Friday, September 04, 2009

Cappadocia and the End of Traveling

The end of my trip was imminent. I was on my way to the middle of Turkey to explore Cappadocia and then the plan was to head further East to climb Mt. Nemerut, but as I arrived in Cappadocia everything changed. I had spent no more than a few minutes in this strange landscape before realizing that it would be impossible to leave here so quickly. What started out as a three day excursion quickly turned into a week stay. By now you must be wondering either what is Cappadocia or what is so captivating about it. I struggled the whole time I was there to put into words and images what Cappadocia is, but everything I attempted to relate paled in comparison to the reality of this bizarre landscape.

Cappadocia is a region that covers approximately 100 square km in the middle of Turkey. It is a lunar landscape created by eroded volcanic ash. The end result is vistas like the one above that resemble the american Southwest.

In addition to this it is also an area that has been inhabited for thousands of years by Christians in isolation. What these people created out of these surreal rock formations is what truly makes this place spectacular and like nowhere else in the world.

Churches were built straight into the rock and underground passageways were carved connecting the structures, creating an intricate set of tunnels and valleys that are an explorer's dream. Above you can see a church that has been ripped open by years of wind and water erosion.

Also found on this landscape are towns like Goreme, pictured above, which are both modern and quaint. I stayed here in a pension that was half house and half cave dwellings.

Each day I explored different parts of this region wandering in and out of valleys, sliding down ravines and scrambling up cliff faces.

Everyday I found myself in places that people rarely set foot, on paths that may have only been traversed thousands of years prior. I felt like Indiana Jones stepping into a world from the past.

One day while wandering I stumbled upon a festival.

Here men practiced spear throwing, charging full speed at each other with horses attempting to hit one another as onlookers cheered for their favorites. These war games were both new and exciting to me.

Then to top it all off, I took an early morning hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.

From this vantage I saw ravines and valleys that I had traversed.

It was amazing to see the land as a whole, stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.

We landed as the sun was rising in the sky and watched the other balloons floating across the horizon.

I finished my time in Cappadocia watching the sunset over these conical monoliths. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

And thus the sun set on my Middle Eastern trip. I never made it out to Eastern Turkey, but since it was so beautiful here, I am confident that I will be back one day to finish the trip.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Finally Turkey

Getting to Turkey was no small matter. As nothing is ever as simple as it should be in Egypt, leaving also followed this. It was one of the most frustrating roundabouts I have ever been on to get out of Egypt. As I boarded my plane at 3:30 in the morning, I was happy and saddened as the final chapter of my Middle Eastern adventure was about to unfold. After an hour of sleep, I arrived in the breathtaking city of Istanbul. Here East truly meets West as European culture and Islamic mysticism blend in an enchanting metropolitan.

Here the Blue Mosque can be seen, one of the endearing modern symbols of Istanbul.

This is the new part of Istanbul where people shop, dine and lounge at cafes.

This is the inside courtyard of one of the mosques.

After five days in Istanbul, wandering and exploring, I decided I had to move on. The next stop was Selcuk, an old city famous for the ruins of Epheseus. Above is the library at Efes, the most impressive facade that remains.

Here is the remains of the Amphitheater. At one point Artemis' Temple, one of the seven ancient wonders, also was here, but now all that remains is a single pillar and it is completely unspectacular.

After the ruins I spent the day taking shots of flowers and animals, waiting for my night bus to Olympos.

Olympos was spectacular. Situated in a sleepy cove on the Mediterranean, this group of backpacker huts and treehouses is a real paradise. I could have stayed here all summer as the water was clear, the beaches beautiful and the air clean and fresh.

Despite the other guests, I felt secluded and free, able to totally relax. My days were spent hiking in the mountains, swimming in the Mediterranean and jumping off of cliffs.

This is a view of the coast from the cliff tops. I will come back here. It was that beautiful. But as with all things this too had to come to an end if I was going to make it to my final stop and reason for coming to Turkey, Cappadocia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Sahara Desert

I was anxious to get to my final destination, Turkey, but at the same time, I couldn't resist making a final stop at one of the many oasis that dot the Egyptian desert. From my information gathering I ascertained that the most beautiful and, not so coincidentally, remote place to go was the Siwa Oasis in the Western desert, also know as the Sahara. As we travel further and further West, the most immediately impressive thing is the emptiness. The buildings become fewer and further between.

Here you can see that this outhouse is the only building on the horizon.

We then arrive in Siwa and immediately the number of buildings skyrockets. All life is centered around this Oasis and the naturally occurring pools of hot and cold water which they use for irrigating crops. Above you can see the Shali Mud Fortress which is a remnant from 600 AD. This marks the center of town.

As you climb to the top of the Fortress you can look around and see the expanse of mud and clay houses and the landscape, including a giant rock that looks like a big turd.

I wandered around this sleepy little town finding nice little gardens and pools. Here is a sweet, or cold, pool called Cleopatra Springs. Siwa was the original tourist location with tourists from the Egyptian to the Romans stopping by for relaxation and seeking youth and beauty.

The next day I took a tour out into the dessert. This area is called the Great Sand Sea.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, riding around in a four-wheeler, relaxing in remote pools, and even dune surfing which is like snowboarding but on sand.

We then watched the sun set over the dunes and had dinner at a bedouin tent camp. All in all an amazing way to end my time in Egypt.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Over to the Nile

From Sinai, the Asian portion of Egypt, I took a 9 hour bus ride to the mainland African portion of Egypt and the city of Cairo. The relaxing beaches have been left behind for the hustle and bustle of Cairo streets.

Here you can see Cairo from the top of a spire, specifically the Islamic, old section of Cairo.

Here in the area called Khan al Kalili you can tour mosques and go shopping in the outdoor markets.

I was even lucky enough to stop in on a Sufi Dance where I saw whirling Dervishes.

From Cairo I took a side trip to the pyramids of Giza. Though I got some fantastic pictures, the whole experience was totally underwhelming. It just didn't live up to my expectations. It might have been the flocks of people trying to get your money, or the trash everywhere, or maybe it was the KFC/Pizza Hut directly outside of the front gate.

Regardless it was something I had to do and I'm glad to have it crossed off my list.

Then it was down the Nile to Luxor where I stopped at the Temple of Karnak.

Here, the Row Of the Sphinxes outside of Luxor Temple were both stunning and mildly surreal.

A lot of the frescos were amazing and this one in particular was well preserved.

I then took a Felucca cruise out on the Nile at sunset. Beautiful.

As the sun set on Luxor, I was itching to get a move on, back to Cairo and then off into the heat and desolation of the Sahara desert. It was shaping up to be a great trip.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Music Video

So once again I have found the second music video I was in and am thus reposting it. Enjoy and let me know what you think. This one is by artist Mori Daisuke.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

And on to Egypt

After leaving Petra, it was time to make my way to Egypt. This of course had to involve a stop at Wadi Rum, the desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Our guide took us around in a four wheel drive to various desert sites including hoodoos and natural rock bridges.

Here our guide can be seen making some drawings on the rocks.

From there I proceeded to Aquaba, the Jordanian city on the Red Sea where I awaited a boat.

The beach cafes were nice, especially at night when they are all lit up.

Though the boat ride to Egypt was less than ideal, arriving in Sinai was a breath of fresh air. The relaxing portion of my vacation had begun. I stayed here in a beach hut in a "city" called Nuweiba. It was certainly a little slice of paradise.

I went snorkeling along the reefs in these clear waters and though the viewing was not the best I've seen, it was very calm and satisfying.

The beach was soft and at times you would come across mud flats.

My final stop in Sinai was Dahab, a resort town. Here I went scuba diving, stopping at an eel garden and reveling in the experience. In this picture, you can see Saudi Arabia on the horizon. From here I was off to Cairo and the crazy experience of Egyptian big cities.

Monday, July 20, 2009


From the south of Israel, I crossed the border into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This border is both a physical and a cultural one. As soon as you pass the mountains that divide these countries, you are clearly entering the Arabic world. Birka-ed women appear on the streets and men wearing head coverings are prominent. The landscape changes to a dry desert view and the heat in undeniable. The other change is in attitude. People in Jordan are renowned for their hospitality and live up to this expectation. Everyone bends over backwards for you and you will be sure to be offered tea by anyone you have a one minute or longerconversation. I arrived here with my traveling mate Kerrin, who I met in Eilat, Israel. Together we rode a taxi straight to the top site in Jordan, Petra.

My first view of the deserts of Jordan.

Travelers make their way through the Siq. A long chasm that is lined with magnificent orange rock, carved by wind and time.

You then arrive at the stunning Treasury, a monument built out of the rock face itself that is both staggering in its size and detail.

Pilgrims travel here as it is both a part of the Middle East's herritage and a holy place.

Further exploring yields other impressive sights such as the monastery, another building made from the rock of Petra.A detail shot of the red/ orange rock that makes up the walls and hills of Petra.

A bedouin child looks out of a cave at the broken down amphitheater.

The sun sets over the surrounding village of Wadi Musa as I prepare once again to get on the road.