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 546 In Beijing: Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey.


The Ilhara Canyon and our guide, Sibel.

The Ilhara Canyon and our guide, Sibel.


After we visited Narli Gol, our guide, Sibel, took us to Ihlara Valley.

Entering Ihlara Valley allowed us a 4 kilometer walk through an amazing canyon that was a refreshing break from the heat.

Many people used to live there and it is now a park so we were allowed to walk through and see the ruins from another time.  There are also many abandoned churches scattered around the walls of the valley.

There is only a tiny village, about 1 or 2 kilometers outside of it, and Sibel told us that very few people live there and it would be incredibly cheap to rent an apartment or house if we wanted to stay.

Jill and I are always asking prices because we are interested in where our lives will lead us and how to be less connected to the grid and to the idea of “civilization” if we can manage it.

This may sound strange, since I have this blog and Jill runs, SF Tourism Tips (which, if you haven’t clicked the link, please do and subscribe/like her page as it is our main business at this point), but we actually are very open to disconnecting and just being in the flow of life and not having to work and buy things.

I’m writing two different ebooks, one on how to change your life and the other on how to minimize your stuff, which ties in directly with our beliefs on how we want to live our lives.  I have also noticed a lot more people talking about minimizing and being more adventurous so hopefully these books will reach a large audience when I publish them.

As for the Ihlara Valley,  we had to walk down a long flight of stairs built into the mountain side and it afforded us a gorgeous view of this valley thriving with flora and fauna.   Compared to the dryness and lack of green outside of the valley, it is a very stark contrast and we could understand why so many people were drawn to live here in this peaceful oasis.



Day 545 In Beijing: Narli Gol in Cappadocia, Turkey.



Jill and me at Narli Gol.

Jill and me at Narli Gol.


Jill, the rest of our group, and I hopped back into the van and headed off for the next stop on our tour.

It was the amazing Narli Gol and I was very surprised to see such a magnificent lake in the middle of this incredibly dry land.

It is a volcanic crater lake and there is a hotel, just down the hill, where people come and stay so they can be refreshed in the hot springs and relax in the beautiful setting beside the lake.

We were the only people there, and guessed that it is mostly a place people visit during the winter as the hot springs would be too hot in the summer weather, and we loved the peace and solitude.

Being away from the 25,000,000 people in Beijing allows us to remember how much we love the quiet, the calm, and the ease of a less busy land and people.

Istanbul still had 13,000,000 people but it is very different.

We weren’t bumped into constantly, weren’t worried about getting run over while crossing the street, and things were very clean.

Our driver and the rest of our tour group.

Our driver and the rest of our tour group.

I know people that are originally from Istanbul probably think that the “new” Istanbul is too busy and too dirty but, to our eyes, it was perfect.

As we are staying in a town of 4,000, in Goreme, it is even more quiet and peaceful.  We can hear the sounds of the truck tires against the pavement as they drive by, miles away, and it is barely noticeable.

We hear birds singing and chirping, which we almost never hear or see in Beijing, unless they are in cages.

It is just a different way of life and we look forward to finding a way to have that peace and calm in our lives more as we spend time in beautiful Turkey and remember what nature is like in all its glory.




Day 544 In Beijing: Silliness.


Sophisticated bathrooms.

Sophisticated bathrooms.

Jill and I love a little bit of silliness.

I think that is one of the reasons that we travel so well together.

The old saying about whether you really know if you can live with someone is proven by traveling with them is 100% true in our case.

We met 8 days before I moved to China, had 8 dates in 8 days, and then Jill came over to China about 1 month later.

She bought a ticket, with a return flight 6 weeks after her arrival, and stated, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go home after 6 weeks and being able to add China to my list of countries I’ve seen (she’s at 24 countries at of today.  I’m only at 16) and it will have been worthwhile.  If it does work out, I’ll stay as long as you do.”

I can't wait until a 9D movie comes out!

I can’t wait until a 9D movie comes out!

Well, she’s stayed as long as I did and we are continuing to build our travel plans and our lives together.

Suffice to say, these two pictures just made us laugh and we thought they were sort of cool.

I love the very stylish bathroom signs and think there should be more of them used around the world.

Very rakish and very slick, in my humble opinion.

Also, most bathrooms cost a bit in Turkey so being that these ones were free, we had to use them.

Thankfully, they were western toilets and not squat toilets.  That is one thing Jill and I haven’t gotten used to in all our travels.

I’m a bit confused by the 9D Cinema but maybe they have a brand new technology that the world outside of this little town in Turkey has never heard of and I could have been an entrepreneur if I had asked aobut it.

However, I didn’t want to slow down the tour so I just took a picture and hopped in our air conditioned van to hit the next location on our tour!

Day 543 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City Video.


Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!

Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!


Jill and I wanted you to get a real idea of what climbing down the steps in Derinkuyu was like so we made sure to grab a video of it.

There is about 110 steps, in this one little section, and it was not too tight as we started going down.

However, as you watch the video, you will see that the builders made the hallway become much more closed in and much harder to navigate.

I’m guessing they did this to trick an intruder into thinking it there would be enough room to bring down their people, and their gear, for an attack.

However, as they climbed down the steps, they’d realize, too late, that there is not enough room to even turn around or maneuver at that point.

Essentially, they’d be stuck, easy to kill or capture, and the battle would be over before it even begins.

Also, since the inhabitants would memorize the tunnels and rooms, they would be able to sneak around, from a different location, and attack from behind.

Therefore, the attackers would be defeated easily and have no chance at victory.

The video is about 2 minutes long but it is worth watching it and imagining what it would be like trying to do this in the dark or with gear hundreds of years ago.





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 541 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City.


Jill and me in the opening of Derinkuyu.

Jill and me in the opening room of Derinkuyu.


After we finished up with the balloon ride, Jill and I were picked up for our Red Tour.

There are four main tours, and they are all code named by color: Red, Green, and Blue.

We only did the red and the blue since we were limited to a few days and didn’t want to be totally rushed and busy.

We drove for about 45 minutes until w reached Derinkuyu.

It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

Let me repeat that:  It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

These cities were supposedly built in the 7th-8th century by the Phrygians and then later the Greeks inhabited them and turned some of the rooms into chapels as they were Christians.

The Christians stayed underground so they’d be safe from the Muslims during the Arab-Byzantine Wars.

The Christians also used it as protection during the Mongolian invasions in the 14th Century.

The cities are miles long and very deep into the Earth.

Up until the 20th Century, Christians were still using these cities as a refuge against the Muslim leaders and the Ottoman Empire.

There are stories that people would be elected to go outside, once a month, to see what was happening.

They would also have to bring out the dead bodies since no one else was allowed to leave other than during this time.

In 1923, the Christian followers were expelled and the cities were no longer used by inhabitants and seemed to be forgotten.

They were found when a villager was digging out a new room and broke through a wall in the 1960s.

They have now become a major tourist attraction for this area.


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 537 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Champagne Dreams and Caviar Wishes!


Jill's expression seems to say, "WHAT did I just agree to? ?

Jill’s expression seems to say, “WHAT did I just agree to? ?


Jill, the rest of us, and I all got out of the balloon after they deflated it enough to be safe.

Butterfly Balloons had set up a table, with champagne on it, and a cake for another person who was celebrating their birthday that day.

Captain Mike led us in a round of singing Happy Birthday to the birthday baby and then wished Jill and me a wonderful life together and good luck on our future.

It was a perfect way to end the trip.

Abby and Brent took a few more pictures of us and we talked about what a magical trip it had been and everyone came over and congratulated us on our engagement.

There were people from all over the world, in our little balloon, and it was wonderful to have so many people come together to revel in the joy that we were experiencing.

As the balloon deflated completely, they put it in a bag and loaded it onto the trailer.

We all got into our van and headed back to our hotels.

Little did we know, we’d run into Abby and Brent in Pamukkale, later that week.  Just another wonderful surprise to our trip that I’ll be blogging about soon!