Fairy Chimneys and Footprints of History

With its stunning landscape of rippling valleys and quirky columns, Cappadocia regularly makes it onto ‘must see attraction’ lists. And of course it was on mine! Located in central Anatolia, the geological features of the region were formed thousands of years ago, carved by wind and water, a reminder of the fierce power of nature. This raw environment was sculpted by human hands to create underground cities and dwellings in the ‘fairy chimneys’, as competing religions and powers swept the land, leaving a unique natural and human landscape behind.

 

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The Capital City of Turkey

I clearly remember the moment three years ago when I pinned my giant map of Europe onto the wall, all excited to do some travel planning, and I realised to my shame that I had been getting the capital city of Turkey wrong. Like many, (I imagine) I assumed that as Istanbul is the city we hear most about, it had to be the capital. Well, it’s not, and no, Constantinople isn’t either. Despite being the only city to straddle two continents, Istanbul lost it’s capital status decades ago. As Canberra is to Australia, Ottawa is to Canada, Brasilia is to Brazil and Bern is to Switzerland, Ankara is to Turkey.

 

I flew into the real life red dot on the map from Baku mainly because it was a convenient transport hub to Cappadocia. I wasn’t expecting great things  – even Lonely Planet dismisses it as ‘dusty’ but as always I was prepared to give it a go. I only had an afternoon to sightsee, so I had to make some tough decisions as to where to go. I hopped onto the metro and up to Anıtkabir, the mausoleum dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, arguably one of the most influential figures of modern Turkish history. (more…)

Down and Dirty in Gobustan

Despite being distinctly underwhelmed by the fire attractions of Baku, I left Azerbaijan on a high note. Luckily, Baku had left the best until last – check out these bad boys!

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Azerbaijan, Land of Fire!

The blog is still alive! I’ve just been doing exciting stuff in real life like moving into a new place, and starting a new job… but I still want to keep writing about my adventures! Well, we’re back in Azerbaijan for this blog post, and this time it’s all about fire! Here’s an exciting fact for you all, loyal readers, ‘Land of Fire’ isn’t just Azerbaijan’s tourism slogan, it’s the meaning of the country’s name itself.

Thanks to Azerbaijan’s abundant natural gas reserves, there are two fire-themed attractions in the vicinity of Baku, the fire temple, and Yanar Dag, the hillside on fire. Don’t get your hopes up though, both are spectacularly naff.

First of all, I went to Yanar Dag, because, hey, a hillside on fire has to be pretty cool. Natural gas seeps through the rock here, and according to legend, it was ignited by a shepherd’s cigarette in the 1950s and has been burning ever since.

Although it’s often described as a ‘hillside’ on fire, it’s not that big, just a few metres long, really. Definitely don’t believe anyone telling you that it’s a mountain on fire. It’s a funny old place, because it really looks like it’s sitting in the middle of someone’s backyard. Despite being a bit underwhelming, I just love watching fire, and the way the flames move here was hypnotic. Some of the flames are quite powerful and burn brightly, others are ethereal and insubstantial, burning for a little while and then disappearing, flickering back into life a few seconds later.

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A few thoughts about the New Year…

Well, it’s that time again.

Everyone is remembering the past year, writing what they learnt from the year gone by, and what they hope to achieve this year, and I suppose that I’m no different. Apart from being a couple of days late.

It’s amazing what can change in a year. Last year my life was trundling along quite nicely, I was looking forward to a holiday back home to Australia to visit friends and family, and quietly planning a six month long adventure. But the trip back home changed everything.

I moved back to Australia last week, landing in sunny Melbourne on Christmas Eve. The plan is to go back to university, study again, build up my CV, get my Australian citizenship and eventually a career. It’s actually pretty exciting stuff – as much as I loved my life in London, I definitely needed a change. I’m not happy to work for minimum wage for the rest of my life, I feel like I have a lot more to give to the world, and I would like to make a difference somehow.

Rather than looking back at the previous year, I’m excited to look ahead. I’m looking forward to using my brain at university, trying to get some relevant professional experience, making new friends and catching up with old ones, as well as seeing more of my family and being closer with them. I’m excited for another year of my life, to continue to get better and better as time goes on.

Reflecting on life can only be a good thing (even the Queen thinks so!) and it’s important to work out what you are doing right, and what you can change. Life is too short to be miserable, and this year I really want to continue embracing life, and making the most of what there is on offer.

I suppose that I’m lucky to have so much to feel positive about!

I’ll be Baku!

After the whole kerfuffle of getting a visa, I was super excited to actually be going to Azerbaijan! I took the night train from Tbilisi, which turned out to be the right move. The train itself was new and comfy, and the carriage attendant wouldn’t let me not try her tea. I hardly even got questioned about visiting Armenia! The bus on the other hand was delayed at the border for ten hours. I only had time to visit Baku, but I was transfixed by the desert landscape in the morning approaching Baku.

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As I walked from the train station to the only hostel in the city, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the city centre is. It is obvious that Baku has a lot of money from the oil industry. (more…)

Balmy Batumi

Hello everyone! Apologies for the long wait between posts, let’s just say that Istanbul is not conducive to blog writing! Anyway, I got back to London yesterday, flew into chilly weather, but a very warm welcome from my friend and her family. It’s nice to be back. I’ve been doing exciting things like drinking a lot of tea, and wandering the local shopping centre. Although the adventure is over, the story continues… (more…)

Armenia, Land of Churches – Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, here is Tatev Monastery, which is reached by the world’s longest cable car. For 5.7 kilometres, you wobble along to the monastery, on the Wings of Tatev. Now, I’m pretty good with heights, but I was quite glad to get to the other side of this!

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Armenia, Land of Churches – Part 1

If Armenia ever wins Eurovision, this could legitimately be their slogan! As I touched on here, Armenia has a lot of churches, and luckily, they’re very beautiful. So sit back, relax and enjoy this collection of pictures I took on three day trips around Armenia.

First up is Sevanavank at picturesque Lake Sevan.

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Postcards from Yerevan

I was pleasantly surprised by Yerevan. I wasn’t expecting much, but the city is very beautiful, nicely laid out with street signs in both the Armenian and Latin alphabet. The city centre was far more modern than I expected, lots of wide boulevards lined with shops and cafes. Despite being one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements, Yerevan only became the capital in 1918, when the First Armenian Republic was declared. When Armenia became part of the Soviet Union, a ‘general plan’ was devised to bring Yerevan up to scratch as a proper Soviet city. Alexander Tamanyan was the architect of the plan, and designed the city as a kind of amphitheatre with Mount Ararat (ceded to Turkey) at the centre. Tamanyan had buildings in the centre made of pink stone called ‘tuff’ and wanted the city to be known as ‘the Pink City.’ I have a funny feeling that these days Moscow wouldn’t approve that name!

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Pretty! (more…)