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    Cappadocia with Mom

    We took Mom to Göreme for her last weekend in Turkey!

    Where we stayed
    When we planned our travels to the Cappadocia region, we knew we wanted to stay in a cave hotel. Some of our friends highly recommended Vineyard Cave Hotel. We loved it! We stayed in Room #5, which was completely cave except for a very small window by the door. The room was large with two queen size beds, a flat screen TV, fridge, and a seating area. It also had a massive bathroom complete with a hammam-style water basin. Even though it was a cave (originally a stable), there was electricity and great Wi-Fi. 🙂






    After we dropped off our bags, we visited the Göreme Open Air Museum. (A UNESCO site, 20TL or free with the Müze Kart.) Cappadocia rocks:










    Our host Hasan Bey took us on a personal tour for a couple of hours Saturday morning:




    He showed us one of the few rock churches in the area with a pulpit:




    I love seeing the frescoes. Many of the caves were used as churches and monasteries, and there are lots of frescos of crosses and Biblical scenes. This was the first time I had seen drawings of pomegranate trees. At first glance, I thought they were Christmas trees:




    We also visited Özler Onyx and watched a man carve an egg:




    After looking around the store, Mom asked if she could buy the egg we watched being carved and polished. Instead, the store worker gave her one as a gift. Turkish hospitality cannot be beat!




    Next, we walked around the edge of Love Valley. Can you guess how it earned that name?






    Our last stop on Saturday was Kaymaklı Underground City, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance costs 20TL or is free with the Müze Kart. We hired a tour guide for 50TL. I strongly recommend hiring a guide. While there are a few signs indicating rooms, there are no written explanations of what you’re seeing.




    There are 36 excavated cities in the area, but our guide estimated there are closer to 100. Kaymaklı is the widest one open to visitors. We walked and crawled through four levels of the city. We saw animal quarters, living quarters, storage areas, churches, millstone doors, and the kitchen. People lived in the caves for up to six months hiding from their enemies.




    We woke up early Sunday morning to watch the sunrise and hot air balloon launch:






    We had a fantastic time! It was the perfect finale to Mom’s travels in Turkey. I’m so glad she was able to visit. (She returned safely to the States on Thursday!)




    Where we ate
    Pumpkin Restaurant: The Pumpkin Restaurant raised their price since the last time I visited. They offer a set four-course menu each night for 40TL. It was so delicious! Definitely one of my favorite places to eat at in Turkey.
    Kale Terrasse Restaurant: Kale Terrasse was moderately priced and the food was decent.  Mom and I shared a testi kebap – a meat and vegetable dish slow cooked in a sealed clay pot. They break the pot open when they bring it to your table.



    Fall Break: Pamukkale

    Pamukkale is so unreal! It felt like a bizarre theme park in the middle of nowhere – only it’s a completely natural site.




    Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. From far away, it looks like a snow capped mountain. The white landscape is created from a type of limestone deposit. Water flows from the hot springs at the top of the hill, carbon dioxide evaporates, and calcium carbonate is left behind. The water from the springs flows throughout the town of Pamukkale:


    Pamukkale water


    Pamukkale Park


    Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance costs 25TL or is free with the Müzekart. (We love our Müzekarts! They have saved us so much money… especially since we visited this site twice! I think you must be a teacher or student in order to get one. Make sure you have your Turkish ID number and you can purchase it at any major site.) The travertine only comes so far down the entrance path. Once you get to the white, you must take off your shoes. The ground was easy to walk on, and the texture provided needed traction.


    Pamukkale ground






    Pamukkale travertines


    People have traveled to the mineral spas since the 2nd century B.C. They say there’s several health benefits from soaking in the water.


    Pamukkale pool


    The ancient ruins of Hierapolis are at the top of the hill. I was surprised how big the city was. We could have spend a lot more time exploring. Heriopolis is mentioned in Colossians 4:13. Phillip was martyred here. The archaeological museum costs an extra 5TL or is free with the Müzekart.

    The reconstruction of the theater was impressive:


    Theater at Hierapolis




    Legend has it that Cleopatra sent men around the land to find healing waters. The water that was brought from Pamukkale yielded the best results. They’ve made an attraction called “Cleopatra’s Pool” (a gift from Antony to Cleopatra) and you can pay to swim among some of the ancient ruins. We got changed and opted for the free mineral pools on the way back down the hill.


    Cleopatra's Pool


    Pamukkale travertines


    Pamukkale ground


    The natural terraces created the most perfect pools. There were even ledges around the edge:


    Pamukkale pool


    Bathing in the mineral water


    Bathing in the mineral water




    Other notes on Pamukkale: Between the Kurban Bayrami holiday and it being the end of summer, there wasn’t a lot to see or do in the town itself. We ate at White House Restaurant & Cafe and Lamuko’s Lokanta; both were tasty. Pamukkale can easily be a day trip.

    I loved Pamukkale! So much, that we went up again a few days later. (More pictures from that soon.) We left around 5pm to head to our next destination – a coastal beach town!



    Fall Break: Laodicea

    David and I had our third wedding anniversary in June. We take turns planning surprise trips, but this summer was too busy to get away. Instead, we took a belated anniversary trip this month. Our fall break coincides with Turkey’s Kurban Bayramı holiday. I was so excited when I found out David was taking me to Pamukkale!


    Ankara to Pamukkale map


    David made reservations at Bellamaritimo Hotel, but there were some issues with the booking. The owner called us, apologized, and told us he would coordinate accommodations elsewhere. We thought that was kind of him, especially since we were getting in around 10pm. He put us in Koçak Otel, which was the second grossest place I have ever stayed. We didn’t feel like there was much we could do, so we kept everything off the floor and settled in for the night. We did have a really nice view of Pamukkale in the morning, though! It looked like a snowcapped mountain:




    Kurban Bayramı is a sacrifice holiday. (Read more about it here.) Pamukkale is a small town with village houses. As we walked down the street, I looked to my right and saw a live sheep partially decapitated. Nothing like a little gore first thing in the morning! Preparing the meat was a family affair:


    Animal sacrifice


    Pamukkale opened later than usual because it was a holiday, so we drove eight miles south to Laodikeia (aka Laodicea). Entrance costs 10 TL or is free with the Müzekart. Laodicea is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


    Laodicea sign and Bible text


    Laodicea was one of the seven churches of Revelation:

    To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

    These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

    Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

    To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    –Revelation 3:14–22


    Paul’s helper Epaphras brought the word here.




    We were so impressed with the ruins. This place is massive! We explored for two hours and could have stayed longer. They’ve been excavating since 2003 and there’s so much more to be done.


    David on the street in Laodicea


    Laodicea Temple A




    Column reconstruction of the agora:


    Agora columns


    Laodicea rocks


    Laodicea Theater


    Laodicea was leveled by earthquakes. Hardest. Puzzle. Ever.


    Laodicea rocks


    Pieces of the ancient water system were visible throughout the city. (Watch a great video on it here. It gives new meaning to the passage about the city being lukewarm!) Especially seeing all of the water not too far away in Pamukkale, it was surprising to learn how big of an issue water was for this city.


    Ancient water pipe


    One of our friends recently gave a sermon series that included a visual of a catenary arch. David nerded out when he found this one:


    David holding up a catenary arch


    Laodicea tile work


    Brick arch


    Can’t wait to share photos from our two (yes, two!) hikes up Pamukkale to Hierapolis!



    SB14: Split, Croatia

    After Plitvice Lakes National Park, we drove four hours south to Split. We arrived in the late afternoon, got cleaned up, and walked around the harbor.

    Where we ate
    We ate dinner at Restoran Bajamonti. It had great sea food and a blue lobster on display in a tank.

    Where we stayed
    We rented rooms 1 and 3 at Villa Stone Flower. It was much more a bed and breakfast than a hostel. We loved this little place! It was centrally located, had fast Wi-Fi, and was decorated so nice. The owner Ana was super sweet and gave us some options of things to do. The only problem we had was parking our massive van. But the boys found a parking structure not too far away, so it worked out fine.

    The next morning, we grabbed some pastries and walked toward the water.


    Split boardwalk


    Old wall


    Here’s the Croatian National Theatre:


    Croatian National Theatre in Split


    Split, Croatia


    Teal shutters in Split


    We made our way to Diocletian’s Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The Roman emperor Diocletian built it in the fourth century AD as his retirement home. I haven’t seen the show, but the palace is a filming site for the HBO series Game of Thrones.


    Split castle


    The palace was quite large. Homes and businesses were built into the walls. See a 360° tour at this website.


    Corinthian columns


    You can walk around most of the palace for free. We paid a little extra to peek into the cathedral, baptistery, and mausoleum.


    Carved Door




    Flowers growing in a wall


    We didn’t spend much time in Split. We had a four hour drive back to Zagreb and returned to Turkey the following morning.

    It was an awesome spring break trip! I’m always very thankful for our breaks and the opportunities we have to travel. We returned rested, relaxed, and ready to knock out the last quarter of the school year!


    Here’s a recap of the trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia


    SB14: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

    After Krk, we left the coast and headed to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park was my favorite part of our trip! Plitvice is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The drive there was beautiful with mountains and forests, but the road was crazy with a lot of switchbacks.

    Entrance to the park was 110HRK, which is about $20. (Price conversions were tricky this trip… with a lot of initial sticker shock!)

    My professional guestimation is that we saw 16,939 waterfalls.


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    We walked along footbridges that weaved in and out and over and around the waterfalls. We scored big being there during off-season. We heard that during peak season it can be so crowded that you’re shoulder to shoulder with people the entire walk.


    Plitvice footbridge



    Purple flowers


    Wood pile


    We took a ferry across one of the lakes. We had a funny culture shock moment on our return ride. In Turkey, we’ve learned to be aggressive in lines. Our ferry was packed. Some people had to stand in the aisles. We sat on the benches at the very front. As we pulled up to the dock, we immediately stood up so we could be the first ones off the boat. And we looked like idiots. Everyone very methodically and in true Western style exited the boat row by row. People didn’t even stand up until it was their turn. Shame on us.


    David on the ferry boat


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    Everywhere we looked… waterfalls and more waterfalls!


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    On our way out of the park, we made one last stop.


    Plitvice Waterfalls


    Here’s our travel group:


    Our travel group


    The water came over the footbridges in some spots:


    Chacos and water


    So much so, we had to walk across bridges on the footbridges. As David said in his Vine video… “walking on water!”


    Footbridge bridge


    It was an awesome last waterfall to see!


    Jumping by a waterfall


    David and a big waterfall


    Where we stayed
    We stayed at Hotel Bellevue. We chose this one over Hotel Plitvice because it was cheaper. It was very basic and fairly clean, so it worked for a night. The hotel was a 10 minute walk from park entrance #2. It was nice that we didn’t have to worry about parking.

    Where we ate
    There were no towns or villages by the park, and our only option was the restaurant in Hotel Plitvice. After we dropped off our bags, we walked across the street for dinner. We had a really weird Grand Budapest Hotel moment. There was a grand dining room with white tablecloths and napkins, but only a handful of the tables were being used. The meal was average. The breakfast the next morning at Hotel Bellevue was awesome. It was just what we needed before our hike in the park! We stocked up on snacks and fruit before we got there, so we had plenty of munchies for our hike.


    Here’s a recap of our trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia


    SB14: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia

    After our morning in Ljubljana (still David’s birthday!), we drove 50 miles southwest to Škocjan Caves Park. The caves are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The visitor center was under construction, so our tickets were discounted. Also due to renovations, part of the caves were closed, but we got to see a different section that wasn’t usually part of the tour.

    We piled into an elevator that took us down the hill closer to the entrance of the cave.


    Elevator lift


    Škocjan Caves Park


    Cave cliffs


    The caves were carved out by the Reka River:


    Cave river


    Outside the cave


    Škocjan steps


    Cave entrance


    Škocjan Caves Plaque


    We followed a trail of stairs up and back down a section of the caves. I think the tour guide said it was around 100 meters high where we stood. It was cool inside the cave, but not as cold as I thought it might be. Photography wasn’t allowed inside, but David accidentally took this one:


    Inside Škocjan Caves Park


    It was interesting to see the structures and ledges the early explorers used. There was a super old bridge high above where we walked. Amazingly, very few people died exploring the Škocjan Caves. Young boys did a lot of the initial explorations. They were good at squeezing through tight spots and climbing the walls.

    You can see a 360 degree virtual tour on the cave’s website.


    Us at Škocjan Caves Park




    After the caves, we walked to a lookout point that had a fantastic view of the valley:


    Caves and river


    Škocjan Caves Park


    We love to explore a balance of both city and nature when we travel, and we really liked the caves.

    After a few hours at Škocjan Caves Park, we drove back to Croatia. Our lack of pre-planning caused a few troubles in Krk…


    Here’s a recap of the trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia