Ephesus, Pamukkale & Istanbul
After leaving Cappadocia, I took a night bus to Pamukkale. Pamukkale are natural springs, and walking in them felt like walking on the moon. I met some new friends from China (and realized how rusty my Chinese is. 🙈) Meeting new friends is always one of my favorite parts of traveling.
After Pamukkale, I made my way to Ephesus. I spent the day visiting relics and then in the afternoon, I planned to visit St. John's basilica. As I was walking up the hill to get to the basilica, I passed by a waffle shop, and the owner offered me a cup of tea. I stopped by and sipped tea for hours, alternating between chatting and enjoying the quiet.
At sunset, I walked up the hill to the basilica, where the disciple John is said to be buried. I was one of the only people there. It was a humbling experience to visit, especially alone.
Afterwards, a friendly stranger gave me a flower and showed me the best spot to watch the sunset. I thought about how much beauty there is on earth. It's broken, yes, but beautiful. And I thought about how beautiful it is to watch someone do what makes them light up, what they were made to do.
After Ephesus, I went back to Istanbul, where I started my journey. I met up with a friend and climbed the Galata tower to see the whole city in the morning air... such a lovely way to end a lovely trip.
Cappadocia has been on my dream list for a couple years, so I was soooo happy to finally visit! Honestly, I am not just saying this, it was even better than I pictured it... full of wonder and whimsy and history and the kindest people.
My guide grew in in Cappadocia and told me about how as a child, his family made terra cotta vases from the local clay and used them to carry drinking water. He studied English literature in college and all these years later, he's still in Cappadocia, happily sharing this magical corner of the earth with people who come to visit.. He spent the whole time sharing puns and jokes and sharing his love for his home. I could tell how much he loved his work... he was glowing.
I got to see paintings in cave churches built around 400 by Christians who were living & hiding underground to free persecution.
And I visited a pottery making studio and got to try it for myself! It is MUCH more difficult than it looks. I met some new backpacker friends from Mongolia and Kuwait and we had so much fun exploring together, AND, to top it all off, I got to stay in a cave hotel!
Everywhere I went, people offered me hot tea! I loved it. I felt so at home and cozy and welcomed.
It was too windy for hot air balloons but I still had the best time. And now I have another excuse to come back ☺️
I'm sipping tea in my pajamas and looking through photos from my trip. When I first shared my plans to see Istanbul, my words were usually met with concerned and even panicked stares. I'm a solo traveler and the US embassy just issued an alert warning Americans to leave. After lots of thought, I decided not to change my plans. And I'm so, so glad I didn't! Istanbul, you're a stunner.
I planned to visit Istanbul on a long layover on my way to Bangkok. In the airport, I met an awesome new friend and invited her to join me for my tour. I love meeting cool new people. It’s one of my favorite things about traveling.
After we’d been in the air a few hours, our plane made an emergency medical landing in Canada. (Everyone was okay.) I rescheduled my tour for my layover on the way home, and the people at Barefoot Plus Travel were so gracious and helpful about helping me change my plans.
When we landed in Istanbul, I only had a few hours before I had to be back at Ataturk, but my new friend and I decided to go out and adventure around the city anyway! We asked a friendly stranger for help using the metro and he ended up showing us around himself. So, so kind.
We saw the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and then walked to the Bosphorous. We stood in Europe, looking at Asia. The night was perfectly crisp, the scent of corn and fish roasting over the fire lingered in the air as we looked out over the glimmering water… it was one of those moments I hope I remember forever.
On my way back from Bangkok, I had the best seat. A window seat on the front row of economy. You guys know I love window seats -- and on top of that, extra legroom. I got so excited it confused the people around me. Thank you, Turkish Airlines.
Well rested with my latte in hand, I met my tour guide Wanie. Wanie, you’re amazing! I had the best time seeing Istanbul in the daylight. After driving around the city and seeing the beautiful foggy morning views, I was able to tour the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (where someone proposed to me), and Topkapi Palace before heading to the Spice Bazaar.
At the Spice Bazaar, the kindest old man offered us samples of Turkish delight. I had to say no thank you, explaining that I can’t eat nuts. A few minutes later, he came back with rose flavoured Turkish delight (nut free!) It was just a small thing, but really special to me that he’d go out of his way so I could sample them. Everyone I met in Turkey was incredibly warm and friendly. I can’t wait to go back someday.
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (I'm not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in being vulnerable, following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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