only to have some mud splattered on one of my shoes by an accomplice from quite some distance away. I was impressed with his shot.
"Ha, Mister. Now you need shoes cleaned!" he gleamed.
I still refused. This time, a shoe-cleaner dropped his brush and I returned it to him, reasonably confident that it wasn't some ruse and he thanked me profusely. Fine, fair enough but he then insisted on cleaning my shoes - and charging a high price for doing so... We did not part on quite such happy terms.
I went to a hammam in the afternoon. It was my first such experience and quite fun. I was given my own private room where valuables could be locked - although, inevitably, I caused consternation by periodically returning to make sure that everything was still there whilst the attendants thought that I was finished. The sauna was hot and my lack of awareness within a Turkish bath was shown up when, as respite, I saw an inviting slab on which to sit. It was every bit as hot as the sauna. The hour was enjoyable but, when I did finally leave, I was literally shown the door with a "ciao" and suspected that a tip was expected. I started to do so after that.
The following day I was on my way quite early in case the traffic to the airport was heavy. The greater problem was actually the new case which I had bought and which I was using for the first time on this trip. The handle snapped and so that was that. £40 wasted on only the second day I had used it. I feel happier buying cheaper cases simply on the basis that, if they only last four or five times, it's better than a £40 case which didn't last one. A postscript here: some superglue might have made it ever so slightly useable again...
The wait at Istanbul for the flight to Nevsehir was, as expected, long but I amused myself easily and the wait went comparatively quickly. The flight was operated by a Turkish Airlines subsidiary which was not remotely generous with its legroom but it was a short flight, a third of which was taken up leaving the Terminal and reaching the runway.
I had read that it is best to make prior reservations with Cappadocian operators for the transfers to and from the airports as the same providers cannot necessarily take passengers who have just pitched up, even if the minibus has seats. I had booked through the very efficient Cappadocian Bus Shuttle and was duly met on arrival and taken to the Coco Cave Hotel in Goreme. The same company returned me two days later to Kayseri Airport and were very efficient.
The Coco Cave is a modest place but the staff were very friendly and helpful and it was a terrific experience. I was convinced that I had been upgraded when shown to my cave room which had two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with two singles. I hadn't, but hadn't looked closely enough at the booking confirmation. It was a novel experience and great fun, but I was surprised that the thick walls did not actually keep out the noise as I might have expected. In any event, I slept very well and loved the experience of the cave room. Their terrace offered superb views of Goreme over an ample breakfast.
I ate in the Silk Road Restaurant which, like other such places, offered excellent meals at decent prices. I might have been a trifle surprised to drink chilled red wine, but not half as surprised when the Beef Pottery meal was brought by an aggressive-looking chap brandishing a hammer. I asked him if he might have taken exception to me, but it was all show and he walloped the pottery top - I was convinced that the use of the word pottery on the menu was a typing mistake: it wasn't - which freed the gravy and contents on to the plate. It was novel and excellent meal, and I was happy to return the following day.
The Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul,made famous by Dan Brown's Origin.
Inside Istanbul's Blue Mosque.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul,at night.
View towards Sultanahmet from the Galata Tower, Istanbul.
Fishermen going about their daily business on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul.
My room in the Abella Hotel had a view of the Blue Mosque.
Part of my Economy Cave Room at the Coco Cave Hotel in Goreme.
Uchisar near Goreme in Cappadocia.
Goreme Open-Air Museum.
Imagination Valley, Cappadocia.
Love Valley, Cappadocia.
Turkish carpet for 50 Lire each (cats not included).
The stunning view towards Uchisar from Goreme.
Ballooning is a famous pastime in Cappadocia.

I booked on to a tour on my full day in Goreme. Tours are usually advertised by colours and I booked on to the Red Tour for 35 euros which included four or five stops and a superb buffet lunch. It seems that much organisation goes into these tours and I couldn't remotely work out which of the people I came across was actually running the tour. Whatever, it was excellent. Goreme is well geared up for tourism and there are many excellent ideas including balloon flights which is one of the main reasons for Cappadocia's fame. I stuck to terra firma, though.
Our group consisted of seventeen people and I was delighted to be the only one from England. There were so many nationalities including Mexicans, Germans, Malaysians, South Africans, Russians, Turkish and an Australian and it was lovely to be part of such a worldly group. The tour guide was excellent and rebuked two Russian ladies for arriving back late and holding everyone up. Needless to say, they did not re-offend.
Cappadocia is well-known for its strange rock formations, many of which are inhabited. It reminds me of a even grander and larger area than Meteora in Greece with its vast pinnacles rising from the ground and which apparently date back many millions of years. Our day saw us visit Uchisar Castle, a couple of miles from Goreme, the Goreme Open-Air Museum (with its wall paintings depicting the life of Jesus), Imagination Valley and Love Valley, both of which need to be seen to be believed. I hope that the photos accompanying this article will give an idea.
Changing of money is actually not as straightforward in Goreme as, say, in Istanbul. I was dropped off at a PTT where I was initially refused when I asked to change British Pounds and was told that the chap could change English Pounds. Apparently, shops will accept other currencies but the PTT offices likely offer a better exchange rate.
Bargaining happens although there are fixed-priced shops. I hope that my mum doesn't read this but she wanted a bead necklace and, after much searching, I eventually found a suitable one. Having asked for their best price - oh, yes, I am far too polite still - and been offered a discount of five Turkish Lire, I put a little more effort and spirit into it the next day at the time of the purchase. Having had it dropped by a further twenty Lire with no difficulty or pressure exerted, I caved in after having it lowered by a further ten. The shop was delighted and I went out pleased with the purchase, but not by my somewhat feeble efforts!
The balloons had been cancelled on that day but were a terrific sight on the day of my departure. I took photos of them in Goreme whilst suffering the indignity of being stalked by a dog which came either close or kept a discreet distance before surveying me further. I paid the entrance fee of three Turkish Lire to visit the viewpoint and I must say that its equivalent of 40p was extremely well spent. There was a run taking place with hundreds of participants and some were cheered by the people taking the entrance fee to the viewpoint. (I was cheered also, but this was done entirely as a joke).
The weather was warm and the views, with balloons still flying, were remarkable. Uchisar Castle and the valleys could be very clearly seen and it would rank with some of the finest views which I have enjoyed of the Himalayas. I would highly recommend it and was delighted to have had the time on the final morning to go there.
I returned through Kayseri Airport and the driver had us there just under an hour-and-a-half before the flight which was ideal. There was some commotion and plenty of armed police which made for a slight delay but, in general, all went well. There were two hours between flights, but it became a trifle fraught as the immigration and security was fairly slow. Okay, I didn't help further by going to the Duty Free and a bar for an expensive beer, but both were also slow and I was finishing the beer when apparently the flight was boarding. After numerous checks, I was on board somewhat frazzled but had good company, a nice meal and some red wine as we made our way uneventfully to Heathrow.
After our eventual landing, I reasoned that I have travelled very regularly over the last thirty-five years and may on average take fifteen to twenty flights a year. Without calculating the number of flights I have taken, I will just say that this flight was the first time I had experienced, what I think they call in airline parlance, a touch-and-go. The aircraft landed heavily, bounced once and, I believe, twice and, before we knew it, the throttle was engaged again and up we went once more. There was no time to feel nervous and the pilot was under complete control, and so we saw London again, I continued listening to Cat Stevens's Morning has Broken (and will not be put off listening to it) and the second landing was perfect. Turbulence was blamed for the first landing attempt. I am not a nervous flier but have never especially enjoyed landings so this was a good experience to have been through. No-one seemed perturbed and my first impressions of Turkish Airlines were good. I reached the Premier Inn and didn't feel the need to reach for the bottle. At least not immediately.