Arriving late after a day of touring Cappadocia by land, we had a very short night in a hotel in Kayseri, an hour away from our balloon launch site. Alarms and wake-up calls at 3:00a.m weren't especially necessary though, as there was a spectacular thunder and lightning show, complete with torrents of rain, through the night. After some frantic phone calls to see if we were still going to the balloons (it turned out not to be storming in Cappadocia), we piled into the van at 4:00 for the drive.

We signed the "we won't sue you if something goes awry" forms, had the traditional pre-ballooning breakfast of coffee and a mountain of cookies, then watched the much-practiced crews get everything ready. Just as the sun was rising, we climbed aboard and began our slow ascent skyward.

We were all surprised at just how large the basket was. The pilot had his own compartment in the middle for his gadgets and instrumentation, and then there were two sections on each side for passengers. Each section held six adults, and our balloon was a full house.

The ride itself was about 90 minutes - we never rose higher than a few thousand feet so that we could stay below the remnants of the cloud cover. The sky was full of balloons - at one point Lee counted thirty or so, including, for all of our prairie readers, the ubiquitous Re/Max balloon. When he wasn't concentrating on keeping us all alive, our Spanish pilot answered some questions about the landscape, about balloon-piloting in general, and managed to flirt back with an enamored Rebecca.

We touched down very softly and were treated to a champagne toast, a group photo, and some commemorative certificates. To say that ballooning in Cappadocia was both serene and exhilarating would be to understate the experience.

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