Metamorphosis

dsc_0051Things are changing.  am changing.  I can feel the beginning of the end of another chapter unfolding.  On one hand, I have become so comfortable here; I have forged a home and a tribe in an unfamiliar place and I am a better person for it.  On the other hand, I realize that I will soon run out of lessons to learn here and I did not come all this way only to become stagnant in a new location.

We have already decided that next year will be our last in Turkey and every time I think about it, I am flooded with a wave of emotion.  It will break my heart when I go.  As much as it has driven me to the brink of insanity at times, this place will always be special to me.  I have watched some friends come and go and others have children.  I have made countless memories.  I have experienced wonders beyond my wildest dreams and accomplished feats that didn’t seem possible.  I have proven myself to myself.

Just a few years ago, I was constantly daydreaming about the future, hoping with all my heart that I could make this big thing happen.  It has been good for me to learn to live in the present.  I guess that has been the first symptom; lately, I’ve been thinking about the future again for the first time in a while.

My soul is ready for its next transformation.

A Quick Break in Kosovo

img_35651

We made the last-minute decision to head to Kosovo this weekend to celebrate my husband’s birthday.  The moment school let out on Friday, we threw together a couple of backpacks, booked a hotel, and we were on our way.

So, why Kosovo?  Several reasons, actually.  First of all, the tickets from Istanbul to Pristina were incredibly affordable and the flight times were perfect.  Secondly, everything we read about Pristina mentioned that the cafe scene there is top notch – a fact that this coffee nerd can now attest to.  We spent most of our time in the city trying to find the coolest cafes and testing out all the coffee.  The city’s specialty is an espresso machiatto latte – and my god they were delicious.  I’m not normally into milky coffee, but the quality of the milk and the ratio of milk to coffee made this drink an exception for me.

20180526_1100131

20180526_1209271

Not only did all of the cafes serve incredible coffee – they were also incredibly quirky and charming!

20180527_1438211

In addition to an amazing cafe scene, Pristina has an up-and-coming food scene as well.  I was really surprised by the quality of all of the food we ate there – especially considering that we didn’t do any research about the food at all; we pretty much just wandered into whichever restaurants seemed appealing in the moment and were not disappointed.

20180526_1113121

The whole city has a funky, eclectic vibe that will probably only get cooler with time.  It’s kind of crazy to visit a country that is only 10 years old.  Pristina has updated their iconic Newborn sign to reflect Kosovo’s 10th anniversary as a country.

img_3570

Kosovo’s ever-changing face is evident in its confusing mix of architecture.  Old, abandoned churches stand next to newly-built mosques; modern cafes line the streets next to Communist-era structures that look like the backdrop of a creepy sci-fi movie.  It’s very weird – in a good way.

20180526_131557

20180526_125619

Another quirky-cool highlight for us was the Museum of Broken Relationships.  We actually wandered into it by accident, but decided to check it out and it was 110% worth the 2 euros!  It was very unique and surprisingly moving.  If you’re planning to visit Pristina anytime soon, definitely check it out.

img_3577

We really loved our little getaway to Pristina!  I highly recommend it as a very cool and budget-friendly destination.  With only two weeks left of school, I am already getting pumped up for more adventures very soon.

img_3557

Seriously though…how crazy is this library?

 

Cappadocia Part 2: Underground Cities and Breathtaking Monasteries

20180513_143157.jpg

After a good night’s rest, we were ready for another day of touring – this time, a little farther away from our home base. Our first stop was the famous underground city of Derinkuyu.

20180513_102726.jpg20180513_105131.jpgIMG-20180513-WA0077

Derinkuyu is an incredible man-made marvel 65 meters underground. This ancient and mysterious city is thousands of years old and was most likely built as a shelter to protect citizens from invasion. It has been estimated that up to 30,000 people could have lived in Derinkuyu, which had tunnels connecting to other underground cities in the area. Such a unique and fascinating place! Be warned, however, that it is not for the faint at heart; the tunnels are narrow, dark, and often crowded. If you are claustrophobic, it might be best to admire it from afar.

IMG-20180513-WA0085.jpg

After crawling around in a dark cave city, the fresh air and green trees of Ilhara Valley were a welcome sight. We took a leisurely hike along the trail, admiring a few of the churches along the canyon walls before stopping for lunch in a riverside bungalow.

IMG-20180513-WA0042.jpg

20180513_123224.jpg

Our driver met us at the end of the valley to take us to our last stop: Selime Monastery…and holy crap! What an amazing place! I was immediately shocked that I had never heard of it before. This beautiful monastery carved into a giant fairy chimney overlooking a valley full of more fairy chimneys looks like something out of a fantasy novel!

IMG-20180513-WA004720180513_150119.jpg

IMG-20180513-WA0022.jpg

I was totally blown away by Selime. Petra fans, this should be your next stop.

20180513_150805.jpgAfter a couple hours of exploring, we reluctantly climbed back down to the cab to get ready to catch our flight back to reality. Since we got back a little early, we had some time to take in the views at our hotel with one last bottle of Turasan wine.

IMG-20180513-WA0029

I am so grateful to have spent such a wonderful weekend with such a wonderful friend! Happy Birthday to me! Here’s to another year of adventure.

The Perfect Birthday Weekend in Cappadocia Part 1: Turuncu Turu

IMG-20180512-WA0019.jpgThanks to one of my dear friends, my 27th year on Earth is off to an incredible start.

20180513_164348

IMG-20180512-WA0003.jpg

How incredible is the view from our hotel?  Can’t recommend Hezen Cave Hotel enough!

We caught a red-eye flight to Cappadocia on Friday, checked into our hotel, and managed a few hours of sleep before getting up and around for tours.

IMG-20180512-WA0013.jpg

We hired a driver and spent our first day touring sites near our hotel in Ortahisar.  Our first stop was to see The Three Beauties (Üç Güzeller), followed by an incredible hike through Devrent Valley.

20180512_122823.jpg

20180512_121423.jpg

Of course, we also had to stop for some wine because nothing says “Happy Birthday” like a little wine tasting before noon!  We picked up a nice bottle of red to enjoy back at our amazing cave hotel later in the evening.

20180512_115708.jpg

We got caught in a crazy downpour at the Zelve Open Air Museum, but it didn’t stop us from exploring.  We hopped into the old dwellings carved into the fairy chimneys to take shelter.20180512_132908.jpgAfter stopping to dry off with some coffee and mantı, we headed to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which is famous for its well-preserved frescoes inside of the ruins of orthodox churches.  It was a beautiful place, but a little too crowded for my taste.  I much preferred Zelve.

IMG-20180512-WA0038

Hobbit home goals.

Our next stop was a little ceramics shop, where we watched some demonstrations, learned about traditional pottery in the region, and bought a lovely Turkish coffee set for my husband and I.

20180512_174121.jpg

IMG-20180512-WA0049

Our last stop before dinner was to Üçhisar Kalesi and the Pigeon Valley.  The views from the top of the castle were stunning and watching the sun set over the fairy chimneys through swarms of pigeons was nothing short of magical.

IMG-20180512-WA0031

We finished our first magical day in Cappadocia with dinner, dessert, and wine.  27 is feeling pretty damn good so far.

A City Break in Berlin

20180421_200854.jpgWhat does one do with an unexpected three-day weekend?  Check Skyscanner for cheap getaways.  Unfortunately, my husband was stuck on duty for this one, but I was grateful to have a lovely weekend to myself to explore a new city.

20180422_193258.jpgThe weather was unbelievably perfect the whole time I was there.  My first evening was simply spent watching the sun set at Brandenburg Gate with a beer and some currywurst.  After all, I needed to fuel up for my walking tour the following day.

20180421_182721.jpg

The tour began at Brandenburg Gate, where we learned about the Prussian period of the city.  Shortly afterward, we moved forward in both time and distance at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  The monument is made up of about 2,700 cement blocks, each made with different dimensions (perhaps intended to symbolize the unique beauty of each individual that was killed).  The monument is beautiful and interesting, but also very sobering.  Berlin does not have an uplifting history.

20180421_185906.jpg

20180421_185826.jpg

I was also fascinated by Berlin’s Soviet history; though admittedly very dark, it was interesting to hear about how people managed to escape into West Berlin, how unceremoniously the wall came down, and how the divide impacted the city in terms of culture and architecture.  Honestly, I can’t recommend SANDEMAN’S tours enough.

20180422_150333.jpg

20180422_145031.jpg

After my walking tour, I decided to explore a bit more of the city on my own.  I headed for the East Side Gallery, a strip of the former Berlin Wall that is covered in artwork, followed by a journey through the lively Kreuzberg neighborhood.

20180422_161503.jpg

20180422_161726.jpg

20180422_163941.jpg

Something that struck me about Berlin is how many green spaces can be found in the middle of the city.  There were picnics happening EVERYWHERE and it was amazing.  If I had had more time, I would have run to a supermarket and joined in on the fun.

20180422_162649.jpg

20180422_172338.jpg

If I had to sum up Berlin in just a few words, I would call it a city in transition.  It has a varied and tumultuous history, though it is now one of the most progressive cities in the world.  It has changed very fast in a short amount of time.  I think my tour guide said it best when he said “Berlin is always in the process of becoming Berlin.”  It was a city unlike any other I’ve been to.  While it has a pretty dark past, it also has a very promising future.

20180422_193620.jpg 20180421_200422.jpg

Istanbul Tulip Festival

IMG_3465.jpgSpring has arrived.

IMG_3449.jpg

Every year in April,  colorful displays of tulips can be found all over the city of Istanbul.  More than a hundred varieties of tulips can be seen in almost any of the public parks.  After three years, we finally decided to see what all the fuss was about and we weren’t disappointed.  It made for a perfect afternoon and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

20180415_110809.jpg

20180415_122154.jpg

20180415_111405.jpg

IMG_3475.jpg

IMG_3452.jpg

This is just further proof that spring is Turkey’s most beautiful season.

The Divided Capital of Nicosia

20180402_152633.jpg

On our second day in Cyprus, we decided to take a day trip to the capital, Nicosia, which is the capital of both the North and the South (although you have to go through a border crossing with your passport if you want to go between sides).

IMG_3391.jpg

We chose to stay on the North side and do the blue line walking tour, which is quite possibly the most interesting walking tour concept I have encountered in my travels so far. Basically, there is a blue line painted alongside the road throughout the whole city and following it will take you to all of the main sites and then back to the main gate.  I felt a bit like Dorothy following the yellow brick road.

IMG_3369.jpg

IMG_3373.jpg

IMG_3376.jpg

IMG_3379.jpg

IMG_3372.jpg

20180402_152604.jpg

20180402_155213.jpg

IMG_3385.jpg

IMG_3387.jpg

IMG_3389.jpg

20180402_171148.jpg

IMG_3392.jpg

IMG_3394.jpg

The path took us through historic neighborhoods, beautiful houses, church-turned-mosques (I’m such a sucker for architectural fusion), pazars, incredible street art, amazing hipster cafes, artisan shops, and ridiculously beautiful floral displays.  I could say more, but I think the photos speak for themselves.