Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Journey to Cappadocia

Last night I took an overnight bus to cappadocia. While it was a nice bus like a greyhound, there wasn't room to sprawl and we stopped every few hours so everyone could smoke. More chaos than there were zzz's. It took a few hours to just get out of Istanbul traffic...the city is huge!

After getting in to Cappadocia, I took a hike around here. Some random German shepherd seemed to lead the way for me, even whined to encourage me to get up a steep rock climb, then wouldn't leave my side. She followed me all the way back to the hostel and didn't leave the porch for awhile after I went in. So crazy..this was a four hour hike overall. Def pulls my heart strings :)

The food is just ok. Feel a little cheated that today was the first day I had real Turkish coffee...the other days was all nescafe :p I would've gone to starbucks much sooner! Lol. Meat hasn't been so appealing so I haven't had their kabob staple. But thankfully grapefruit is in season, and eating more sheep cheese bread and yogurt than I'd like to. I miss my veggies!

Tomorrow I have a balloon ride at 6am which will be at about 32degrees. Otherwise temps are gradually getting warmer as I go. 

Monday, January 27, 2014


Made it safely to the next stop: Istanbul! Just in time for their all time coldest days of winter. Highs of 39 and rainy. Warmer than the Midwest just by a bit, tho I'd probably have a few more layers there since I packed so light this time.

Upon leaving 60 degrees in Jerusalem, parting ways from my family, and departing at 3:10 am for my 7:10 flight, I kept questioning why I'd chosen this journey. Once again the answer became apparent after a few encounters. One girl on the shuttle bus explained to me in detailed English where the bus was going to stop and where I should transfer to the train. My hostel host greeted me with coffee and set me all up with the rest of my turkey itinerary. 

I haven't done much here besides wander around and look at lamps and talk to people...mosques aren't too intriguing after the past week of seeing church after church. So not much to update but here are a few photos for now!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Palestine (Jerusalem and Bethlehem)

We made it to Jerusalem which seems to be where all the juicy biblical action seems to be. I remember trying to read the bible front to back in the later elementary years, but all that history and facts ( to this day) seem to be a mumble jumble. So it's wonderful to be here as a visual turned kinesthetic learner to actually see and walk the roads of history.

We started at the mount of olives with 2000 year old olive trees:

Then went to Bethlehem where 20-30% of the population is Christian and the rest Muslim. 

We drove back to Jerusalem, touring the churches and old town, and traced Jesus's final steps to his crucifixion. Again, cool to put places with the stories, but hard to imagine in this built up city. It almost felt like we were worshipping the churches and altars and everything that He touched. 

I kept thinking He was here, but could not sense His presence now. Not that the people are rude or that I don't feel safe...perhaps it's because people don't seem to be happy or perhaps it's me feeling like a tourist. I love our tour group and spending this trip with family and feel closer with each person of our group...but by being in a group is isolating me from the natives. I'm not a backpacker, struggling daily to find my hostel and rely on natives for help and feel blessed afterwards. We're pretty spoiled in our hotel, complete with breakfasts and dinners. And blessed with a great tour guide. 

Now I'm rambling and not sure which direction to take this besides sleep. So goodnight for tonight!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kabbutz Lavi and NE Israel

For the past two nights we've stayed in the hotel of a kabbutz, which is just like the ol' farm commune I worked at for a summer. This one is spiritual in that it's Jewish, and all 150+ families live together and pool incomes and share expenses. These were started as farming communities but not everyone is a farmer anymore.

While the hotel is nice, I'm bummed we haven't been able to eat much of their produce during their buffet breakfast and dinners. The mangos and avocados and fresh milk, etc sounds wonderful, yet my guess is that we've only had their grapefruit and olives. While the grapefruit is tasty, it's not as sweet as those ruby reds from Texas in April!! I have no olives to compare. 

As for sites, we drove to Magdelen, home to Mary Magdelon. Then we took a short boat ride in the Sea of Galilee, the only body of fresh water in Israel, and where Jesus walked on the water. 

We also visited Beatitudes and capernium, and the church where Jesus fed his feast of fish and bread and wine. 

Up and down the rolling mountains reminds me a lot of the Rockies with dry climate and rocks everywhere. Our guide Hilik, aka the soccer butcher, pointed out Lebanon and Jordan, and we got right up to the border of Syria.

 We also watched a baptism in the Jordan river, home to disgustingly large catfish that are deemed non kosher, which is why they got so big in the first place. 

The Jordan river is actually more like a creek! 

We have three people with our group who are from Brazil, and today the only one of them who could translate English to Portuguese got sick. The couple tried to listen to Spanish tours, as they knew some Spanish too. Who knew how important a translator could be! I tried to say a few things but our guide spoke much more in depth than my Spanish allowed. So when trying to say 'he said here...winter' probably still didn't make any sense to them, or I confused them more! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chicken, pasta, or kosher?

Thats right folks. We have landed in the holy land, full of holy fruits, holy history, holy waters, and holey socks. That last one is just me I think :)

We arrived Sunday at 3pm, took a short walk along the Mediterranean before the sunset, then ate this holy delicious dinner: 

Not street food so perhaps not as real. But clean and fresh and wonderful regardless. Lots of eggplant and chick pea dishes to be expected! 

We crashed by 8 pm since none of us had slept much on the flight. Then roughly back up at 7 am for a huge breakfast spread. 

Our tour took us to Caesaria along the coast:

Here were the old toilets at the horse races:

And Haifa:

And Acre (Muslim town):

And cats are the new rats! Much cuter!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

bags packed!

Ready for takeoff!

Photo is a little misleading since I chose to bring a bigger bag 'just in case'! But the fact is that I must've learned something about packing over the years. Not sure why my pack is lighter than last year even tho I'm going to cooler temps...either it's bc I'm wearing all my layer or bc I forgot something!

Here's what I'm leaving behind: a frozen Lake Michigan with a few inches of fresh snow!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

no gonna lie

It was hard for me to hang today. Good thing night lift tickets here run for $10 a pop (usually $40/half day upwards to $110+/vail).

I had a good rep going for me...Colorado girl, used to boarding 2 miles above sea level, with 3 years under my belt. Granted, I was never out of breath here, though habitually drinking lots of water.

But when there's only one lift open, and it's 700 feet long, it's quickly tiring. I thought it'd be icier than it was, but one run was soft and freshly groomed. And hey, not a bad view to the top!

this doesn't happen here...

Thursday after yoga I was thrown off by this sight:


Good thing Friday things went back to normal:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

paying it forward

Update! Today (Tuesday, Jan 7) is the final day for online donations...muchos gracias!

My travels are taking a different twist this February. Time to pay it forward for the goodwill and hospitality I received from so many strangers last year.

Consider helping me bring homes to our brothers and sisters in El Salvador with any amount of donation!