Day 547 In Beijing: Daniel Pantonassa Church in the Ihlara Valley.


The dome above the main area in the church.

The dome above the main area in the church.


After Jill and I descended the stairs, Sibel showed us the Daniel Pantonassa Church at starting of the valley.

It was cut into the side of the mountain and the frescoes on the walls were amazing.

Many had been partially destroyed, either by time or by vandalism, but they were still very beautiful and worth seeing.

As we traveled, we noticed that the faces, and eyes, of the figures in many of the faces in the frescoes that we’d seen had been destroyed.

We asked about that and the reason is that in the Muslim religion, idols are illegal and so when the Muslims took over these areas, they specifically destroyed the eyes or faces as per their customs.

Luckily, some went unnoticed and still survive while others have been retouched so that the original portraits are now visible.  Many others will never be fixed because no one knows whose face was destroyed and only the rest of the figure remains.

The Daniel Pantonassa Church was very small, and could only hold about 10-15 people at one time, but that would have been more than enough when it was originally built in the 10th Century.

Think about that: These frescoes have lasted over 1,000 years in this desolate climate and region.  It is absolutely amazing to think of how improbable that is even with today’s paints and knowledge of science to keep artifacts safe.





Day 542 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City, Part 2.


We had a lot of fun underground.

We had a lot of fun underground.


Jill and I continued to explore Derinkuyu and were utterly amazed.

We could not imagine over 20,000 people living in these tight quarters for hundreds of years.

As we walked, we noticed the ground had a lot of small depressions dug into it.

We learned that this was a way of tripping up intruders if they happened to find the underground cities.

Each level had certain depressions, that members had to memorize, so they could run down the hallways in the dark, and not trip over them.

The intruders would not be able to see them and break their ankles as they stepped into them.

If they had torches, they’d see them but be slowed down enough where the city dwellers could kill them before the attackers could do much damage.

If you notice, the tunnels are incredibly tight and very small.

We had to bend over, almost touching our toes, when we went through them.

There are also many stairs and they get quite tiring.  I couldn’t imagine trying to bring any armor or weapons into these cities and mounting an attack.

It would be impossible and the attackers would just have to wait out the people living in the underground cities.

However, the people living there had massive stores of food, and since the people above ground had no idea that these cities were here, there is no reason that they’d even be found!

By the way, the pictures of us were taken by our Colombian friends who we met on the Blue Tour the day before.

They happened to be on this tour with us also so we were able to spend a lot of time with them and it made our tour even more amazing.


Day 539 In Beijing: View of Goreme from Our Room.


The entrance and dining room.

The entrance and dining room.


Jill and I truly loved staying at the Village Cave House Hotel and talking to Onur, who owns it.

Onur took it over, from his father, and now runs it with his mother and his brother.

Onur is about 30 years old and very calm and peaceful.

He exudes a feeling a friendship and tranquility no matter what is happening.

He seems to have found his calling and is content running this hotel and meeting people from all over the world.

I believe he also travels and is able to see how others live outside of his little town of Goreme.

It was great to just hang out with him, discuss the world, and get another view point on reality.

He, and his family, are continuing to build more rooms into the mountain and told us it takes a few weeks to get them finished because of the digging and then running electricity into them.

We wish him luck and look forward to staying there when we return to Goreme in the future!


Day 538 In Beijing: Sunset Over Goreme, Turkey.


The view from the platform above Goreme.

The view from the platform above Goreme.


Jill and I were excited about watching the sunset over Goreme since we had heard so many wonderful stories of this city at night.

Jill had been here before but hadn’t been here with me so it was new for her also.

We went up to the platform overlooking the city and just hung out, with other people, and enjoyed the beauty.

It is truly a magical place and it will always be remembered as the city where I asked Jill to marry me and she accepted as we flew across the sky in a hot air balloon.

One of the nice benefits of watching this video is you finally get to hear Jill speaking instead of me!


Day 534 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, JILL SAID YES!!!!!!!!


Two become one.

Two become one.


As you know, Jill and I bought a ring for her yesterday.

She thought it was just a ring that would look nice and not mean anything more than something that would help us to remember our trip to Cappadoccia.

Little did she know that I had other plans for it.

I’m about as unromantic as they come.

Luckily, Jill is even less romantic than I am.

I was married once before and Jill has never been married.

I don’t think she had any expectations that she and I would marry, and instead, we’d just travel the world and live our lives together in an unmarried state.

As we were about 2/3 of the way done with our hot air balloon ride, I knew I needed to move quickly.

The noise from the fire heating the balloon made it difficult to have a long enough time, in silence, so that she could hear me ask her so I had to think quick.

I moved over to Captain Mike and said, “Is there a minute or two where it is silent so I can ask my girlfriend to marry me?”

He looked at me, nodded, and said, “I’ll let you know.”

About 10 minutes later, he said, “We are going to go a bit longer, I want to take you over this field.”

Then he looked at me, winked, and I knew what he was doing.

As we hovered over the field, I asked our new friend, Brent, to take my iPhone and video us.

He said, “What am I supposed to video?”

I responded, “Don’t worry.  Just focus on us for a bit.”

He started taping and I said,

“So, I met you 8 days before I came to China and you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with so…will you marry me?”

Obviously, she said yes.

By the way, the sounds you hear in the background are not Jill’s.  They are from Abby.  It cracks us up because it is so heartfelt and honest.  You can also hear Brent saying, “Oh my god!” as he films us.

Captain Mike tops it off by saying, “You said ‘yes?’  okay, now we can land and we don’t have to throw you out.  Congratulations!”

Brent told us, afterward, that “I was shaking I was so nervous.  I didn’t want to screw it up.”

I think Brent did an amazing job and I love that he caught us, Abby’s cute noises, Captain Mike, and the balloons in the background.  And all in 47 seconds.  They added so much to this perfect day.




Day 533 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Random Shots.


Jill and I had so many amazing shots of our flight on Butterfly Balloons that we decided just to publish a few of them without much commentary.

They speak for themselves.


Balloons over the valley.

Balloons over the valley.

Wide angle shot of the balloons.

Wide angle shot of the balloons.


One of my favorite shots.

One of my favorite shots.

A close up of a Fairy Chinmey and a small "home" inside it.

A close up of a Fairy Chinmey and a small “home” inside it.

Uchisar above the valley.

Uchisar above the valley.

Balloons and the valley.

Balloons and the valley.

Beautiful designs in the sand.

Beautiful designs in the sand.

Balloons and a major rock formation.

Balloons and a major rock formation.

Another rock formation and balloons.

Another rock formation and balloons.

More balloons in the valley.

More balloons in the valley.

As our journey gets closer to an end.

As our journey gets closer to an end.

Balloons in front of the sun.

Balloons in front of the sun.


Day 532 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Into The Valley.


Close up of two very happy people!

Close up of two very happy people!


Jill, the crew, and I dropped into another valley.

Captain Mike wanted to show us a bunch of homes that were built into the valley walls.

We were blown away, once again, by the sheer ability of humans to survive in any type of environment.

People lived in these homes for hundreds of years, to escape persecution either from the Christians or from the Muslims, depending on their beliefs and the beliefs of their attackers.

It is sad to say that this is the main reason that these people lived in these amazing homes, but it seems to be.

I wish that religion, or beliefs of any type, would be more open to other ways of thinking and being able to see different perspectives so that we can get along more easily and see the good in each other.

I am saddened to imagine the fear, hatred, and mistrust that was held, for hundreds of years, because of people believing in a different belief or ideal.

It still happens today, and it still saddens me.

I can only do a small part of changing this way of thinking and that is another reason I travel: I want people to see that I’m not like anyone else and I want to see that they are individuals also.

We are each unique, in our own way, and yet tied to humanity.

When we touch that humanity, we allow our circle of community to grow larger and break stereotypes that hold us back from connecting to each other and seeing how we can influence each other and make the world a better place to live.

At least, in my humble little way, that is what I’m trying to do each day.



Day 530 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Fairy Chimneys.


Fairy Chimneys.

Fairy Chimneys.


After watching the sunrise, the balloon went straight up, as high as they could take us.

It was fantastic to look out from our gondola and just see the land below us.

After descending, Captain Mike took us into one of the one of valleys that was full of Fairy Chimneys.

Again, we were overcome with the amazing beauty of nature.

The Fairy Chimneys were massive and there was a silence in the morning, that was only really broken by the fire from the hot air balloon being heated and a few of us talking, in hushed tones, about the wonders we were experiencing.

I wonder, now, what kind of thrill, if any, Captain Mike, has as he guides the balloon through the valleys and across the plains?  I have a feeling, from watching him as he looked out, he still loves it deeply.  He also has a great sense of humor and was able to show his joy by his comments and by pointing out things we might have missed because we were trying to see so much at once.

I can’t imagine how amazing it must be, day after day, to be able to take people up in balloons, see this amazing landscape, and share that with people that see it for the first time.

It has me now interested in learning how to fly a balloon, or a plane, for the first time in my life.

My mom, by the way, just started shaking her head, “No” and telling her husband, “Phillip,  why does my son do this to me?”



Day 529 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Sunrise.


Peace and beauty.

Peace and beauty.


Jill, our whole crew, and I were anxiously waiting to see the sunrise.

We were not disappointed.

It seems to take a very long time to break through and each second was precious.

As the light shifted, we kept being amazed, and stunned, by the colors that would appear in the sky.

You could actually see the sun’s rays changing and cutting through the haze as it broke over the horizon.

There as a beautiful silence, and awe, that everyone in the balloon seemed to experience together and it was great being able to appreciate this sight with them.

There is something about traveling, and this seems to happen more when we are traveling, where you are in a group, and you all experience an amazing event together, that makes it more powerful.

Even if no one speaks or talks about it, it seems to have a hold over everyone and the honor of being there, with other people, to experience this kind of magical event, even if it happens every day, is “once in a life time” for that certain group, and for me.

It is just another reason I love to travel and see the world.

I want to see what I can see, and experience as much as I can, before I leave this mortal coil.

I’m 45 and who knows how long I’ll have now.

I have often asked my clients, “If you were to walk out the door, get hit by a bus and die, what do you want on your gravestone?”

This may sound shocking, and that is my intention, because I want them to realize they have a chance, at this moment, to change their life.

Each client has their own answer.


I want to have seen all 7 continents, to have seen the 7 wonders of the world, and to have shared them all with Jill.