En Route To Istanbul

En Route To Istanbul


It’s currently 3am in Turkey, and I’m sipping very very hot chai at a very very cold remote rest stop 3 hours outside of Istanbul. They made me pay to use their squat toilet. Oh squat toilets, how I missed you so.


What we did a few hours before we left:










- At time of posting in Outskirts of Duzce, it was 14 °C - Humidity: 26% | Wind Speed: 1km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy


Backpacker’s Guide To The Cafe

Backpacker’s Guide To The Cafe

While Calvin is going back to the hotel to grab our bags for the bus back to Istanbul, let me describe my surroundings. I’m typing this with a wireless connection in Panorama Cafe. There are clay pots which hang from the ceiling with backpacker’s signatures. “Germany 12/14/10 (an arrow pointing roughly north)” is the one I can see clearest. Someone had written the flavors of hookah available on the window with marker, but its pretty faded at this point. One window is obscured by empty cigarette boxes (“smoking kills” stickers facing out).

I type this from the outdoor section of the cafe which has embroidered pillows scattered along the walls. I’m sitting on one of these next to a narghile which smells of mint and rose. There’s a guitar to my left, which I was playing around with before I broke one of the strings. oops. A young spanish couple are the only other people in this place. They’re enjoying some beers as it is drizzling out and no one seems to have the will to do any serious hiking/atv riding. Despite not being able to go hot air ballooning (my student Mary told me it was one of the coolest things she’s ever done), all is okay. Its peaceful right now.


Cappadocia On The ATV

Cappadocia On The ATV


Just because the balloons got rained out doesn’t mean we can’t have another kind of adventure:



They call her MAMA grizzly


We rented a couple of ATVs and took them out on the town, and caught some beautiful views:

Rose Valley


A very phallic "Love Valley." Yes, it’s really called "Love Valley." Yes, for that very obvious reason.

Sonya: “Maybe that’s why they call it love valley?” Oh Sonya, you’re so innocent.



Cappadocia just got served


Now time to get some…




or take obligatory pictures of cute animals:




- At time of posting in Cappadocia, it was 18 °C - Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: cloudy, rainy


ATV Diaries

ATV Diaries

preface. I thought I’d be able to charge my camera with a mini usb. wrong. so I’m stealing Calvin’s photos until we can get back to Istanbul and find a camera store with the proper charger for my camera battery.

While riding atv’s, here are a few things I noticed.

There are some beautiful flowers in bloom. Wallflowers, poppies, and a purple one that I can’t remember the name of. [no picture. sorry!]

The sandstone in the distance reminds me of Utah.




There are layers of red and white sedimentary rock interspersed with green vegetation.

I’m really glad I went on those geology field trips with Wendy Van Norden because I managed to identify the caves of Cappadocia as being made out of tuft, or volcanic ash.




The holes in the rocks? Naturally born out of the gases trapped when the ashes first settled. The valley of love has its weird phallic formations?




This is the result of the underlying sandstone eroding faster than the volcanic ash. Where the volcano is that made this ash though is something that my 12 year old tour guide Odstep couldnt’ tell me.

Early christians dug out these caves and even turned some of them into churches, with beautiful paintings. I can only imagine how much they missed their Roman homes as they painted fake brick patterns on the ceilings of these caves and carved columns around arches.




Urdurp’s Castle is particularly awesome. I would’ve loved to be the rock climber who got to scale these formations to make new homes.



— steph

Another 5AM Morning

Another 5AM Morning


UPDATE 4 hours later: What a fail. The rain picked up so much by the time we got to the balloons that they decided to send us home. They said they would call us in 2-3 hours if they decided to start it up again but as far as I know, nothing is happening. Nature, WHY?!

I’m pretty disappointed, seeing that we’re leaving Cappadocia tonight for Istanbul. At the end of the day though, it really was out of our control and I get to save 95 euros. But what this really means is that I’m about to pull a General Douglas MacArthur on Cappadocia: “I shall return.” Just you wait.








It’s currently 5:22am in the morning. We’re soaking wet sitting inside a bus waiting for other people to get on; the worry is if we can make it to the hot air balloons before sunrise. It’s raining outside. Some of our clothes are still wet from yesterday. But there’s wireless on this bus. Badass.




- At time of posting in Cappadocia, it was 13 °C - Humidity: 94% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: rainstorm


There’s A Storm In Cappadocia

There’s A Storm In Cappadocia


Just got back from a wet n’ wild excursion around Goreme and Cappdaocia. In other words, a lightning thunderstorm thrashed about and we were stuck in the middle in the big wide open fields. Smart, I know.





If you ever find yourself here, do yourself a favor and do the following things we plan on doing:

  1. Book a hot-air balloon ride for the next morning at 5am (trust me, it’s for a sunrise you’ll never forget). Although the regular rates are 155-200 euros a person (over $250 USD!!!), I managed to bargain tickets down to 95 euros. Simply say: “the guy next door is offering it for 100 euros, so can you offer a better deal?” and keep going back and forth until one of them taps out.
  2. Visit the unique Open-Air Museum (15 Turkish Lira) at Goreme. A great starter on what to see at Cappadocia, especially if you want to explore “cave churches” and well-preserved frescoes of Jesus Christ.
  3. Book a table at Disbel Restaurant so they can prepare you (at least 3 hours) the slow-cocked testi kebap that they’re famous for.
  4. Rent a few ATVs and put pedal to the metal.



What I noticed and liked about Cappadocia is how the touts are different from those of many tourist destinations in other countries. Although there still are the obligatory souvenir stalls in front of anything that has a door, the “touts” aren’t touting: Here nobody is coming up to you and asking for you to take a free look; they’re simply hanging out and waiting for you to come to them. With the exception of the aforementioned hot air-balloon exchange (I wouldn’t consider them touts since they’re not selling souvenirs), if you feign detachment in order to haggle down the price they won’t bother playing the game; they just shrug and say “suit yourself.” That could be both a good and bad thing…they’re no longer up in your grill, but that means they’re not so easy to haggle with either.

I’m not sure if this is normal Turkish behavior (something to do with overly begging/selling something as inappropriate?), but I find it a huge sense of relief when walking around. I no longer have to defend myself by trying to reply with a direct “No! Thank you!” in a different language anytime someone comes up to me trying to sell something. It’s as if everything about this place is peaceful, even the part when they’re supposed to want your money.





A well-suited comparison: Cappadocia is extremely similar to Hampi, if anything a little cleaner and family friendly.



- At time of posting in Cappadocia, it was 14 °C - Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: thunderstorms