Fourways Farmers Market

In the last couple of years, Johannesburg has really caught the outdoor market bug. It’s not surprising either, given that for too long, relaxing away from your home was basically either limited to walking up and down a mall, or otherwise taking quite a drive out of town. Now, places like Arts on Main, the Neighbourgoods Market and the Bryanston Organic Market are stepping into this gap, and doing it Jozi style!

A few Sunday’s ago, we packed the kids in the car and drove to Fourways to have lunch at what, at least in our opinion, may be one of the best of the markets - the Fourways Farmers Market. It is located opposite Montecasino and forms part of the Earth Outdoor Living Nursery. The nursery offers a spacious outdoor venue under big trees, and with bunting all over and hay bales scattered on the grass, it all works together to create a lovely, quaint country setting. The stalls offer organic and local produce and we were super impressed with the variety and quality on offer. Add to that the craft beer and bubbles, live music and the kiddies play area, and you have the recipe for a lovely ways to spend an morning in Johannesburg!

You can read more about the market here, or like their Facebook page.

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia

Cappadocia is a place with many appealing activities for tourists, but in all probability nothing compares to the magical experience of hot air ballooning over this truly unique landscape. Having gotten up early – no, really, when did you last set you alarm for 3:30 AM?? - our balloon slowly rose into the sky just as the sun began to rise. Surrounded in the air by more than 70 multi-coloured balloons, we floated up to a height of 1000 feet. The haunting panorama beyond consisted of the snow-capped mountains in the distance (the same ancient volcanoes responsible for the eroded volcanic ash below) and the vast valleys between them. The magical landscape of gorges dotted with mushroom shaped fairy chimneys, rock villages and caves in the mountainsides was even more surreal from the air. Our pilot took us down into the valley, almost touching the grape vines and apricot trees below and floating so close to the valley walls that we could peek into the pigeon holes. For more than an hour, we drifted in a stillness that was as much a result of the windless Turkish morning as it was of our own silent awe.

Bucket list stuff....

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I’ve been meaning to write this blog about the second part of our trip to Turkey for a while now, but it is such a daunting task to try and capture all that we saw and experienced in this one place on a blog post. Even now, thinking back to our couple of days in Cappadocia, it is amazing how much we saw and how much we learned about a place that we did not even knew existed until we started researching Turkey as a travel destination.

In the middle of Central Anatolia there is a geological oddity of valleys created by the volcanic outbursts of three mountains in the area. Over millions of years erosion by water, wind and changes in temperature fashioned a landscape of remarkable fairy chimneys and honeycombed hills. Because of the softness of the stone, people built underground cities, cave houses and rock-cut churches. Today, many of these caves are converted into boutique hotels and we booked into one of them for our time in Cappadocia.

The human history here is as fascinating as the weird landscape. We visited underground cities built in 2000 BC by the Hittites to escape Persian raiders. These same cities were used again, this time by Christians in the 4th century AD when they tried to escape Roman persecution. The area boasts hundreds of hidden chapels carved into the rocks, many with colourful frescoes, built by the early Christians.

We also visited sleepy ghost towns in the area made infamous by Turkey’s more modern, and extremely fascinating history. Just after Ataturk became President of Modern Turkey in 1920’s , the controversial population exchange between Greece and Turkey took place. Greek speaking communities from Anatolia (and the towns we visited in Cappadocia) were shipped to Greece and Muslim residents from Greece were transferred to Turkey to make a new living in the houses left empty by the departing Greeks.

Sitting in my living room six months ago and discussing my ‘travel bucket list’, Cappadocia would not have been on it; in fact I had encountered the word in only one place before, and that is in an epistle of Paul in the Bible. Now, afterwards, it is easily in the top 10 of my travel memories. Why? In the end I think it’s because the place delivers a triple impact: here, away from European-looking and cosmopolitan Istanbul, you get Turkish food and culture, coupled with the place’s ancient history, coupled with the truly unique natural landscape. Not to mention the hot air ballooning in the area ... but more about that tomorrow!

To read all my Turkey blogs, click here.