Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Countryside”

Goodbye Cappadocia

I’ve been in Istanbul for two full days now, but the rocks of Cappadocia stay with me.  Marina and Jaques, the couple that I met from Belgium, told me that they’ve been back more times than they can count. This is no ordinary place, but also these are no ordinary people.  Marina and Jaques showed me the area as only a “local” could.  When we encountered a steep rock, and there was a newly installed ladder, they complained that the new tool ruined the fun of climbing. Despite the fact that Jacques was old enough to retire from his job, he deftly climbed the toughest rocks and lent me a hand over the biggest ones. When I scraped my elbow, Marina said, “Yes, we always return from our trips with scraped elbows. And we say that we had a great trip.”

I keep thinking about this — that sometimes you need to get a little scraped up in order to have the best experiences. I never would have met Marina and Jacques if I hadn’t ventured off into the wilderness on my own, even though it was a little scary and lonely.  Not only did I end up with wonderful hiking partners, but they then showed me back to town to meet their local guide, Hassan, and his family. I made them some balloon animals and hats, and they insisted that I have tea at their home. I’ve barely noticed the elbow scrape.

Here’s to Cappadocia — this little film is just a draft, because I could spend hours sorting through my footage — but I hope it gives you a sense of what a special place this is.

Living in a Cave

Caves of the Ilhara Valley in Cappadocia (notice the little spots for pigeon nesting, which people used to encourage near their houses)

As you can imagine, a cave is not the best living environment.  It’s cold, cramped, and the walls are hard and rough.  However, thousands of years ago, people in the Cappadocia Region in Central Turkey perfected this lifestyle.  They didn’t live in caves all the time. They built monasteries and churches in which to worship, as well as dwellings that have lasted for thousands of years. In my visits, I could see doors, pillars, and air shafts in the caves.  I also saw places to tie up animals, blackened ceilings above cooking areas, coffin-like trenches for the deceased, and religious paintings (frescos) on the walls. The people who built these, by hand, must have been very smart!

Since I arrived in Turkey, I’ve also been trying out cave life.  In Goreme (Cappadocia), my hotel was built into the rock, amongst the real ancient caves.  This is common for the hotels in that town, and I loved it!  My only complaint was that it was a little dark since there was only one small window.  Overall, it felt very peaceful and it was fun to fit into the natural world around me.  Many of you requested a video tour, so here it is. It was pretty unusual:

Busy Istanbul, as viewed from the Bosphorus River ferry

I’ve also been living in a cave-like room in Istanbul, although I don’t think these hotel managers had that intent in this case.  Istanbul is just more expensive to travel in.  So, for about the same price that I paid in Cappadocia, I have a room that is so small that I can barely walk around the bed. In addition to the small size of the room, my bathroom has that musty smell that unfortunately is coming from shower mold this time and not from natural rock.  It’s not ideal, but it’s otherwise clean and in a great, centrally located spot.  You don’t need a video tour of the hotel though — it’s not so exciting.

I also felt a bit like I was living in a cave today because it was my first real lonely day since I left the United States.  I’ve been lucky to have met so many warm new friends in Ukraine and Turkey.  Today, I spent most of the day by myself.  In the morning, I tried to meet up with a Turkish woman who was actually my sister’s middle school penpal.  Unfortunately, due to the Labor Day holiday here (May Day), there were many political demonstrations and roads were closed. I spent close to two hours trying to take public transportation to meet her, but eventually gave up. The journey was challenging but interesting.  I had one bus driver spend a long time trying to help me figure out where to go, even though he spoke no English. He drove me to the spot to get the right bus and wouldn’t let me pay him.  I also had a second bus driver who literally got out of the bus and had a fist fight with another bus driver (a bunch of passengers on my bus got out and broke up the fight — they were responsible bystanders!).

An old Turkish man on Prince’s Island gave me these flowers, even though he couldn't answer my question about directions due to the language barrier.

In the end, some people here are very kind and some are not, like anywhere you go. I mostly did my own thing, wandering the city and taking a public ferry to a place called Prince’s Island. It was nice to explore on my own, but I am starting to look forward to coming home to the familiar places that I know and love.

It’s likely that the early people who lived in the Cappadocia caves were squished inside in large groups. While sometimes our classroom space can feel squished like that, I imagine that it would be easier to live in a cave if you had good company. I do wish you all could join me over here! Tomorrow, I will try to visit some of the big tourist sites in Istanbul, like the ones listed here.  Since you can’t fly over yourself, let me know what sites YOU think I should visit!

Top Ten Cappadocia

Cappadocia is a place that I definitely want to visit again someday.  I met a Belgian couple today who have been coming back over and over for the past 13 years — so many times they’ve lost count. They took me on a hike this afternoon that I never could have found on my own.  I see why they find it so special. Here are my top ten highlights from my visit:

10. Seeing Mount Erciyes before I even got off the plane, but then getting to get much closer

9. Going underground to see how people used to live when they felt danger close by.


8. Coming up from underground to see a double rainbow in the rain and sun mix

7. Waking up early this morning to see the hot air balloons over Goreme

6. Meeting people from all over the world who have come to see the rock formations and mountains

5. Seeing interesting plants and animals, smelling walnut leaves and tasting green buds of apricot

4. Battling the heat by trying new kinds of ice cream treats

3. Getting off the beaten track and squeezing through small tunnels between cliffs and caves going straight through

2. Meeting a local family and making them balloons

1. Experiencing the amazing variety of colors and shapes in Cappadocia

I’m working on a few videos of my time in Cappadocia, but they may take me a little while to finish.  I couldn’t stop using my camera, and now I have too much footage to look through.  I also made a video of the hotel, upon request of some of the people who commented. I’ll get those up as soon as I can, but I also want to focus on enjoying the rest of my time in Turkey.  I’m now in Istanbul, where tall buildings replace mountains. It should be pretty different.

Magical Lands of Turkey

Stunning mountain seen out the plane window on the approach to Kayseri, Turkey

The comedian Louis C.K. has a funny sketch in which he talks about how “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” He uses airplanes as an example.  He talks about how people complain about delays and silly issues like leg room, but they don’t take the time to stop and realize how incredible it is to sit in a chair in the sky and fly like a bird. We often don’t think about how in a few hours we can now cross continents that used to take people years to get through.

View from the deck outside my hotel room

Today, as I flew through the air from Kyiv to Istanbul, and then Istanbul to Kayseri, I was truly amazed by the miracle of flight.  In between, I will admit that I had some other feelings: exhausted carrying my heavy backpack, confused by the process of getting a Turkish visa for my passport, and a little annoyed when my second flight didn’t have a movie. Despite these grumblings, it was all worth it.  Looking out the plane window, I was in awe at the landscape of Turkey.  I saw farmland, oceans, islands, rivers, mountains of every shape and size, valleys, and more. Then, after an hour of additional driving, I arrived in Goreme, in the center of the Cappadocia region.  The landscape is breathtaking.  See for yourself:

Students: I’ve been realizing how much I’m using other kinds of learning to get by on this trip.  See if you can help me solve some of these mysteries using skills from your various classes:

1. Math: In the taxi from my hotel in Kyiv to the airport, my taxi driver got up to 130 kilometers per hour. And there were no seat belts in the back! How fast is this in miles per hour?

2. Science: If you were to create a topographic map of the Cappadocia region, what interval would you use for the contour lines?  What’s the highest elevation is in the area? Are my sneakers enough for hiking around here? I didn’t bring boots.

3. English Language Arts: I have to write a letter to a principal in Istanbul to try to convince them to let me visit their school this coming week. What should I use for my hook and/or topic sentence?

4. Math: It will cost about 35 Turkish Lira to do a load of laundry.  Is that worth it? Or should I wear dirty clothes this week?

5. Language: Help me figure out some basics.  How do I say “thank you” “good morning” and “excuse me” in Turkish?

6. Social Studies: I know that most people in Turkey are Muslim. Will I offend people if I wear short sleeves? What about a tank top?

7. Science: I’ve caught a glimpse of the bizarre rock formations in Goreme National Park. How did they form?

Can any students out there help me with these? I don’t have time to do all this research on my own and your skills would be much appreciated.

Out of the City

Here’s a friend I met today:

Today, we asked Lydia how to see some of the countryside of Ukraine.  She and her husband invited us to accompany them on a trip to her village.  Overall, the countryside in this area appears very flat, with black soil that is good for growing crops — from wheat to cherry trees.

Today was a special holiday when people visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried. People bring flowers and food treats to put on the graves.  Lydia told us that gypsies come and take the food after, and sure enough, we saw some people come and take the treats before we even left.  Normally, people sit and picnic around the graves, but it was rainy and muddy, so we didn’t stay long. Even so, the colors of the flowers were vibrant.

After our visit to the village, we drove further south to a place called Kamennaya mogila, which means “stone tomb” in English. It is a religious site with ancient cave paintings that may have origins as old as the 20th century B.C. It was fun to explore, meet new friends (see video above), and have a picnic lunch there.  Before returning to our hotel, we visited a beautiful city park.  It reminded me of Boston, with swans in the river.  My favorite part was seeing a bridge where lovers attach locks and throw the key into the river to bind their love forever.

Visit to Khortytsya Island

Zaporizhia’s most famous landmark is Khortytsya Island, which sits in the middle of the Dneiper River.  The city of Zaporizhia is on both sides of the river, around the island. The island has a rich history, including that it was a base for the Cossaks, the warriors of the region. People lived there way back, thousands of years before American history even began.  Also, during World War II, when Ukraine was occupied by the Germans, some important battles happened there.

Since today was Saturday, our host teacher, Lydia, and her husband, Sergei, took me and Carol to the island.  We had a fabulous visit. There’s an area like Plimoth Plantation, with a recreation of a big fortress and the whole settlement.  It’s interactive like Plimoth, and I got to try shooting an arrow and making my own coin.  Check out the video to see how similar it actually looks!

We also trekked around the island, along the coast and into the woods. We even saw a HUGE wild boar, which I didn’t get to photograph.  I was too worried about getting trampled to take out my camera!  It was very cool to see though. At the end of our visit, we had a picnic and I taught Carol and Lydia a few balloon tricks. What a wonderful day! Check out the video to see it for yourself:

A few more favorite pictures:


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