Sunday, December 29, 2013

Horsing around in Uzumlu.

Since the first of December we've been in Uzumlu, Turkey helping a UK couple with five horses they've rescued from abuse or abandonment. It's another one of those WWOOF-like opportunities where we get room and board in exchange for learning new skills, and horse care was on Patrick's interest list.

We only have a week left so we thought we'd let you know what the heck we (and the other volunteers) have been doing all day to deserve our ensuite double bed private room and the well-stocked kitchen. Here's a quick rundown...

In the morning we tether everyone up, put out the breakfast food and prepare the horses' evening meal. There's a food schedule, a handy reference sheet listing all the food amounts, and labels on all the containers and buckets. Particularly after our last two Help Exchange experiences, and because the food is sort of complicated at first, the organization has been very appreciated!

"where's my sous chef??"

The horses get a mix of chaff, bran and various other goodies whose names won't mean much if you're not a horse person. They also get a net full of delicious-smelling hay and tear into it, dropping half on the ground in the process.

Merlin hoovering the hay

This feeding process happens three times a day (usually 7am, 4pm, 9pm). The food and amounts are slightly different for each feeding time, and occasionally our host changes amounts or herbal remedies depending on the needs of the horses.

Next we muck out the stables. The floors are lined with wood shavings because they're absorbent, inexpensive and more accessible than straw in these parts. They're easy to muck out but they're quite dusty. It's AS FUN as it sounds!


scoop, clear, level, sweep


This task takes about 30 minutes per small stable and up to an hour for the larger stables. We do it twice in the mornings, because the horses go back into their stables for an hour's rest between breakfast and morning hay. We also clean up the manure in the paddock in the afternoons and evenings.

Mucking is usually a joint effort where little tasks are done by different people to complete the larger task. One little task involves dumping everything into a compost pile. Once in a while local people come by to carry compost off for their gardens, but in the meantime the pile grows. Occasionally in the afternoons, a horse gets on top of the compost pile just for fun.

not a horse
(but so much fun!
can't you tell by his face?)

On a good day we're able to clean the horses' feet. Well, some of them anyway. They're all barefoot so it's pretty easy when they stand still. Each foot on each horse is different, of course of course, and in addition to cleaning the main part of the hoof we also have to be sure to dig out small stones that collect around the edges of the foot.

Star was having a good day

It's pretty intimidating until you get the hang of it, and the horses sense when you hesitate and use that to their advantage. At this point Star is the easiest because she's so small and lifts each foot in advance instead of making you work for it. Amira is usually pretty patient but she gets nippy when hay is on the way. We've done Smartie a few times; during Jen's last attempt he gave her a lovely bruise with his mouth so we leave him for the pros now. Dervish and Merlin? Noooooo way. Toooooo big.

We also "rug" the horses in the afternoon and evening, and "derug" them in the mornings. It took a little while to memorize which rugs belonged to which horse (and also to remember that "rug" was another word for "blanket"). Depending on the temperature and time of day the rugs vary, and usually five minutes after we put them on they've gone wonky and need straightening. But we've gotten it pretty much down to a science at this point.



These chores take about 2.5 hours in the morning, an hour around 4pm, and an hour around 9pm. In between shifts we're welcome to hang out with the horses. We have attempted to take Star for a walk by ourselves (which failed miserably), and we've watched our host lunge and train the horses (Jen once tried lunging Star which also failed miserably).

the Christmas Day walk with Smartie
went a little more smoothly

our host successfully
putting Star to work

Because of the horses' natures and our lack of experience, we don't ride. But Patrick gets in quality time with them, and Jen has been taking time in the afternoons to brush Star and Amira's manes and tails. Especially with seven people (soon to be nine) here now, it's nice to have some quiet time and reconnect with the girls outside of the thrice daily chaos of chores.

There are horse and house projects here and there including never-ending fence mending, wood shaving collecting from town, and hay stacking, but all of those depend on the weather and any unexpected new priorities that come up... as they do, daily, on every farm we've visited.

We're also welcome to just chill out in between shifts...

so we do

We're both on book #2 and our hosts have countless movies in regular rotation in the lounge. Patrick is halfway through the James Bond series and Jen has forced everyone to endure animal massacres in Watership Down and Ring of Bright Water.

We live communally with our hosts and their Help Exchange/WorkAway volunteers, and taking care of household chores is both expected and appreciated. Generally this just means keeping the place tidy (especially because our hosts are trying to sell their house) and helping with meals. Jen has had a great time cooking in our host's well-equipped kitchen, which means that Patrick is usually left with dish duty.

luckily he's got Santa's Little Helper (aka Sookie)

The house is surrounded by mountains and close to Fethiye. On days when we're on duty for all three shifts we tend to stick around the house and rest, read, write, cook, or help our hosts with house projects, but when we have shifts off we get out and explore.

More to come on that - it's really a beautiful area! In the meantime, back to mucking...

Monday, December 23, 2013

FUNemployment reflections.

Dear family and friends,
We hope you are having a wonderful, warm, safe holiday season. We don't usually get into the year-in-review letter writing business (though we always enjoy yours immensely!). But given the nature of our past twelve months, we thought we'd make an exception this time...

WOW! It's been quite a year!

You may know that after weathering another Pacific Northwest winter, we left corporate life and Portland behind to see this great big world. We do plan to return someday and get jobs of the yet-to-be-determined variety, but here's how life has changed for us over the past eight months...

Our office became Patrick's Subaru, then Jen's parents' basement, and then a new hostel every 3 days or local homestay every few weeks. Our daily view of Mt Hood and the Willamette River was replaced with scenic vistas of mountains, prairies, oceans, and everything in between. Our mouse-clicking muscles went flabby; our constant computer-related shoulder pains and headaches were swapped for backaches from actual manual labor and 12 hour bus rides. Deliverables that were once fairly intangible became guarantees for food and lodging - slightly more concrete.

Our brain cells stopped figuring out complicated Excel formulas and ambitious project plans, and focused instead on learning "please", "thank you", "hello", "goodbye", and "potato" in six languages (seven if you count Canadian, eh?). Synapses once used for client management turned to processing more European history over the past 90 days than in all of our years of public education combined. Budget reports became... well, budget reports.

Cubicles, meetings, and eternal printer paper jams were replaced by 10,000 miles of a "check engine" light, a bazillion mosquito bites and rose thorn pricks, kilos of manure, several overnight airplane/bus/train rides, dozens of meals cooked in flaky teflon pots, numerous sleep-deprived nights in snore-filled hostel dorms, and a few close encounters with bears.

Instead of Voodoo doughnuts for breakfast, Stumptown coffee breaks at Floyd's, and leftover Hot Lips pizza for lunch we enjoyed poutine and beaver paws in Ottawa, lobster rolls in Maine, cheesesteaks in Philly, pierogies in Warsaw, beer in Prague, plum jam in Nemcicky, stinky cheese in Olomouc, goulash in Budapest, moonshine wine in Lisa, Turkish delight in Istanbul, pide in Goreme, and kebaps in Fetiye. And a million farm fresh eggs.

Our upper management over the last eight months included countless sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats, horses, farm dogs, farm cats, and farm kids. Our annual reviews were generally positive and included the following results:
- Patrick exceeded expectations in fencemending, goat whispering, road/streetmap reading and panoramic photography. Areas to work on include horse wrangling, price checking in the local dialect, and drinking less caffeine after noon.
- Jen exceeded expectations in plum picking, manure clearing, campfire/hostel cooking and event summarizing. She was below average in goat milking but excelled in goat cheese eating. Areas to work on include wood chopping, regular yoga practice on the road, and not bringing up goats in every single conversation.

We miss our friends in cubeland and Portland, but we've made great new friends along our way. We've found that just like office life, communication while traveling can be challenging but a smile goes a long way and if you are nice to people, they will usually be nice right back to you.

We haven't escaped the scope-budget-schedule triad by any means. End of year numbers show that we are a quarter through our overall itinerary, a quarter through our trip funds, and a projected two months late (and counting) getting to SE Asia. In the travel version of project management, that's actually a great thing!

We have appreciated your support throughout our journey.  We are so grateful for all the opportunities we've been given so far, and we look forward to what 2014 will bring. Wishing you and yours a wonderful new year!

Patrick and Jen
c/o Slowly Global
Uzumlu, Turkey

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Friday five: these are the horses we know, we know.

Five horses we see every day, in order of the size of their food buckets:

Star gets the smallest food bucket because she's on a diet. She is patient while I clean her hooves and brush her mane, but once the food arrives all bets are off. She loves hay and tends to have a green face most of the time. When food isn't involved she pretends to be a bully, as evidenced by the time we tried to take her for a walk and she (literally) dragged us through a muddy field, but now that I know her better I think she's really just a little softie with a Napoleon complex.

Star gets bored and/or agitated in her stable at night and kicks a lot. There are new holes in the walls every few days and she's completely destroyed her stable door. (We call it Star TV - she started with a 13" screen, moved on to a 36" a few days later, and now she's all about HDTV.) Star tends to get hand-me-down blankets from the larger horses; they don't quite fit her and as a result I end up singing "Coat of Many Colors" to her on a regular basis while I rug her up.

now showing on the 36":
"my little pony"

Dervish and Merlin get the same sized food bucket. These two have been around the stables the longest. They like to romp in the paddock, roll in the mud, and go for long rides with experienced riders (AKA "not us"). They also like to poop right after we've emptied all the poop buckets - how cheeky! They can both eat a plum and spit out the pit, and I bet they could tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongues if given the opportunity.

These lucky guys get mint every day to help clear their air passages, and their food buckets always smell delicious! Dervish has asthma so his food and stable have to be treated with care. Merlin has recently reverted back to some unfortunate behavior so we don't deal with too him much but our host assures us that he's a sweetheart under normal circumstances.

They're both very curious whenever we're in or near the paddock. And they're so handsome!

posing Merlin

Dervish quality-checking his bed after the morning muck
(or, more likely, looking for leftover food)

Smartie gets a slightly larger bucket than Dervish and Merlin. Smartie is true to his name - since we've been here, he's unlocked stable doors, gotten into the tack room, unhooked his tether chain, knocked over anything and everything he can get his mouth around, and otherwise outwitted us silly amateurs.

He likes to nom on your arm with his lips (which cracks me up) and when he accidentally chomps down, he knows he's gone too far and pulls back. When he's done with his food bowl he picks it up with his teeth and bangs it on the ground (which also cracks me up). Occasionally we are able to clean his feet but once in a while his impatience gets the better of us and we leave it to the pros. He's quite obnoxious when he wants to be, but hey - what teenage boy isn't?

Smartie plotting his next scheme

Last but not least, Amira. She is gorgeous. She's also patient, well-mannered, and the messiest eater of the five (hence the largest bowl). When she likes you she shoves her huge head into your chest. When she's hungry she wants nothing to do with you. When it rains, even if it's cold, she pokes her head out of the shelter into the drizzle and lets the water drip down her neck.

Amira has a sensitive tummy so she gets an antacid in her food every morning. (Maybe this is why I get along with her so well?) It's hard not to love her.

our brown-eyed girl 

We also see three cats and a dog every day, and the neighbor's chickens, goats and crazy puppy almost every day.  But (especially if you live in Portland), you probably do too, so that story won't be very interesting...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Turkish baths: awkwardly awesome!

As soon as we mentioned Turkey as a destination, everyone who's been to a hamam (Turkish bath) suggested that we give it a try while we're here. We've been skeptical. It's a little pricey, all the tourists do it and we try to avoid those types of things... oh, and also, it involves a stranger bathing you.


But yesterday was an anniversary of sorts and when our hosts explained exactly what was involved and gave us the afternoon off, we decided to splurge. They recommended Sultan Hamam in Calis Beach and kindly dropped us off on their way into town.

So exactly what is involved? Here's a quick rundown.  I should note that Sultan Hamam wasn't a 100% authentic experience (we should've been in separate rooms and not wearing anything, and my bather should've been female) but sharing a room definitely enhanced the entertainment and enjoyment factors.

After changing into our swimsuits, sandals and a peştemal (a colorful checked cloth you tie around your waist) we sat in a blessedly warm sauna for 10 minutes while enjoying a fizzy cool lemon beverage. Next we were escorted into the bath area, a large cement-tiled square in the middle of the room with faucets on the walls all around. We laid on our backs along two edges of the square while the staff scrubbed the heck out of our skin - after three and a half months of mediocre showers and two weeks handling horse manure and wood shavings, the exfoliation felt WONDERFUL!

A quick rinse and we were laid back down.  The guys loaded pillowcases with olive soap, spun them around to create bubbles, and squeezed the lather over us for the cleanse. (You know that slightly awkward feeling you get when you go to the dentist and they floss your teeth for you? "Uh... I'm almost 39 years old, really, I can handle this.  Thanks."  That's kind of how I felt the whole time they were scrubbing - don't get me wrong, it was lovely!  Just odd.)  A little massaging of the hand-chop variety, another rinse, and we were done.

cleaning up real nice

Depending on the establishment, you can also opt for shampooing, head massages, facials, oil massages, intense foot scrubs - all kinds of additional pampering. For our first time we decided to keep it simple, but I might go in for a facial at some point to repair all the damage from negative-degrees-celcius and maybe-washing-my-face-every-other-day-(maybe).

To round out our monthiversary afternoon off, we took a walk along Calis Beach and stuffed ourselves silly at Pasamzade.  

not pictured:
one ginormous lavash with dips of olive, yogurt
one cheese kebap
one mixed pide
one tomato/cucumber side salad

We waddled to the bus station and made our way back to Uzumlu to find that our kind hosts had picked up a celebratory cake... we somehow managed to make room for a few bites of brandy chicken and this delicious treat:

on a cake!
we love turkey!

For our next monthiversary we'll be in Spain.  Tickets have been purchased, plans are forming.  Not sure how we'll top strange men rubbing us with olive soap and sparkler cake - but we're gonna try!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Friday five: straight into the horse's mouth.

{Obligatory disclaimer: the following is based on our current volunteer experience helping a couple from the UK care for five horses in Turkey. We thought it was interesting and thought you might think so too. There is a LOT of advice on ye olde internet about what to feed - or not feed - a horse; not surprisingly, a lot of it conflicts based on location, season, breed, personal opinion, etc. Please consult your friendly trusted local vet if you have any questions about what to feed your horse(s). Teşekkür ederim!}

Everyone knows that horses love carrots and apples. Did you know they love oranges too? They just chomp down and enjoy - but not before they've squirted juice everywhere, including all over you! They also eat watermelon, cherries, peaches, apricots...

We help feed the horses hay, chaff, bran, and special nutrient-rich foods (besi and kusbi) three times a day.  Here are five more things the horses eat on occasion, in no particular order:
  • eggs and eggshells
  • bananas and peels
  • dried mint
  • boiled lentils
  • ice cream
we hear that Merlin
looooooooooves his ice cream in the summer

As with all mammals (humans included), there are limits to the above list and the general "everything in moderation" rule applies.  And as with all mammals (humans included), horses tend to know what's bad for them and simply avoid it or eat around it.

Our host is trying different herbal remedies on a few of the horses too. A handful of the mint referenced above goes into Merlin and Dervish's food three times a day to help open their nasal passages, and Dervish gets some eucalyptus oil to help specifically with his asthma. The kusbi gets a splash of castor oil to help the joints, coat, digestive system - everything, really.  Our host is also trying linseed (boiled for hours to remove the toxic casing) for general health reasons.  It appears to be a lot like chia seeds, chock full of good stuff and a similar gooey consistency.  And she's looking into turmeric mixed with cracked pepper and olive/coconut oil as an anti-inflammatory.

We have also learned that potatoes are bad for horses (I can relate), as are unboiled lentils, certain seeds and other foods encased in hard shells... er, other than eggs, that is. And like every pig we've met, we've learned that horses don't seem to like onions or garlic. Some people say they're toxic, others say their horses just don't like them. Otherwise most of our veggie compost goes into a few buckets which become a lunchtime treat for the horses the next day.  Up to this point, the horses we've been around have eaten hay.  Sounds like they are missing out.

I find it so interesting that the same things my naturopath probably would've suggested for me, can apply to these beautiful, powerful creatures too.  It's also fascinating that every single aspect of farming - from how you plant a seed, to how you compost, to what you feed your animals - varies so widely from farm to farm, yet the results we've seen so far have always been positive.

More on the horses and our daily chores when we have a chance to do some photojournaling. But we're learning a lot and we're feeling really lucky to be here.  We'll feel even luckier when our toes thaw and we aren't emptying ice from the water buckets in the morning... and when the other volunteers get here and we can sleep in!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hey, remember when we were on a Greyhound bus headed to Newark airport?

Three months ago we ate our last breakfast in the U.S. and piled ourselves and our backpacks into the Shafer family car.

not pictured: Dad Shafer

At the New Carrollton Greyhound station we put our fate into the hands of the first of many bus drivers we would meet (and have yet to meet) on our journey. About 30 hours and several modes of transportation later we were in Poland and so were our backpacks. Success!

We have had a lot of opportunities for fate to cooperate so far...

Like the time the check engine light appeared three hours after we left Portland, and never fully resolved itself during the four months we were in Canada. But it never really caused any issues either.

Or those times we had to push and shove to ensure we had a seat on various Polski buses (despite having prepaid for our tickets). Because apparently that's how it's done in Poland.

Or the morning crossing the Poland-Slovakia border without a Euro to our name, no bankomat in sight, and a 20km walk in our future.  Luckily that nice man gave us a (very expensive) ride to our hostel.

Or that time at the Burdur bus station when Jen accidentally walked into the womens' prayer room thinking it was the bathroom.  At 4am the room was empty and she was able to quietly back out without offending anyone.

Or two days ago when, halfway to our final destination, the bus driver pulled down the sign indicating our final destination - leaving us to wonder how (and more importantly, when) we would actually get to Fethiye. All we had to do was change buses at the next stop and wait 10 minutes for departure. Easy as pie.

(Mmmmmm - pie.)

Cancelled flights, compromised credit cards, lost luggage - we can understand how major annoyances like these cause people to take staycations.  But we also know that the little irritations can really add up too.  We are grateful that with each day that passes, we have more patience, more tolerance, more of a sense of humor about everything.  It really helps that everyone we have encountered has been helpful. And almost all those people have also been incredibly friendly too... Except that one lady at the Krakow bus station information booth. But hey, we all have our bad days.

So once again we thank The Universe for three months overseas and counting. Here's to another successful three months as we make our way toward Southeast Asia - whenever and however the heck that happens!

in the meantime, to Turkey!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Volunteering at Lisinia Doğa.

(Awful but appropriate subtitle: every rose has its thorn.)

After nine hours of the world's most uncomfortably hot overnight bus ride from Göreme to Burdur, the bus driver stopped briefly at a highway exit and pointed.

It was 4am. Pitch black. In the middle of Turkey. Not the first time Jen has been dropped off on the highway in the middle of the night... probably not the last time for us, either! We got our bags and walked a few hundred meters to the bus station to wait for our ride. At least it was cold outside - zero degrees celsius, to be exact - a pleasant change from the bus sauna.

Our volunteer host had assured us that the bus station was new and would be warm and safe, even at 4am, and he was right. We half-slept slumped over on hard seats for the next several hours. As promised, an older Turkish man in work clothes wandered over around 8am. "Lisinia?" he asked quietly. We nodded wearily, picked up our bags, and followed him across the parking lot to a small minibus with sideways benches instead of seats. The man spoke no English and several times during this walk, I prayed that I had heard him correctly. ("Wait, did he say 'taxi?' He spoke so softly. Are we blindly following some dude who is going to drive us around Burdur for an hour, charge us 150 Turkish lire, and then drop us at the highway exit like the bus driver?")

Nope. He had indeed said "Lisinia". He pointed Patrick to the front seat and me to a bench in the back where two Turkish ladies were already seated. I smiled hello. They smiled back.

This type of communication with the locals would be common for the next several days. It worked surprisingly well.

The driver picked up about eight more ladies on the way to Lisinia. The back of the bus began to look and feel like a clown car. When the benches were full, the newcomers refused my seat, taking the floor instead.

re-enacting the clown car a few days later

One lady passed around hard candies and insisted we all take a few. They smiled, laughed, chatted. I may not know Turkish but I know gossip when I hear it. I smiled too.

We arrived at Lisinia Doğa and met the current group of volunteers - a Slovenian, two Romanians, a Canadian, an Aussie, a Swede. After a few days several of these folks would leave and we would be joined by three Germans and a Turk. The volunteer manager was Turkish; he was also the only one on the project fluent in English and we would interact with him the most. All but the Swede were in their early twenties. This gave the project a bit of a summer camp feel. (Fun for us for nine days... Actually, about four days of it was enough for us - we're old.)

Once again we arrived late in the season so the harvest work had finished. Our main job was to help bundle unearthed rose bushes and roots for replanting.

uprooting the old roses

transporting, part one
fill the trailer

transporting, part two
empty the trailer

the ladies replanting roses
in the new soil

if we never touch another rose bush 
for the rest of our lives...

or wear one of these...

This area of Turkey is one of the biggest rose producers worldwide. Ozturk, who self-funds the Lisinia project, purchased neglected fields of roses in order to replant them in his own fertile soil, and will eventually sell them to support his wildlife rehabilitation and cancer-prevention-awareness programs.

like this one
we were invited to
on our sixth day

Anyway. Rose branches and roots buried a meter deep will regrow into bushes. We had no idea. One afternoon Ozturk pointed to a nearby field; with the help of translation we learned that the plants had grown a meter high after just one year. We hope the new field fares as well.

Most days we worked with the other volunteers but we also spent a few days working alongside men and women from the village. Hearing the ladies' laughter as they chatted in the field, sitting with everyone during snack breaks or lunch, dancing to Turkish music when the tractor driver cranked the radio, working side by side to finish tying the rose bundles, cramming into the clown car after the work day was done - these are the memories that will stay with us. We may not have shared a language but once again, hand signals and laughter bridged the communication gap just fine.

The project also has huge orchards and fields that produce enough... er... produce to sustain a village, or in Ozturk's case, hundreds of volunteers each year. We enjoyed heaps of watermelon molasses, pear compote, canned tomatoes, apple desserts and olives during our stay.

And bread. Lots and lots and lots of bread. Sigh. (On the up side, I did try my hand at homemade bread and it turned out really well.)

Ozturk's project is well-intentioned. As we learned more about Lisinia we realized we didn't necessarily agree with some of his approaches and philosophies, and we were a bit disappointed with the late-season project management (or lack thereof - the work days were a bit chaotic, basic supplies regularly ran out, that sort of thing). Doesn't matter though - we still wish him and the project the best of luck.

We had one full day off so we took a hike up the hill behind Lisinia. Burdur Lake is surrounded by mountains and the views from the hills, the fields, the Lisinia camp are all really lovely.

leo also joined us for a bit

Back to those thorns... In addition to the ones that rooted themselves into our hands, arms, and legs while we worked, we have one in our side as well.

{enter soapbox}

We had some real challenges with about half of the age-20-something volunteers we worked alongside at Lisinia who did nothing but complain the entire time. Yes, it is a volunteer gig in exchange for food/shelter, but by not accomplishing the task requested of you in a reasonable amount of time, you are essentially freeloading. And even worse, you are generating more work for everyone else. We are not comfortable with this. And for the life of us, we cannot understand why young people feel entitled to behave this way. Or feel entitled at all.

We worked hard when there was work (as did several of the other volunteers), and the work was NEVER hard. One day we were all in the field for about three hours and one kid complained, sighed, wandered around aimlessly, and took breaks the entire time - all I could think was, "you wouldn't have lasted five minutes at Earth's Harvest or Buffalo Horn!" While we appreciated the kids' imagination and creativity in the kitchen, we wished they had shown such energy in the field. Or when it came time to clean up their messes in the kitchen. (Again, this was not everyone...)

But they did not.  So we will be choosing our volunteer opportunities a little more carefully going forward. We have also been choosing our hostels more carefully. Too many experiences with obnoxious, self-centered youth in hostel kitchens and dorm rooms has left a bad taste in our mouths. This must be why couples our age opt for hotels instead of cheaper accommodations when traveling...

Now get off our lawn.

{exit soapbox}

And now we are off to Fethiye to enjoy some down time before a month of rescue horse care. We are looking forward to a little stability in a mature, structured household over the holidays before rejoining our fellow travelers.

We hope you are all enjoying your winter, wherever you might be, while we enjoy the Mediterranean coast, regular access to hot showers, and a white bread detox!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A few weeks ago in a Göreme far, far away....

(Ed. note: This is going to be a lot of blah blah blah that will probably get kinda boring kinda fast unless you've been there and can relate, or you really want to go one day.  Suffice to say - we absolutely loved Göreme and the parts of Cappadocia that we saw.  We loved the mystique, the calmness, the strangeness, the pureness, the smallness and yet the vastness.  We loved the feeling it gave us - we are mere specks in this crazy, crazy Universe with its endless timeline!  We were noticeably sad the day we had to leave.  And we can't wait to go back someday.)

Göreme was fascinating.  Fascinating and awesome and amazing.  From the moment we stepped off the bus to the moment we left, we constantly looked around and wondered where we were - the moon?  Another planet?

no, just the middle of Turkey

Sooooo many pictures, some are here, many others are here.  We spent three full days exploring the town and surrounding area.  Everywhere we looked, there were incredible caves carved into the hoodoos.  The rock was soft enough to easily shape, but sturdy enough once the wind hit the walls that people were able to build multi-level houses.

mcmansions of days past

with lots of nitches for wall storage
(or TVs)

exploration was encouraged
(just around the corner there was a ground-level door -
Jen chose that entry point instead of this one)

We mostly just wandered...

through Red Valley...

Rose Valley...

Love Valley (awwwww)...

Pigeon Valley...

One day we took the "Green Tour" - an easy and affordable way to see a lot of spread-out sights in the area.  We started at Derinkuyuthe deepest underground city in the area (approximately 85 meters deep with 16 floors).  Built in 800 BC, this city provided a safe haven for Christians during enemy attacks in 500-1000AD.  It could accommodate about 20,000 people and included amenities like wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels.  (All that info was copied from the internet.  But it's all true, according to our guide Kasim.)

surprisingly roomy

It was pretty amazing.  We were able to explore about 7 of the 16 floors, and we went down pretty deep.  Back in the day ventilation was poor but it worked well enough for short periods of time... And when it didn't, there was also a temporary morgue area.

exiting the morgue area
unlike like the guy
who had his picture taken in the grave
(we call him "rude")

Next we walked several kilometers through the Ihlara Valley, only 17k as the crow flies but a full 40k in length (making it the second longest canyon after the Grand Canyon according to Kasim... we don't have time or interest in confirming or refuting this, so we'll leave that to you guys).  

we can confirm 
that it was gorge-ous

Ağaçaltı, an ancient church, was situated in the valley, and the frescoes were bright and clear.  Many other churches were also carved into rocks in the valley but we didn't have time to visit them.

amazing how the color stays
after almost a millennium

After the walk we lunched at a local cafe and headed to Selime monastery.  "Amazing" has been overused already but there really is no other word...


Selime monastery was carved by monks in the 13th century and includes three churches (one pictured above), monks’ quarters, a large kitchen and stables for animals. 

40-50 people once ate around this table

We had a lot of fun exploring all the nooks and crannies this place had to offer and as with everything on this tour, we wish we could've stayed a bit longer.  Such is the nature of paying others to lead you around...

Finally, we stopped at the rim of Pigeon Valley before visiting an onyx factory.  The jewelry was beautiful but alas, we were there to sightsee, not buy.  

mandatory sightseeing adorable photo op = free

The next day after hiking around a bit, we toured the open air museum where almost a dozen churches were built to house Christians during the 14th and 15th centuries.  All had intricate frescoes, some more artistic and stylistic than others (photos were not always allowed, click the link above to see better examples).  How they did this back in the day amazed us.

how they remain intact today astounds us

Cappadocia is THE place to do a hot air balloon ride but the day we signed up, the tour was cancelled due to bad weather.  Next time, perhaps...  Or maybe we will just leave that to the tourists so that we can enjoy more beautiful valley walks.

like this one

Otherwise the weather was good and the moon was out in full force the whole time we were there.

all we needed was...

... a little Turkish delight

... or a tripod

Food notes:

  • lentil soup was everywhere so we embarked upon the lentil soup Pepsi challenge...
the winner - Sarmasik

  • dried fruit was also in abundance and we enjoyed local dried apricots, mulberries, plums, raisins and figs
organic mulberries and "Obama" apricots
(so said the vendor -
he was out of peach "Clinton" apricots)

  • we found this amazing trail mix in a local market

the orange things have peanuts inside

  • pide is well known in Turkey, so of course we had to try some at FIrIn Express

  • pomegranates were everywhere so we took some along on our hikes
messy but delicious

  • and the kebaps were amazing
Sarmasik's chicken clay pot kebap
broken open right at your table
slightly better than tableside guac

Saray, where they proudly give you
five pieces of delicious meat
instead of three like other places

Lodging notes: cave hotels are all the rage these days so we chose a private room at Nomad Cave Hotel.  It was off-season so the price was just right.  Only thing better would've been a double bed... but that's so anti-Flintstones!


The Nomad staff were great, providing hiking, tour and dining recommendations which we enjoyed immensely.  They do push certain tours but it's a tourist town and that's the way it goes... all you have to say is "not interested" and they don't push anymore.  The breakfast was tasty, the showers were hot, and the tea flowed all day.  We would definitely stay there again.

Göreme was a slight sidestep but well worth it and we would love to spend more time here.  Spring is apparently the best time to visit because the weather is gorgeous and the wild flowers are blooming...